Inflammation is a sign of the immune system at work. The immune system protects us from things that the body views as “foreign,” such as a splinter or a germ. When the body recognizes something as foreign, it calls on different types of blood cells and chemicals that work to isolate and destroy the invader. We see signs of inflammation at the site of a splinter when we see a hot, red and painful spot on the skin. This is normal and necessary inflammation that is working the way it should.
When is inflammation a problem? It is a problem when there is no actual threat to fight against and the immune system is active anyway, or when inflammation becomes “chronic” because it lasts too long.
Sometimes the body makes a mistake and treats parts of our own bodies as if they were that splinter. This produces what is called an “auto-immune disease” such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and over 100 others. The immune system sends the blood cells and chemicals to attack our joints or other body systems.
Our body can have “chronic inflammation” when we have constant inflammation going on. This can be due to an auto-immune disease, or because of other factors that we can often control.
Medical research is finding that chronic inflammation is a major cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, asthma and many other diseases. Chronic inflammation is the Big Bad Guy.
How do you know if you have chronic inflammation? You have chronic inflammation if you have an auto-immune disease. Controlling inflammation through medication and lifestyle changes is essential to improve your health.
But you can have inflammation even if you do not have an auto-immune disease!
Obesity causes inflammation. If you are overweight, your body responds by increasing the chemicals that we see in inflammation. One of these is easily measured in the CRP blood test. Belly fat is particularly dangerous. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of the fat cells in our bellies are producing inflammatory chemicals. Losing weight (or “waist management” as Dr. Oz calls it) is the single best thing you can do to help control inflammation.
Lack of exercise is linked to both obesity and inflammation. In fact, exercise releases chemicals that decrease pain, inflammation, and the CRP level. As exercise increases over time, inflammation decreases. Talk to your doctor about appropriate exercises for you, and get moving!
Tooth decay and gum disease cause constant inflammation. Getting good dental care, brushing and flossing will get this source of inflammation under control.
Poor food choices cause inflammation. Our western diet has been called “toxic” or “poisonous” as studies reveal how high fructose corn syrup, red meat, saturated fat and processed foods cause disease. Investigate the “Mediterranean Diet,” which has been shown to decrease inflammation. Or try a whole food, plant based diet, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet. These diets will help you lose weight and avoid the foods that increase inflammation.
Stress can cause inflammation. We all have stress in our lives, but we don’t have to be passive about it! Take action by exercising, meditating, getting professional counseling and doing whatever it takes to manage that stress. Doing what you can to control stress will decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, and help you control inflammation.
Untreated infections can cause inflammation, such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), bronchitis (lung inflammation) or periodontal (tooth and gum) disease. Treating these will decrease the inflammation in your body.
Smoking causes diseases such as bronchitis, which leads to long term inflammation. Another reason to quit!
Take charge of your health and get the Big Bad Guy under control! If you have questions, please call me at Harbor LifeStyle Center, (231) 487-2150 or e-mail email@example.com. We are also on the Web on Facebook and www.harborlifestylecenter.com.