The Information on Inflammation
Acute vs. Chronic
An immune system response, there are two distinct classes of inflammation - acute and chronic. Acute is a short term process that starts reducing once the inflammation stimulus (the item or organism causing the inflammation) is taken away (eg. ingrown toenail). Chronic inflammation is a serious problem often due to pathogens, infections, persistent foreign bodies, or autoimmune reactions. Chronic inflammation can last many years and, rather than protecting you, can cause damage throughout your body.
Acute inflammation is a necessary protective response whereby the body's white blood cells and immune proteins help protect against injury, chemicals or radiation exposure and infections (bacteria, viruses or fungi). The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, eliminate damaged (or dead) cells, and begin tissue repair.
The initial inflammatory response is triggered by a chain of events called the inflammatory cascade which improves blood flow to the area and fully enlists your immune system. Many different immune cells play key roles in this response, releasing specific inflammatory mediators. One well known mediator is “histamine” which triggers widening of blood vessels (vasodilation), allowing more blood to reach injured tissue. Vasodilation increases temperature, redness, swelling, and pain signalling that your immune system is working overtime. Acute inflammation can cause significant pain, but it is usually of short duration and aimed at protecting you.
When inflammation is chronic (known as low-grade or systemic inflammation) it can play a more puzzling and detrimental role in your body, becoming your worst nightmare. Chronic inflammation is tricky. Often it goes unnoticed and can only be detected by your doctor as a rise in inflammatory signals or markers. When inflammation is chronic, the constant production of immune cells can do permanent damage and lead to a number of diseases such as Alzheimers, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
Inflammation can become chronic when your body is exposed to persistent stimuli and is often triggered by diet and environmental contaminants. Since your immune system is concentrated in your gut, the first signs of compromise will show as gas, bloating, loose stools, or tenderness. Classic inflammatory foods are red meat, sugar, white flour, fried or processed foods, and dairy products. Several studies have also demonstrated that certain food ingredients can spark inflammation such as:
Sugar (sucrose, fructose, glucose)
Saturated and trans fats
Omega 6 fatty acid foods (palm, soybean, canola, sunflower oils)
Refined carbohydrates (“white” carbohydrates)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) (found in packaged foods and Asian cooking)
Gluten and Casein
Synthetic sweeteners (Aspartame, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, etc.)
Artificial food additives (flavours, colours, preservatives, fillers)
Excessive amounts of salt
Instead go for a diet rich in:
Vegetables (including items like shiitake mushrooms and dark leafy greens; kale, spinach, Swiss chard, etc)
fruits (such as berries, oranges, etc)
omega-3 fatty acids (from fatty fish; salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines and/ or a high quality supplement).
healthy fats (from oils such as olive, flax, rice bran, and camelina)
small portions of nuts (almonds, filberts, Brazil nuts and walnuts)
Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, asparagus and other fermented vegetables.
Consume very little red meat
ELIMINATE THE 3 Ps (Processed, Packaged, or Prepared foods) in your diet. While they taste good and are convenient, they are harmful in many ways including inflammation.
Another issue is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are commonly used to alleviate inflammatory pain. These drugs can be helpful and fast-acting but remember they also cause gastrointestinal upset and definitely aren’t a long-term strategy for coping with pain.
Natural products are ideal to relieve the pain associated with inflammation. The have comparatively few side effects and can be quite effective. However, as always, be conscious of the quality of the product and potential interactions with other nutraceutical products, OTC and prescription medications. These are some examples of natural products that have shown promising results.
Curcumin (the primary bioactive compound found in the spice turmeric) is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that has been used to relieve pain and inflammation.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are some of the most effective natural
anti-inflammatory agents. Found in fish and algae oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) promote the production of natural
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is full of antioxidants and studies have also demonstrated that it has potent anti-inflammatory activity - beneficial for chronic inflammation.
French maritime pine bark can actually decrease pain and reduce inflammatory conditions by shutting down the production of specific enzymes involved in inflammation.
Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) possesses antioxidant properties and the bark of cat’s claw has been used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain and osteoarthritis. The active ingredients in the bark induces reductions in pro-inflammatory mediators.
White willow bark contains salicin, a compound similar to Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). It is commonly used for the treatment of pain (particularly low back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, and inflammatory conditions, such as bursitis and tendinitis.
Eggshell Membrane contains naturally occurring glycosaminoglycans and proteins that are essential for maintaining healthy joint and connective tissues. Clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness for the treatment of pain and inflexibility associated with joint and connective tissue disorders.
Capsaicin (cayenne) cream for topical application is believed to temporarily reduce amounts of "substance P," a chemical that contributes to inflammation and pain in arthritis.
Rather than living in fear of inflammation, join the many who control it and prevent conditions from getting worse by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Strive to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise, maintain a healthy body weight and enjoy life! Don't forget to routinely see your doctor - just to ensure you are doing great.