Inflammation 101: Part 1
What is inflammation?
In broad terms, inflammation is the process by which your body’s white blood cells protect you from infections, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens that threaten your health.
However, if the inflammatory process goes on for too long or if the inflammatory response occurs in places where it is not needed, it can become problematic.
Signs of inflammation
If you’re experiencing signs your body has inflammation, it can crop up in the form of various systems, and can be a sign of a number of different health concerns. Usually, inflammation is associated with joint health, since arthritis is one of the top causes of pain and swelling. But inflammation can be associated with other health concerns, beyond swollen joints. The following are frequent signs you may have excess inflammation in your body:
You’re tired all the time: inflammation can be caused by too little sleep, as well as too much sleep. So, if you’re falling short of or exceeding the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, there’s a good chance you have inflammation in your body. As a result to the lack of sleep, or abundant amount, your cells respond with inappropriate inflammation. It’s almost as if your body treats inadequate sleep or too much sleep as it would an illness. It’s as if it thinks it’s sick and reacts accordingly. Fatigue can also be a side effect of there inflammatory issues, so if you’ve been feeling exhausted – despite getting enough sleep each night – let your doctor know. They can figure out why you’re so tired, and begin to correct the underlying cause.
You have pain or aches: consistent aches and pain could be a sign that you have an underlying issue to discuss with your doctor. Pain like this could be an indicator of arthritis, which is a major contributor to inflammation and pain in the body.
You’re experiencing digestive issues: While we all have the occasional bloating and upset stomach, ongoing symptoms like these could be a sign of chronic inflammation – especially in the gut. Inflammation in the gut can cause bloating, loose stools, urgency, and cramping which could all be contributing to a food allergy, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or another inflammation-causing issue in your gut.
Your lymph nodes are swollen: Lymph nodes, which are primarily located in your neck, under the armpits, and near the groin, can swell up whenever something’s amiss in your body, so it’s important to pay attention to these areas. These areas are “hubs” for the immune system, and when they become swollen it is an indication that your immune system is fighting off a foreign innovator. When swollen for prolonged periods of time, could be a sign of chronic illness or other underlying issue.
Your skin is breaking out: If there is something showing on the outside, most of the time it is a sign that something is not working properly on the inside. Many people with internal inflammation suffer from eczema, for example, acne breakouts, or even dry skin. This can be the body’s way of telling you something’s “off” internally, so don’t brush it off. Let your doctor look into other possible causes of skin issues and breakouts, such as digestive health.
You’re struggling with brain fog: believe it or not, inflammation can even start to affect you mentally, on top of all the ways it can impact you physically. For example, brain fog and the inability to think clearly can also occur and can range from subtle, where you’re just not feeling right but can’t put your ginger on it, to severe, where you completely forget what you’re saying without being distracted, or are searching for words to complete your sentence. Often times, once chronic inflammation is treated, symptoms like brain fog will start to lift. And one great place to start, when it comes to lowering inflammation levels in the body, is by making a few simple lifestyle changes.
If you notice any of these signs, let your doctor know. They can figure out if these symptoms are due to inflammation, offer ways to treat the underlying causes, and get you back to feeling like yourself again. During the examination, your doctor will determine first what type of inflammation is it.
Types of Inflammation (Acute vs Chronic)
There are two different types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is your body’s quick response to harmful stimuli, such as getting a splinter, too much sun exposure or a mosquito bite. It is characterized by pain, swelling, heat, and redness. Acute inflammation is considered a good thing because of its usually a short-term effect, and a sign that your body is trying to heal and repair itself.
While you’ll want to tell your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms, keep in mind that not all inflammation is bad. In fact, there are two different types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is important to our health because it helps us heal. Think about when you twist your ankle and it becomes hot, red, and swollen. That is part of your body’s response to help the injury. Once your body has completed the healing process, the inflammation will go away.
In the case of acute inflammation, blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases and white blood cells swarm the injured area to promote healing. This response is what causes the injured area to turn red and become swollen. During this process, chemicals known as cytokines are released by the damaged tissue. The cytokines act as “emergency signal” that bring in your body’s immune cells, hormones and nutrients to fix the problem.
Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation, also known as prolonged inflammation, has a slow onset and often shows less obvious in physical symptoms – which is why it’s referred to as “the silent killer”. Chronic inflammation often begins as acute inflammation, then becomes chronic when your body is no longer able to turn off the inflammatory response.
This inflammation is dangerous because it can eventually result in your white blood cells attacking your healthy tissue, such as your gut lining, arteries, connective tissue or neural tissues.
Researchers are still working to understand the implications of chronic inflammation on the body and the mechanism involved in the process, but it’s known to play a role in the development of many diseases.
