Inflammation, we have all heard it before, maybe even used the term without knowing exactly what it means. To clear the confusion, we thought we would break it down for you and dedicate today’s blog post to explaining exactly what it means.
Put simply, inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body that responds to irritants, injuries or infections, activating the immune system and beginning the process of healing. Whether it be a scratch on the knee, a torn hamstring, a bacterial infection or chronic stress, our bodies go into self-protection mode and the inflammatory process commences.
It is important to recognise that inflammation can be beneficial in the short term. Acute inflammatory responses which may arise from trauma (such as a bad fall or sports injury), a bacterial infection (such as tonsillitis), chemical irritants or an allergic reaction allow the body to heal and recover. This normally only lasts a few days and involves a number of different bodily systems including the immune system, the vascular system and surrounding cells.
So let’s take a look at what acute inflammation looks like at the cellular level…
First up, the immune system uses receptors to detect the site of injury and facilitate the release of inflammatory mediators such as histamine which triggers vasodilation (increasing blood flow to the problem area) and increase vascular permeability (allowing cells such as cytokines, leukocytes and fluid to leave and enter the surrounding tissue). The result of this process is pain, heat, swelling, redness and the common responses you would expect at the site of an injury or infection. These responses are essential for human survival as they remove harmful or foreign invaders from the body and restore health.
The other form of inflammation that is not so protective and causes more harm than good is known as chronic inflammation. When the body is under a state of inflammation for prolonged periods of time, we begin to see problems arising, including a host of health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, arthritis and depression.
So how can such a protective and helpful bodily process cause such detrimental health outcomes you ask?
Well, like many things in life too much of a good thing can be problematic. When this process is constantly switched on and doesn’t disappear after a few days, the body becomes flooded with defence cells and hormones, losing the ability to clear dietary and environmental toxins and work as efficiently as it should. The result of this tireless bodily state leads to an overactive immune system, which has the potential to target healthy tissue and result in autoimmune diseases.
What are the common causes of inflammation?
- Poor diet: as the saying goes, you are what you eat. Literally, when you fuel your body you are making a choice to either feed or fight disease. A diet high in refined sugars, gluten, seed and vegetable oils, trans fats and poor quality dairy is inflammatory. The solution? Cut out the inflammatory foods and make JERF your priority. If you would like to kick-start your anti-inflammatory nutrition why not try and implement an MCT Coffee into your schedule, find the recipe here.
- Inadequate omega-3 / omega-6 intake: omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and help decrease system-wide inflammation. Your body craves a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 to keep inflammation low so aim to load up on foods such as oily fish, grass-fed beef and eggs and avoid refined oils such as vegetable and seed oil as these are highly inflammatory.
- Poor gut health: up to 80% of your immune system resides within the gut and has powerful implications for health and vitality. Poor gut health, including leaky gut and bad gut flora have become highly prevalent due to modern lifestyle factors and as a result the body becomes inflamed. This is often why poor gut health may not only manifest as digestive problems but rather in the form of mood dysregulation, fatigue, brain fog, skin conditions etc. When your gut health isn’t up to scratch, you guessed it, neither is your inflammatory regulation. Read more about gut health here and make sure you check out our gut health supplements here.
- Too much stress: our bodies aren’t designed for chronic stress, it results in failure of homeostasis and the ongoing release of cortisol and other hormones which contribute to an inflammatory state in the body. Find out how you can prioritise stress management here.
- Lack of exercise: a sedentary lifestyle is linked to an array of health conditions and is a major cause of low-grade inflammation. Many studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein. The solution is simple, get moving!
- Lack of sleep: inadequate sleep has been associated with increases in a range of inflammatory markers and interferes with your body’s internal systems. Ensure you get at least 7.5 – 8 hours of shut-eye per night to give your body the rest it needs to thrive.
Chronic inflammation is the single most important mechanism driving several major modern lifestyle diseases including diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis, just to name a few. If you don’t feel quite right, don’t ignore what your body may be trying to tell you and ensure you take the necessary steps to restore your health and avoid long-term damage.
Not sure where to start? Why not book in your complimentary 15-minute consultation with a TNN practitioner here to find out how we can help you!
Punchard, N., Whelan, C. and Adcock, I. 2004. The Journal of Inflammation. Journal of Inflammation, 1(1), 3.
Sisson M. 2012. What is Inflammation? Accessed June 9, 2018.