How Inflammation Impacts Our Health

Better Health

May 18, 2020 By Naomi Whittel

(and 4 Tips on How to Reduce It)

Inflammation is certainly a term we’re all familiar with. Most of us know that inflammation is at the root of our beneficial emergency response to an injury, but less top of mind is the way it can actually damage our heart, brain and cellular health in general.

One of the reasons a primarily keto diet boasts so many youth-preserving health benefits is because it’s packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients that arm our cells with powerful antioxidants like resveratrol, EGCG, berberine and turmeric. These anti-inflammatory nutrients save our cells from more DNA-damaging assault than we know.

This is in large part because their powerful antioxidant punch helps ward off the inflammation-induced cellular damage caused by free radicals. And in a world where toxins are hidden in our surroundings, in our food, and in the products we use, and everyday stress is a part of everyone’s daily life, our cells are fielding free-radical attacks left and right, creating mini inflammation storms in various areas of our bodies.

Preventing this type of inflammation is so critical to our wellbeing because it goes much deeper than minor aches and pains, skin irritation or curbing the premature aging of our skin. Researchers now know that body-wide inflammation is a common link and risk factor for many of our most common health problems. And much of the inflammation that threatens our short- and long-term health occurs at the cellular level.

Inflammation 101: The Good, the Bad and the Dangerous

When there’s a need for an immune, wound or stress response, the body springs into action. Whether in response to a foreign pathogen or infection, a minor cut or an everyday emotional stressor, the process is the same: the body releases chemicals and increases blood flow to deliver proteins and antibodies to the site of the scene.

In some cases—such as when the response successfully fights an infection or repairs an injury—this is a great thing. This is known as acute inflammation—there is a localized call to action, the body responds by naturally healing itself, and then all is well.

But in other cases, whether due to behavioral and lifestyle factors or an overactive immune system, the inflammatory response occurs, again and again, launching a domino-effect of cellular damage that adds up to having huge, long-term impacts on various body systems and organs. This is known as chronic inflammation. And it can become a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on the body.

This chart illustrates the clear distinction between acute and chronic inflammation:

AcuteChronic
CauseHarmful pathogens or  injuryToxins or other pathogens that the body cannot break down causing cell damage or a disruption to a healthy immune system response
OnsetAlmost ImmediateSlowly builds over time
DurationShort – a few hours to a few days.Long-term – continuously builds slowly over years
Outcomes  Most often the injury healsGets progressively worse causing damage to vital organ and/or system functions

Silent Inflammation: It’s Causing Much More Damage Than You Think

Chronic inflammation, also known as silent or low-grade inflammation, is thought to be at the root of many of today’s most prevalent diseases. Harvard researchers have noted that blood sugar imbalances, heart problems, respiratory issues and even age-related cognitive decline have all been identified as having one thing in common: inflammation that for far too long went unchecked.

Everyday events that set chronic inflammation into motion seem like pretty common experiences for the average person. Any of the following can trigger low-grade inflammation that is invisible to the eye and unlike other forms of inflammation, can go on for years silently undetected:

  • Consumption of refined sugars
  • Lack of sleep
  • Carb-heavy diets
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Unhealthy weight gain or obesity
  • Lack of exercise

Think about it like this:

When you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, the inflammatory response is undeniable. The pain and swelling; the sneezing; the itchy eyes.

With low-grade inflammation, the tiny delicate blood vessels of your heart and brain can’t alarm your body in quite the same way when you eat too much sugar, inhale invisible toxins or experience everyday stress. Unless you act to intentionally eat antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory foods and spices, get adequate exercise and practice a healthy lifestyle, the damage from this chronic inflammation simply adds up over time silently until major medical intervention is needed.

So How Can You Tell if You’re Experiencing Chronic Inflammation

While some doctors routinely test for high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) or fibrinogen, proteins that increase in the blood when there is inflammation somewhere in the body, most of us don’t have a sure-fire way of knowing whether we’re experiencing chronic inflammation.

Worse: Many of us experience the signs of chronic inflammation and spend weeks, months or even years optimistically shooing them away.

According to researchers from several renowned institutions, some of the common signs and symptoms that develop when one is suffering chronic inflammation are:

  • All over body pain
  • Chronic fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
  • Digestive complications like bloating or irregularity
  • Acid reflux
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Rashes, redness or other skin irritations

Try these tips:

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