When we hear it, “inflammation” sounds like a serious, scary condition that no one would want to have. When we get injured, our injuries swell up and gets red and hot. When we’re sick, our bodies heat up and feel uncomfortable. Medicines we may have taken for either of these situations may have helped our bodies become less inflamed. So it may beg to question what inflammation actually is, how our bodies experience it, and why so many brands and products out there claim to fight inflammation. Even better, can we “cure” inflammation?
Throughout the health/wellness media channels, we’ve probably stumbled onto talk of inflammation or anti-inflammatory foods a number of times, and the biggest problem is that we end up not getting a real sense of what inflammation actually is. As it turns out, not only is inflammation a completely natural body function, but its purpose is extremely important.
Inflammation, or acute inflammation, is the way our body naturally heals itself from infection, illness, and injury. When we get injured or come down with an illness, chemicals from white blood cells and their byproducts flow towards the site of injury or infection, and fight off invading pathogens or viruses. This is why a wound may get red and start to bleed profusely, or why a sprained or broken limb may get swollen and hot. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Roman medical writer, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, documented the four tell-tale signs of inflammation back in 1AD:
Small blood vessels will dilate around the site of injury, causing the injury to turn red.
With increased blood flow through the site of injury, hotness around the wound will occur. In some cases, the heat will come from fever, caused by chemical mediators of inflammation.
Also known as edema, swelling is caused primarily by the accumulation of fluid outside the blood vessels.
The pain from inflammation can come from swelling, as well as the same chemical mediators that cause fever, distorting tissues around the area of injury.
A fifth sign, recorded by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow, which is loss of function in the inflamed area. For instance, when we break a bone, the area may swell up and be painful to move or touch. All of these things, while painful and uncomfortable in the moment, mean that our bodies are healing themselves they way they were made to. Inflammation is how it happens. However, what happens when there’s nothing wrong with us at all?
When inflammation occurs for no reason, or continues from an originally acute state, it becomes chronic. Unlike acute inflammation being inherently short-lived, chronic inflammation can last for months and even years after the first bout. Chronic inflammation can sometimes be a hard thing to nail down, because sometimes it will happen for no underlying reason at all. However, there are several causes that can bring it about, including untreated acute inflammation (i.e. infections, wounds…), auto-immune diseases, and exposure to chemical irritants and/or polluted air. Other factors, such as smoking, obesity, and chronic stress, have also been known to lead to chronic inflammation.
In general, the symptoms caused by chronic inflammation are often more subtle than that of acute inflammation. Some common symptoms include:
The effects of chronic inflammation on the body can be moderately to severely damaging. When it occurs, it can end up damaging body tissues, healthy cells, and well-functioning organs. It’s why chronic inflammation ends up being the cause of so many diseases and ailments. Some of the more well-known conditions include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, different forms of arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Other conditions include fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and muscle pain in the neck and back.
Autoimmune reactions caused by inflammation attack the lining of airways, which result in allergies or asthma.
Inflammation in the brain cause autoimmune reactions which can lead to depression, autism, poor memory, Alzheimer's Disease and MS.
Skin conditions such as rashes, dermatitis, acne, and even wrinkles can happen when chronic inflammation compromises the liver and kidneys.
Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and strokes are caused by inflammation in the heart.
Chronic inflammation can interfere with the repairing of bone mass, which can lead to more fractures and osteoporosis.
So with all of this in mind, inflammation is a very important function that our bodies perform. When it’s acute, it heals our bodies from sickness and injury, and then it goes away. When it’s chronic, it can have the potential to wreak havoc on our bodies, and make us prone to a variety of different illnesses and diseases over long periods of time.
Inflammation can’t be cured because our bodies need it in the first place. However, there are many ways of treating symptoms that come with inflammation. For us at Fully Human, the best way to do this is to live an “anti-inflammatory lifestyle.”
Eat Good, Healthy Foods
Avoiding processed, high-saturated fat foods, in exchange for healthy fruits and vegetables, as well as rich fats found in fish and olive oil, can help reduce the risk of inflammation. Be sure to consider anti-inflammatory foods such as cinnamon, peppers, green tea, and even dark chocolate.
Whether it be going to the gym, or adding a long walk or jog to your day, regular amounts of exercise can decrease inflammation and risks of chronic disease. On average, people should be adding at least 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day.
Get Enough Sleep
By getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep, you can decrease your chances of getting inflammation.
Adding Supplements To Your Diet
Along with a healthy diet, supplements can help decrease inflammation in your body, such as curcumins and fish oil.
Inflammation will always be there, that’s just a fact. However, by applying ourselves to eating, well, exercising regularly, and ultimately living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, we can effectively decrease our chances of dealing with chronic inflammation, and feel better while doing it.
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