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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Inflammation is the Real Silent Epidemic

Feb 26, 2015 03:34PM

Acute inflammation, observable as swelling, pain, warmth, and/or redness, is a natural, localized response to injury, pain or acute illness that usually lasts no longer than a few days. Chronic, low-grade, systemic inflammation, however, is so insidious that it silently and slowly damages the body and causes disease. We may feel fine, but when left unaddressed, elevated levels of inflammation can cause serious health problems.

A 2004 article published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases cites numerous studies that show an association between chronic, low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for diabetes, stroke and various cardiovascular problems. According to the comprehensive resource book Diet, Immunity and Inflammation, inflammation is also associated with low energy, elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune conditions, cancer, obesity, preterm birth, chronic pain in muscles and joints, mood disorders including depression, and any condition ending in “-itis.”

What we eat and drink either promotes inflammation or squelches it. Inflammation and obesity are correlated with toxicity in the body caused by pesticides, xenoestrogens, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and other sources, as well as a lack of good microflora, according to research published in the Journal of Immunology Research in 2014.

Our ability to fight inflammation and disease depends greatly upon our gastrointestinal tract and the bacteria that reside there. We have ten times more bacteria in our gut than we do cells in our body. The bacteria play an important part in keeping our immune systems healthy, according to a 2008 article published in Clinical and Experimental Immunology, which locates about 80 percent of our immune system in the gut. When our gut health is less than optimal, it causes our immune system to also be unhealthy, which allows inflammation to spin out of control.

Jaclyn Downs is a board certified holistic health coach based in Lancaster County. She works with individuals and groups and leads workshops on food and wellness. Connect at 717-575-9616 or GetBalancedWellness.com.

Tips for Keeping Inflammation in Check

Foods to Include in the Diet

• Antioxidant-rich organic berries, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, asparagus and other foods high in vitamin C will protect the body from the inflammatory effects of free radicals.

• Healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids are widely recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties. Cold-water, fatty fish and fish oil are good sources. Vegan supplements are also available.

• Foods that promote gut health include raw sauerkraut and other fermented foods and drinks, such as kombucha and kefir, which add probiotics into the gut. Resistant starches, or the kinds of carbohydrates that resist digestion in the small intestine, contain prebiotics, which feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

• Notable anti-inflammatory herbs include ginger and turmeric.

Foods to limit or eliminate

• Fats found in processed food (trans fats) and refined oils, such as canola, soy, corn and safflower, are too high in omega-6 fatty acids, a situation that causes cell walls to become stiff or rigid, slowing oxygen uptake and cell functioning and making cells vulnerable to inflammation.

• A review of scientific literature, conducted by The Institute for Responsible Technology cites several studies that suggest genetically engineered foods may create an unhealthy microflora, which damages the intestinal wall and allows undigested food proteins to leak into the blood, triggering an inflammatory response. Difficulty metabolizing pesticides and other toxic chemicals from food is another cause for inflammation.

• The links between pro-inflammatory effects of sugar, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are well documented. We should avoid sugar-laden foods and refined carbohydrates.

Lifestyle factors to consider

• Stress relief, the proper amount of sleep and moderate exercise with appropriate recovery time are all vital elements to controlling inflammation.

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