If you suffer from any of the following: chronic pain, fatigue, depression, digestive issues, memory loss, or are over-weight, chances are you are inflamed.
We often hear about inflammation, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory diets. But what does it all mean?
Inflammation gets a bad rap but it is actually a healing response in which our immune system is stimulated and trying to fight something potentially harmful to the body.
There are different causes of inflammation including:
- pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.)
- chemical irritants
- acute injuries
This article will address dietary causes of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation increases risk of:
- cardiovascular disease
- chronic pain
- neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s
- autoimmune disease
Here’s an extremely simplified version of what happens.
So many foods that are staples of our standard American diet are not good for us. Some of these foods and additives should not be consumed by any human beings. Some things may not necessarily be bad for everyone, but some people may have sensitivities to them.
These foods and additives can cause damage to the intestinal lining and create imbalance in the bacteria that lives in our gut. This bacteria, known as the intestinal flora, or microbiome, is an essential component in digestion and immune function.
Now that the bacterial balance has been disrupted, foods that are harmful will not be broken down and excreted properly. And foods that ARE good for us may not be broken down and properly absorbed either, which can lead to deficiencies of nutrients. There can also be overgrowth of bad bacteria, which is fed by the bad foods, creating more problems and stress in the system.
The damage to the intestinal lining can cause something called “leaky gut” in which particles of food that should not be absorbed into the bloodstream will now “sneak in” and be absorbed. Because these bad particles of food are absorbed, it triggers the immune system to ramp up and fight, creating inflammation.
Inflammation should not be consistent or long-term. It should resolve so the body can repair and move on. So when we consistently feed this inflammatory process, it wreaks havoc on the whole body. In some people it can lead to autoimmune disease in which the immune system will start to attack the body’s own tissues causing damage. Research is demonstrating that most neurological disease is in fact autoimmune in nature and therefore a result of inflammation. In some it can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc, etc.
I’m often asked what supplements or pills help with inflammation. Without getting rid of the cause, supplements or pills may help a little but won’t fix the problem. It’s like trying to control a fire that you’re continuously dousing with fuel.
What can we do?
Here are major causes of inflammation that can be controlled simply by lifestyle changes:
- Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)
- Diets high in sugar
- Diets high in processed foods
- Vegetable oils (except olive and coconut)
- Diets low in fruits and vegetables
- Toxins in food, water, cleaning products, environment
- Certain drugs (always consult with your physician about drugs)
- Lack of exercise
- Essential fatty acid deficiency
- Lack of sleep
Eating a clean balanced diet, getting adequate movement and sleep and avoiding toxins will surely help to decrease inflammation. Avoid the known, common triggers.
If problems persist, seek the help of a professional who can help further evaluate your situation, figure out the cause and formulate a plan to properly address it.
By Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac., CFMP, CCSP