If you’ve ever stubbed your toe or suffered a minor paper cut, then you’re familiar with the effects of inflammation. The heat, redness, and swelling you experienced following that minor injury was the result of acute inflammation, which is part of your immune system’s natural response to trauma.
But there’s another kind of inflammation with which you may not be aware. Unlike acute inflammation, which usually involves pain and is short lived, chronic inflammation can be a “silent fire” and last for weeks or even years.
In fact, most people don’t even realize they’re “on fire” until they’re diagnosed with a serious disease. This may be why chronic inflammation has been identified as a factor in such diverse disorders as:
Autoimmune diseases (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, type II Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So, what is chronic inflammation? And more importantly, what can you do if you are suffering from it?
The Connection Between Inflammation and Your Immune System
Inflammation is an integral part of your body’s natural defenses. When threatened by harmful substances, such as a bacteria or viruses, your immune system sends wave after wave of white blood cells and chemicals to seek and destroy the offending organisms. This “inflammatory cascade” produces the heat, redness, and swelling which characterize acute inflammation. Once the offenders are destroyed the inflammatory cascade stops and healing begins.
During chronic inflammation, however, the inflammatory response is continual. Any number of factors can cause chronic inflammation.
Hereditary and environmental factors. Both may have a causal effect on autoimmune disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. In an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakes its own tissues as “foreign,” unleashing the inflammatory response.
Typical Western lifestyle. Excess bad fats, the products of sedentary lifestyles and diets rich in sugars, fats, and food additives, may promote the production of inflammatory chemicals.
The “Fire” in Your Belly
Most people aren’t aware of the major role our gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays in our immune health. Besides digestion, our GI tract is home to nearly seventy percent of our immune system. It is a major source of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a large role in defending the body against disease, and mast cells, which release histamines and other chemicals as part of an allergic response.
Calming the Flames—A Natural Approach
As home base for the majority of your immune system, your GI tract plays a vital role in your inflammatory response. By paying attention to your gut, you can minimize the effects of inflammation naturally. The following natural approaches can help:
1. Omega Essential Fatty Acids such as EPA and DHA may help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and support a healthy immune response. Although the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, non-fish food options include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil.
2. Ginger and rosemary have been shown to support the healthy metabolism of inflammatory chemicals.
3. Turmeric extract inhibits the activities of a wide range of enzymes implicated in pain and inflammation.
4. Rice protein has been shown to have a lower allergy potential than other protein sources, making it a safer alternative.
You can also minimize chronic inflammation by eating a healthier diet and getting regular, moderate exercise. Both will reduce the amount of fat in your body, which research suggests may incite the inflammatory response.
By Cindy Clayton-Sudalnik, D.C.
The 5 Causes of Inflammation (an Educational Video) – Locate causes your inflammation and what can be done.
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