It’s not a disease, so it hasn’t got any obvious, tell-a-tale symptoms. And that is why you can’t really see or feel it coming. But this doesn’t mean you can sideline it. We are talking about the latest buzzword in the world of wellness – Inflammation. From heart disease and diabetes to early signs of aging, inflammation is now being linked to various health issues. If we trace the origin of this word, it leads us to its Latin name “inflammation” meaning, “to set on fire with passion”. And this pretty much describes the way inflammation manifests itself in your body – redness & swelling – every time you cut or scratch or hurt yourself – the body’s natural defense mechanism gets activated in the form of inflammation. So when a cut swells up and turns red, that’s inflammation at work – healing you as fast as possible. But how something that helps you heal is dangerous? Good question! Think good cop, bad cop!
In its good form, inflammation occurs in the form of redness, swelling to help heal the injury faster. It’s the natural response of your immune system, which tries to ward off invaders such as bacteria and viruses in order to speed up the healing process. Once the job is over, the inflammatory process is turned off and we go back to normal. This is called Active Inflammation. Then there is another type of inflammation called Chronic Inflammation, which is the real troublemaker. Inflammation is essential for the body but when your body stays in an inflammatory state for far too long – months or years – it can have a damaging effect on your tissues, organs, and cells.
Chronic inflammation is closely related to your lifestyle. When you don’t eat healthily or get enough exercise or have too much stress, your body responds by triggering inflammation. Sparked by poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle, this inflammation turns chronic and starts attacking your own body (blood vessels, brain cells & organs) instead of fighting foreign bacteria. In the long run, it can cause a host of health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Researchers have also discovered that high levels of inflammation are associated with an increased chance of having a heart attack and stroke. According to research, sustained low levels of inflammation irritate blood vessels and may promote the growth of plaques and trigger clots, which is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes. It is also linked with accelerating the skin-aging process. In the skin, low-grade inflammation manifests itself in the form of wrinkles and age spots. It can also appear as acne or eczema.
The good thing is that you can control inflammation with some lifestyle tweaks, which help you avoid factors that trigger your body’s inflammatory response. According to health experts, maintaining a healthy lifestyle plays a key role in changing the trajectory of chronic inflammation and limits its effect on the body. Low-grade inflammation is often linked to many diseases associated with age. When it comes to combating inflammation, the most powerful tool comes not from the pharmacy, but from your kitchen. Many experimental studies have shown that the food you eat holds the key to control and limit inflammation in the body. On the one hand, foods that are high in sugar, trans, and saturated fats can elevate inflammation. On the other hand, there are some anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, etc that help control it. The easiest and the most trusted way to reverse inflammation is well rooted in a healthy diet and lifestyle. Even small changes can reap big results overnight. Here are some inflammation combating strategies:
- Switch to Low glycemic diet: Research has shown a reduction in inflammation among overweight individuals with the help of a low-glycemic diet. By minimizing spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels, a low-glycemic diet can help you control your weight. How is weight gain related to inflammation? When fat cells are given an overdose of sugar, they transmit a chemical message to the body to create inflammation. These signals interrupt the way insulin works and this in turn leads to insulin resistance. As a result, you gain weight and elevated blood glucose & insulin worsen inflammation. Low-glycemic foods like quinoa, steel-cut oats, whole-wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, and berries are slowly digested and thus, do not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar & insulin.
- Reduce the intake of saturated and trans fat Saturated and trans fat is linked is considered as the worst type of fat that not raise bad LDL cholesterol but also lower good HDL levels. It is also known to create inflammation in the body, which is linked to heart disease, stroke and insulin resistance, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Increase the intake of Fruits and vegetables Looks like eating an apple and a bowl of salad every day can be beneficial in more ways than one. Thanks to the antioxidants and bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables, which help reduce inflammation as well as prevent free radicals from creating new inflammation. Green leafy vegetables, in particular, are rich in magnesium, which is often found low in people with high inflammatory markers.
- Say yes to high-fiber diet
High-fiber foods are good for the bacteria living in the gut, which helps in lowering the levels of inflammation in the body. A fiber-rich diet also helps in weight loss. A few studies have established a link between high fiber diets and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood. CRP is a marker of inflammation that has been linked to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. A high-fiber diet helps in lowering CRP levels in the blood. Dietary fiber also helps in lowering the level of IL-6 and TNF-alpha (inflammatory markers), which in turn lowers inflammation in the body.
- Have some Herbs
Spicing things up can help in combating inflammation. Incorporating spices such as Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Raw turmeric, black pepper, ginger, and fenugreek help decrease inflammation, which is often linked to various health issues.
- Nosh on Nuts
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a healthy mix of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts every day can help reduce the levels of inflammation remarkably. Packing a powerful punch of fiber, antioxidants, and omega 3 & omega-6 fatty acids, Nuts produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
- Stay away from stress
We know it is easier said than done. But keeping stress at bay is not an impossible task. You can start by avoiding a strong emotional reaction to a stressful situation. Stress makes your blood vessels work harder by increasing the blood pressure and heart rate. If you feel frequently frazzled then this can create damage, which would lead to inflammation. Stress-busting activities such as yoga, mediation, or even a short walk in the park offer instant relief by bringing your stress levels down and create an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
- Sleep your way out
Sleep is known to reduce stress levels and strengthens the gut’s microbe barrier, which is one of the effective ways to reduce inflammation in the long term. Sleep is also the time when your body rests and repairs, reducing inflammation in the body. It is good to maintain a proper sleep cycle in order to maintain the circadian rhythm of your body and fight inflammation.
Things that cause inflammation in the body
- Sugar and Artificial Sugar (Sugar free and processed stevia)
- Trans Fats or hydrogenated oil or margarine or vegetable oils
- Refined Carbohydrates (breakfast cereals, maida or any other such)
- Excessive alcohol and smoking
- Processed Meat (high inflammatory compounds such as AGE’s)
- Chronic Stress
- Lack of sleep and exercise
Chronic inflammation can develop if a person has:
Sensitivity: When the body senses something that should not be there, it triggers an inflammatory response. Hypersensitivity to any external trigger can result in an allergy.
Exposure: Sometimes, long-term, low-level exposure to an irritant, such as an industrial chemical, can result in chronic inflammation.
Autoimmune disorders: The immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy tissue, as in psoriasis.
Persistent acute inflammation: In some cases, a person may not fully recover from acute inflammation. Sometimes, this can lead to chronic inflammation.