Inflammation 101

Inflammation 101

It may be counterintuitive, but inflammation can be good or bad depending on the type. Today we are going to address some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding inflammation.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is derived from the Latin term “to set on fire” and is actually an integral part of the body’s natural defense system. Generally speaking, inflammation is the body’s immune system’s response to stimuli. Inflammation can be either internal or external and there are two types: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Acute Inflammation

Acute inflammation begins quickly and lasts only a few days. Acute inflammation occurs when you suffer a physical injury or an internal infection. When this occurs, your body quickly sends white blood cells straight to the area so healing can begin. For example, when you get a papercut at the office or twist your ankle at the gym during a workout, you most likely experience some sort of pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat, more commonly referred to as PRISH. Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable, these signs and symptoms are a good thing. (Really!) They signal your body is attempting to heal itself and are reminding you to rest the injury. After a few days, you should begin to feel better as the body heals, wherein at this point, the inflammatory response will naturally subside on its own. However, there is a second type of inflammation, chronic inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is often referred to as the body’s “silent fire,” because it can be present in the body for years before signs and symptoms become detectable. Chronic inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system doesn’t shut off as it keeps producing immune cells. As there is no injury or illness to repair, these extra fighter cells eventually begin attacking healthy cells causing damage to tissues and organs. (Yikes!) This ultimately leaves your body in a constant state of alert and can eventually be the root cause of numerous diseases and disorders. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is still much a mystery, but is usually a combination of triggers including genetic, environmental and hormonal factors.

How Can I Alleviate Inflammation?

There are a variety of lifestyle factors you can adjust in order to alleviate inflammation, but the easiest way to combat inflammation is through diet. Since 80% of the immune system is located in the gut, the digestive tract is a primary target for anti-inflammatory efforts. Here are some of the top foods to eat (and avoid) to alleviate inflammation.

Foods and Supplements to Help Fight Inflammation:

  • Fruits: Avocado, Beets, Berries, Red Apples, Tart Cherries, Pineapple
  • Vegetables: Mushrooms, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Red Peppers
  • Dark Leafy Greens: Collard greens, Kale, Spinach and Swiss Chard
  • Coconut Oil
  • Fermented Foods: Kimchi, Kombucha, Miso, Pickles, Sauerkraut, Sprouted Mung Beans
  • Probiotics
  • Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Olive Oil, Walnuts
  • Green Tea or Matcha
  • Herbs including boswellia, curcumin, garlic, ginger, oregano and turmeric
  • Raw Cacao
  • Whole Grains:  Barley, Brown Rice, Farro, Millet, Quinoa and Steel-Cut Oats
  • Vitamin D
  • Yogurt

*Anti-inflammatory phytochemicals from flavonoids found in brightly colored foods can help fight inflammation, so stick to foods rich in color like brightly colored berries, dark leafy greens and red peppers/apples.

Foods to Avoid (Inflammatory Foods):

  • Alcohol*
  • Dairy
  • Fried Foods
  • Genetically-Modified Crops
  • Gluten
  • Grain-Fed Meat and Dairy
  • Hydrogenated Fats
  • Processed Foods
  • Refined Carbohydrates and Grains
  • Sugar
  • Trans Fats found in Margarine, Packaged Cookies and Crackers
  • Vegetable Oils: Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Safflower Oil, Soybean Oil and Sunflower Oil

*You can still enjoy your evening glass of wine, but make note alcohol consumption causes inflammation.

Besides diet, you can also adjust lifestyle factors in order to alleviate inflammation by reducing physical stress, minimizing mental stress, eliminating environmental toxins, clocking quality sleep every night and relaxing. (If you needed a permission slip to get to bed earlier or relax more, then consider this it!)

Remember, inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, acute inflammation helps your body protect itself, but chronic inflammation can eventually become problematic. By eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding foods that cause inflammation, you can help to alleviate and combat inflammation within your body’s system.

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