Body inflammation gets a lot of bad press, but these stories refer to chronic or excessive inflammation that causes health problems. There is also a good type of inflammation that occurs when a strong immune system responds therapeutically to an illness or injury. Beneficial inflammation is a survival tool the healthy immune system uses to differentiate a harmless substance from a harmful one called an antigen. Inflammation occurring appropriately in the body is a sign that an individual's immunity is hard at work as a healer.
Unfortunately, if the immune system becomes impaired, it is liable to attack the body's own cells or tissues and create a harmful type of inflammation that becomes chronic, causing untimely aging and illness. When inflammation invades the body as an immune system overreaction, it may initiate a detrimental response to a new allergen, formerly innocuous. Worse, it can result in autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and diabetes. Autoimmune diseases have both acquired (obtained after birth) and hereditary component, often overlapping, and something we are learning we have more control over. Stress, exercise, and our diet DIRECTLY interact with our own DNA and can turn on and off good and bad genes via TELOMERES.
Healthy weight and diet can keep the autoimmune DNA disposition of diabetes at bay.
Additionally, chronic inflammation within our microvascular system contributes to serious health conditions like heart disease, solid cancer (breast, colon, prostate), and dementia; also impacted by our stress, exercise, and diet DIRECTLY on the DNA responsible for the inner lining of our arteries: endothelial glycocalyx.
Here are some principal triggers of chronic inflammation. Learn them and make lifestyle changes to protect yourself from an inflammatory rampage.
STRESS - Chronic stress keeps the body on “fight-or-flight" alert and is an inflammatory factor that can throw the immune system out of whack. Research at Carnegie Mellon University showed that prolonged psychological stress lessens the immune system's ability to regulate the inflammatory response, increasing risk for certain diseases. Meditation and other stress management techniques may help.
ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS - The modern world we live in provides us a wealth of technology and bounty that people in the nineteenth century couldn't imagine. This progress carries a high price, however, because our twenty-first century environment is filled with toxins, such as mercury, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. Scientific advancements by industry and agriculture introduced more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals into the environment, and their use increased in recent years.
If you expect government agencies to protect your family from dangerous toxins, think again. The EPA, FDA, and USDA seem less intent on protecting the public's well-being than ensuring that industry and agribusiness continue to spew poisons into the air and water. It's up to individuals to learn about common toxins and how to avoid them as much as possible. One non-governmental agency providing information about toxins in air, water, food, and common consumer products is the Environmental Working Agency, which also urges safer practices by energy-producing companies and industries. Check www.ewa.org for helpful guides to safer consumption and use.
INFERIOR DIET – Eating too much sugar, refined grains, processed foods, trans fats and other fats that oxidize when heated, including hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine, can produce chronic inflammation. While the Internet and numerous books tout a variety of “anti-inflammatory diet" plans, it's wise to consult your primary care doctor before embarking on a special diet. If you eat a whole foods, high-fiber, heavily plant-based diet rich in phytonutrients (plant chemicals that are naturally anti-inflammatory) and consume healthy monounsaturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids and not chemically hydrogenated (good fat examples: olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, and avocados), you will go a long way toward improving your diet and keeping chronic inflammation at bay.
EXERCISE DEFICIENCY – By now, most people are aware that a lack of regular exercise plays a role in many health problems. You don't have to spend hours at the gym or perform stringent workouts in order to benefit from increased movement. Simply aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily. A brisk walk will do, or, if you have aching joints or mobility issues, a half-hour swim in a heated pool at the YMCA is adequate.
PERSISTENT INFECTIONS AND ALLERGIES – People who have chronic infections, caused by bacteria, yeast, viruses, or parasites, are likely to have body inflammation. An opportunistic fungus called Candida Albicans is one of the worst culprits, taking advantage of a period of stress or course of antibiotics that upsets the balance of intestinal flora, and then excessively multiplying until it controls a large portion of the digestive tract, sometimes spreading throughout the body. Uncontrolled food or environmental allergens also spark inflammation. A thorough physical checkup or allergy testing can lead to the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Do what you can to avoid chronic inflammation. It's hazardous to your health.