Chronic Inflammation, The Hidden Killer Inside
Inflammation? You're probably thinking: "Why should I worry about inflammation?" Nothing is swollen. There's no pain anywhere. Unfortunately, it isn't quite so simple.
Today, the majority of Americans suffer from what experts are calling persistent, low grade inflammation, which is caused by a variety of factors that seriously undermine health and age us prematurely. Worst part? Chances are pretty good that you are one of them!
Although this type of inflammation was recently Countless studies have shown that persistent, low grade inflammation may be at the heart of most chronic disease, from allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease to dementia, cancer, and even obesity. Experts agree that chronic inflammation can damage heart valves and brain cells, trigger strokes, promote cancer development and a resistance to insulin, which can lead to diabetes. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Other common inflammatory diseases include allergies, Alzheimer's, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, bursitis, cancer, cervicitis, colitis, cystitis, diabetes, gastritis, heart disease, hepatitis, infections, myocarditis, nephritis, neuritis, osteoporosis, prostatitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, and vaginitis. Even our children are increasingly suffering from "diseases of aging" in epidemic numbers.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury, irritation or infection, a beneficial and healthy process. If you cut yourself, the body immediately begins an inflammatory process that neutralizes harmful microorganisms, helps to repair the wound, and cleans up the debris resulting from the injury. Inflammation is beneficial when necessary, but can be disastrous when chronic, destroying the delicate balance in your body.
A constant inflammatory response generates a constant supply of free radicals that overwhelm your anti-oxidant defenses and damage DNA, aging you and causing disease of every description. Worst part? This type of low grade, chronic inflammation can often go undetected for many years until disease finally emerges.
By now you are probably wondering what in the world causes this potentially dangerous condition and how you can prevent it. Well, according to Dr. Dwight Lundell, a prominent cardiologist, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is one of its primary culprits. Specifically, however, here is a list of the "unlucky" 13 worst contributors to chronic, low grade inflammation:
1. Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates
The average American consumes more than 160 lbs of sugar and 200 lbs of white flour per year. These toxic substances increase blood sugar, and even a modest increase in blood sugar generates pro-inflammatory chemicals. The means by which sugar and white flour have an inflammatory effect on the body is by forming Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). AGEs are produced when a protein reacts with sugar, resulting in damaged, cross-linked proteins. The body's responds by trying to break these AGEs apart, which cases immune cells to secrete large amounts of inflammatory chemicals. Many diseases that we have traditionally thought of as age-related are actually caused by this process. Depending on where the AGEs occur, the result can be a variety of diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, cataracts, memory loss, wrinkled skin or diabetes complications.
Excess salt, sugar, white flour, dairy, meat and soda causes a diet that is over-acidic, which is another major cause of chronic inflammation. The fats and oils in the American diet are inflammatory because they contain excessive omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Although Omega-6 is just as necessary in the body as Omega-3, it is crucial to strike a balance between the two. Historically, people consumed roughly equal amounts of these oils. Today, we consume 20 to 30 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. The modern processed-food industry fills our stores with pro-inflammatory oils (e.g., canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, and peanut). In addition, grain-fed beef, poultry, and farmed fish contain excessive omega-6. These imbalances create a huge excess of pro-inflammatory chemicals in our diet to the detriment of our health.
Conventional dairy also contributes to inflammation. Modern dairy cows eat GMO-laden soy and grain based diets, producing excessive omega-6 fats and creating a pro-inflammatory imbalance. In addition, a large percentage of Americans may be allergic to dairy, often unknowingly. For these people, frequent consumption of dairy causes constant allergic reactions, creating even more chronic inflammation.
4. Hydrogenated Oils
You will find hydrogenated oils in a myriad of different products, ranging from candy and baked goods to margarine, breakfast cereal, and peanut butter. These oils contain trans fatty acids that inhibit the activity of enzymes that make anti-inflammatory compounds, but promote those that create pro-inflammatory ones. The result? Chronic inflammation.
Infections trigger powerful inflammatory processes to destroy invading microorganisms. Unfortunately, the inflammation damages your body, as well as the foreign invaders. Repeated bouts with colds, flus or other infections will result lasting damage, and shorten your life.
