Inflammation 101: What is it, the Causes, and Tips to Reduce it

reduce inflammation tips

When most people think of inflammation, they think of swelling and bruising but it can be much more serious than that. Recent research found that inflammation is a common denominator in almost every chronic disease, including major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. What’s worse is that you can’t necessarily feel it or see it, and it can be slowly wreaking havoc on your body. Now, not all inflammation is bad. In fact, it’s part of your body’s natural healing system and helps to fight off infection and injury. The problem occurs when inflammation goes into action when there isn’t anything to heal, as this can cause damage to healthy arteries, joints and organs. The good news? Its preventable and treatable, and that’s exactly what you learn how to do in this article.

What is Inflammation?

Put simply, inflammation is swelling, bruising and redness that is the body’s response to a dangerous agent, such as a virus, bacteria or toxin, or when an injury occurs. It’s a necessary and beneficial body function that helps the body heal and defend itself against injury, illness and infection. The body’s inflammatory response increases the production of white blood cells, immune cells and cytokines to the bacteria or injured tissue, so that it can be healed. As a result, pain, bruising, redness and swelling (inflammation) occurs.

Inflammation can also be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is short-term and often presents manageable symptoms, such as redness, heat, pain and swelling. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is long-term inflammation that occurs in your body without any noticeable symptoms. This is the type of inflammation that has been found to be a major factor in almost all chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

The key differences between acute and chronic inflammation are:

  • Acute inflammation: Occurs as a result of infection or injury, such as cutting your finger. To heal the cut, your body releases inflammatory cells to the injury to start the healing process. Redness, pain, swelling and bruising are common symptoms.
  • Chronic inflammation: Occurs when the body continues to send inflammatory cells even when there is no injury or infection to be healed. It cannot be easily seen or felt, like acute inflammation. Some common signs include abdominal pain, fatigue, fever chest pain, joint pain, stiffness, rash, etc.

What Causes Inflammation?

The body has a natural inflammatory response but there are also many factors that can promote chronic inflammation in the body, many of which are lifestyle factors – and often, bad habits, such as:

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • High BMI
  • Exercise that is too intense and too frequent
  • Chronic stress
  • Smoking
  • Sleep problems
  • Poor diet (high consumption of sugar and refined carbs, processed and packaged foods, etc.)
  • Untreated acute inflammation
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus

Your age is also a factor that can increase your risk of experiencing chronic inflammation.

How Inflammation Affects Your Health

Inflammation is a beneficial bodily response when its acute and in response to an injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation can silently and slowly damaging various parts of your body, such as your organs, arteries and joints that are otherwise healthy. Overtime, this can lead to tissue death, internal scarring and DNA damage.

This is because the body is releasing an increase of white blood cells, immune cells and cytokines when there is no injury or infection to treat. As a result, these cells, now in excess, begin to attack healthy parts of your body.

What’s surprising is that chronic inflammation is linked to be a main contributing for almost all chronic diseases, including:

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

As a result, chronic inflammation can lead to life-threatening conditions if left untreated.

Ways to Reduce Inflammation

If you’re experiencing acute inflammation, it will typically heal on its own with some rest, ice and wound care. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, needs a little more TLC and healthcare providers will typically recommend medication for at-home treatments or injections if those don’t help:

There are also many natural treatment options that can effectively treat inflammation in the body and prevent it moving forward.

Below is a list of some of the most common ways to reduce inflammation naturally, but keep in mind that many of these are lifestyle changes, as opposed to one-time treatments.

Change Your Diet: Research has found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have lower levels of inflammation, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s. It’s an ideal diet for people struggling with inflammation, as it consists largely of healthy whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, and nuts, and limits unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar.

Eat The Right Foods: If you don’t want to make the full switch to a new, anti-inflammatory diet, adding more foods into your diet that offer anti-inflammatory properties can be an effective way to reduce inflammation. It’s recommended to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of these anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Leafy greens: kale, arugula, collard greens, etc.
  • Fruit: Berries, apples, grapes, cherries, blueberries, tomatoes etc. (the richer the colour, the better it is for inflammation)
  • High-fat fruits: Avocados and olives
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil and avocado oil
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts
  • Vegetables: Bell peppers, chili peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cauliflower, etc.
  • Spices, herbs and extras: Turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, garlic etc.
  • Tea: Green tea, coffee, plain tea, water
  • Treats: Red wine (up to 5 ounces) and dark chocolate

Avoid Inflammatory Foods: Eliminating or limiting foods that promote inflammation is equally as important as eating the right foods. Some inflammatory foods to avoid include:

  • Anything with trans fats, such as corn oil, deep fried foods, margarine and processed foods
  • Refined carbs, such as pastries and white bread
  • Sugary drinks
  • Red meat and processed meat, such as burgers, steak, hot dogs, sausages, etc.

Take Nutritional Supplements: There are many nutritional supplements that offer natural anti-inflammatory properties, such as:

  • Vitamin A, C and D
  • Zinc
  • Fish oil
  • Turmeric or Curcumin
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Resveratrol
  • Green tea extract

These are excellent options, especially if you are unable to switch to an anti-inflammatory or Mediterranean diet, or if you don’t like a specific ingredient that offers anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Exercise Regularly: Getting in some daily exercise can be an effective remedy for treating inflammation, as it tackles the issue from different angles. For example, exercise can help you lose weight, which is key for reducing inflammation, and it can also strengthen the heart, stimulate the immune system and lower the body’s inflammatory response. In fact, research has confirmed that just one session of moderate exercise can act as an anti-inflammatory. So, aim to get at least 20 minutes of exercise in on most days of the week, if not all.

Manage Your Stress: Stress is the root evil of many illnesses and conditions, including inflammation. Studies found that intense levels of stress over-activate the immune system, causing an imbalance between inflammation and anti-inflammation. In other words, stress directly impacts your inflammation levels. Use stress management techniques and activities regularly to reduce your stress levels and ultimately, your inflammation. Some things you can do are:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Mindful walks
  • Deep breathing
  • Binaural audios
  • Connect with others

Improve Your Sleep: Getting enough sleep is extremely important for your physical and mental health and wellness. Research has also found that a poor night’s sleep increases inflammation. To get more quality sleep at night, you can:

  • Set a sleep schedule (and follow it!)
  • Wake up and go to bed the same time on the weekends as you do on workdays
  • Use lavender or chamomile to induce relaxation and sleep
  • Do a nightly meditation to calm your mind
  • Invest in quality sheets, pillows and mattress
  • Declutter your space
  • Avoid technology close to bedtime
  • Take melatonin

Take some CBD Oil: CBD demonstrated powerful anti-inflammatory effects in several inflammation-related conditions, including arthritis. Studies have also found that CBD can help reduce inflammation and chronic panic, making it a powerful natural treatment for a vast array of conditions.

Inflammation isn’t just the red swelling and bruising you see as a result of an injury or infection. It can also be a serious condition that attacks your healthy organs, arteries and joints. Fortunately, it can be treated and prevented with the anti-inflammatory tips provided in this article.

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