Almost nearly 20% of the population is suffering from Chronic Inflammation.
Perhaps what is even more mind-blowing than that statistic is that inflammation can be avoided in many cases, simply by adjusting to a more healthy lifestyle and regular supplementation of CBD one could reduce their chances of onset inflammation.
What is inflammation caused by?
From a nutritional standpoint, inflammation can be caused by poor diet choices. These include:
Sugar: it may be hard to resist desserts, pasties, chocolate bars, soda, even fruit juices. However, the American disease warns that processed sugars trigger the release of cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose” (e.g fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels)
Saturated Fats: Several studies have shown that saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation, which is not only an indicator for heart disease but it also worsens arthritis inflammation. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other culprits include meat products (especially red meat), full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grains-base desserts.
Trans Fat: Harvard School of Public Health researchers helps sounds the alarms about trans fat in the early 1990s. Known to trigger systemic inflammation, trans fat can be found in fast foods and other fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and most stick margarine. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient label.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that the body needs for normal growth and development. The body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are found in oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grape-seed, soy, peanut, and vegetable, mayonnaise, and many salad dressings.
Refined Carbohydrates: White flour products (breads, rolls, crackers) white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or French fries) and many cereals are refined carbohydrates. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates may trump fats as the main driver of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions. These high-glycemic index foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.
MSG: Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor-enhancing food additive most commonly found in prepared Asian food and soy sauce, but it can also be added to fast foods, prepared soups, salad dressings, and deli meats. This chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.
Gluten and Casein: People who have joint pain and are sensitive to gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, or casein, found in dairy products, may find relief by avoiding them. And those diagnosed with Celiac disease, in which gluten sets off an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine and sometimes causes joint pain may find relief when they adopt a gluten-free diet. There may be an overlap in which some people with arthritis also have gluten sensitivity or also have Celiac disease.
Aspartame: Trying to go sugar-free? Aspartame is a non-nutritive, intense artificial sweetener found in more than 4,000 products worldwide. While it’s approved by the FDA, studies on its effects are mixed, and the impact on people with autoimmune disease are unknown. If you are sensitive to this chemical, your immune system may react to the “foreign substance” by attacking the chemical, which in return will trigger an inflammatory response.
Alcohol: Alcohol is a burden to the liver. Excessive use weakens liver function and disrupts other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation. It is best eliminated or used in moderation.
In addition to diet, many lifestyle factors can also have an negative inflammatory effect. This includes:
Pessimistic Mindsets: We all occasionally need to get something off our chest, but if you turn to complaining as your only source of emotional release, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. By identifying with your stress, you are triggering a stress response from the body that will increase levels of cortisol and adrenaline that all result in inflammation.
Drinking Out Of Plastic Water Bottles: While it’s not always the case, the best thing to drink out of is glass, since plastic can damage your health over time. The toxins from the plastic can leak out into the water (especially if the bottle has been left out in the heat) which leads to inflammation in the body.
Consuming a Large Amount of Caffeine: You might want to keep an eye on your caffeine intake. Caffeine is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it has the potential to disrupt your digestion, blood sugar levels, and adrenal glands, leading to increased stress levels and increased inflammation.
Eating a Sugary Diet: As stated above, nutrition plays a huge role in managing inflammation. Sugary foods cause inflammation in all body systems, including our adrenal. When the adrenals are stressed, out body not only shuts down repair of tissues and growth, it shuts down the immune and digestive system. Over time, this stress can increase gut inflammation, heart disorders, high blood sugar levels, and premature aging.
Smoking: Just in case your needed one more reason to avoid smoking, go ahead and add inflammation to the list. Smoking reduces mucociliary clearance, the tiny cilia or oars that more bacteria out of the lungs. The slower the cilia movement, the more bacteria remain in place, forcing the body to mobilize factors of inflammation. That, and the fact that smoking basically impacts every other aspect of your body, means cigarettes are definitely better off avoided.
Not Getting Enough Sleep: If you can’t sleep a solid eight hours for one or two nights, it’s not going to kill you. But that doesn’t mean you should make a habit of going to bed late. Sleep allows your body time to repair itself, and keep inflammation down, so get to bed on time!
Drinking Excess Amounts of Alcohol: While some people will argue the health benefits of red wine, keep in mind that not all alcohol is great for you and anything in excess has the potential to have a negative effect. While occasional consumption of alcohol is not likely harmful, alcohol is not considered a health food and can increase oxidative stress within the body, causing inflammation.
What you can do about it?
Follow along in next weeks blog as we discuss the ways you can manage and reduce both chronic and acute inflammation.