What is inflammation
Inflammation is our body’s natural response when fighting off bacteria or foreign substances. The inflammation we see or feel is the body attacking what shouldn’t be there. This should only last a few hours or days, and once the cause of the problem is gone, the inflammation should also go away.
What causes it?
Short term, or acute inflammation is part of the body’s healing process. It can be caused by an infected throat or toe, contact dermatitis, bronchial or sinus infections, cuts and scratches, or physical trauma sustained in an accident. But sometimes, the body keeps attacking, after the problem that initially caused the inflammation is no longer a threat. This chronic inflammation can last weeks, months or even years. It’s like the immune system doesn’t know when to quit and keeps working overtime. If this goes on long enough, it can lead to serious disease, or it can be caused by an autoimmune disease itself, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation can also be caused by exposure to toxins, unresolved infections or untreated conditions, as well as lifestyle contributors like stress, smoking, obesity and alcoholism.
What are the signs of inflammation in the body?
The medical community has long recognised the basic five signs of inflammation as being redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function. But there are many other possible symptoms including:
- Eye problems
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
- Gut issues like bloating and reflux
- Insulin resistance which leads to high blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Balance and sensory problems
- Lower back pain
- Excess mucous production
- Hypercoagulation (over clotting of the blood)
- Dry eyes or blurry vision
- Brain fog
There are many diseases that can cause chronic inflammation including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease, MS, lupus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, Graves disease and many others.
What can we do about it?
The way we manage any chronic inflammation in our bodies depends on the symptoms and the cause, so it’s important to consult a GP or other wellness practitioner for guidance.
It’s well known that a diet rich in particular nutrients can help fight inflammation. If chronic inflammation is an issue for you, then ask your medical practitioner if you should seek out food and drinks that contain:
- Zinc, selenium and magnesium
- Vitamins D and E
- Fish oil
Depending on your condition, it may help to avoid:
- Trans fats
- Toxic oils like vegetable and canola
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed meats
Also, try introducing more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet such as kale, cherries, fatty fish, avocado and wholegrains.
Exercise, Stress and Sleep
Obviously if obesity is the cause of your inflammation, then exercising regularly will be highly beneficial. But regular exercise can also help with many other inflammatory diseases.
Getting plenty of quality sleep every night will also help fight inflammation, as this is the time our bodies do their main healing and cell renewal. Aim for a regular bedtime and indulge in good sleep hygiene practices.
Chronic stress can be the cause of inflammation but holding stress in our bodies can also impede the healing process when we are fighting inflammation and disease. Try reducing stress through meditation, yoga and mindfulness.
Medicine and alternative remedies
It is important to discuss any decisions around taking medicine, plant medicine or herbal remedies, with your GP. Some possible things to consider trying are:
- Devil’s claw
- Ginger, cinnamon and turmeric
- Medicinal cannabis
Short term inflammation is just a sign that the body is healing itself, but chronic inflammation can have a serious impact on our lives, causing everything from fatigue and brain fog, to severe pain and gut issues. It’s important that we don’t ignore these signs of inflammation and seek medical help, while also making smart choices around diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. With the help of wellness practitioners, the causes and symptoms of inflammation can be managed, for a better quality of life.