Having in inflammation as the result of an injury is normal and results in the healing of that injury. However, nature intended inflammation to subside once an injury is repaired. Unfortunately, due to Americans' largely pro-inflammatory diet, injuries are seldom fully healed and often result in chronic low-grade inflammation in the injured tissue. This is the primary reason that aging athletes have unresolved issues with old injuries. Incompletely healed tissues produce inflammatory chemicals that promote inflammation for the entire body
6. Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Chronic allergic reactions create chronic inflammation, which is why allergic reactions must be minimized by strengthening the immune system and avoiding allergens. Unfortunately, allergies have become epidemic. Contributing to this epidemic has been the mindless overuse and misuse of antibiotics, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and hormones by our doctors, who have been trained to TREAT disease vs. PREVENT it. Although masking some of our symptoms, these dangerous drugs end up disrupting gut tissue, causing leakage of undigested food molecules into the blood (i.e., leaky gut syndrome), thereby promoting food allergies.
7. Fat Cells
More than two out of three Americans are overweight, and fat cells, especially those that form around the abdomen, produce large amounts of inflammatory chemicals. This is a huge source of inflammation, and one of the primary reasons why overweight people suffer so much more disease and disability.
8. Environmental Toxins
Synthetic fibers, latex, glues, adhesives, plastics, air fresheners, cleaning products and perfume are examples of everyday chemicals that can trigger an inflammatory response. Chronic exposure, at even low doses, can drive your immune system crazy, resulting in inflammatory autoimmune diseases.
9. Chronic Stress
Excessive stress produces hormones and inflammatory chemicals that can wreak havoc on your system, ranging from making your skin break out or your intestines go into revolt. For example, psychological stress in the form of a panic attack, rapid pulse, or night sweats is a sign of cortisol-prompted inflammation. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone, the one that kicks from the adrenal glands when a threat is perceived. It results in dilated blood vessels that force blood to your organs in preparation of an attack. This “fight or flight” response becomes a normal state during times of persistent stress, and chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system and adrenals are on overdrive.
10. Lack of Sleep
Insomnia produces hormones and chemicals in the body that are similar to those from excessive stress. People who are sleep deprived have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals.
11. Inadequate Consumption of Clean Drinking Water
A lack of water is a choice for many as they often choose more flavourful alternatives. Unknowingly, people become further dehydrated via alcohol, caffeinated drinks and sugar-laced water replacements. Drinking coffee and tea throughout the day is NOT a replacement for drinking clean water. Without a continuous supply of water, the body's essential systems can become impaired. Chronic dehydration can cause long-term health conditions. Over time, the dehydration process essentially compounds itself and produces inflammation throughout the body.
12. Routine Inactivity (i.e., lack of exercise)
A sedentary lifestyle may contribute directly to the development of low-grade inflammation. It has been suggested that skeletal muscle acts as anendocrine organ by influencing metabolism and modifying immune system message production in other tissues including endothelial and adipose tissues. As skeletal muscles perform work, they produce and release anti-inflammatory substances into the blood. A number of studies strongly suggests a fairly robust inverse relationship between physical activity levels and biomarkers of inflammation.
13. Lack of Natural Sun Exposure
Vitamin D, a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory, plays a critical role in regulating immune function, as well as preventing the onset of chronic inflammation and illness. The major cause of vitamin D deficiency is the lack of sun exposure, which is the major source of vitamin D for most humans. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D are often inadequate to satisfy either a child's or an adult's vitamin D requirement.
HOW TO REDUCE AND AVOID CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
The bottom line is that inflammation is a common element in virtually all disease. By causing chronic inflammation we are aging ourselves prematurely, causing us to look old, feel tired, and suffer every imaginable disease. Controlling chronic inflammation takes a combination approach because it arises from a combination of causes, but most of it is under your control. By learning how to prevent and reverse inflammation, you can achieve power over aging and disease.
To avoid chronic inflammation, stop and sometimes even reverse disease and keep yourself looking and feeling young, implement a daily anti-inflammatory regimen that:
- A diet rich in
- Plenty of filtered, fluoride-free water
- Sufficient exposure to sunlight (at least 10-20 minutes per day without sunblock)
- Daily exercise (at least 30 minutes)
- Adequate sleep and relaxation time
… and Excludes:
- Processed factory foods
- Fast food
- Simple carbohydrates
- White flour
- Refined sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Highly processed vegetable oils (e.g., canola, vegetable, corn, grapeseed, safflower)
- Conventional beef and chicken
- Farmed fish
- Trans fats