The Devastating Effects of Chronic Inflammation
By Dr. Isaac Eliaz on 08/15/2011
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to threats from germs, harmful toxins, environmental pollutants, injury and stress, and others. The process involves immune, vascular, and cellular biochemical reactions that work to remove the offenders and protect tissues from damage.
Symptoms of inflammation are usually characterized by redness, swelling, pain, and stiffness, but sometimes, the effects do not manifest outwardly until there has been significant damage.
Acutely, this natural defense mode works to shield your body’s systems and initiate the healing process. However, when your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, it can have serious effects on your cellular health, and has been linked to degenerative diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many others. Luckily, there are numerous ways to control chronic inflammation naturally and promote overall health in the process.
Causes of Inflammation
Various lifestyle factors may contribute to chronic inflammation, but one of the most influential causes is your diet. Since many foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, the types of foods you feed your body may have a serious impact on your inflammation responses.
The biggest culprits are processed and sugary foods, as well as trans fats, which are present in a variety of snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and vegetable shortening, among others. Studies have found that consuming foods with high amounts of trans fats increases systemic inflammation. One revealing correlation is the presence of glycotoxins in overcooked and over processed foods. Glycotoxins are formed when sugars and oxidized fats react with proteins during the cooking or processing of foods, but interestingly, glycotoxins are also formed by the body as a byproduct of inflammation on the cellular level. With chronic inflammation in the body, we’re slowly cooking ourselves.
Effects of Inflammation
When inflammation occurs, chemicals such as inflammatory cytokines are released into the blood or tissues as part of the healing response. Inflammatory cytokines are destructive to our normal cells and with chronic inflammation they result in irritation and wearing down of cartilage and tissues, and lead to further inflammatory triggers.
This process creates a type of heat and friction on a physiological level, similar to rubbing fabric together repeatedly – eventually it begins to degrade. In the body, however, the process of degradation can be viewed as changes in normal cellular function and abnormalities in the healing process. Even further, inflammation can affect internal organs and has been linked to mental and emotional imbalances, digestive disorders, skin problems, musculo-skeletal conditions, and more.
Treatments for Inflammation
There are a variety of treatment options for inflammatory diseases that are contingent upon a number of patient characteristics, including the type of disease, age, overall health, medical history, and severity of symptoms.
Acupuncture is one effective therapy that can help reduce chronic inflammation, in addition to yoga and movement therapies such as Qi Gong and other gentle exercises. Stress relief measures such as meditation and deep breathing are also important, and of course, a healthy fresh diet, good hydration and proper supplementation are essential.
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider in reducing inflammation in the body is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Stress hormones like cortisol trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines, and are now viewed as major contributing factors in chronic degenerative conditions. With a healthy lifestyle and proper stress relief measures, in addition to the right dietary supplements, inflammation can be kept under control, and your health on all levels can “stay cool.”