Our bodies are just so dang smart. Sometimes I sit and think about all the things my body does for me without even thinking about it. I breathe without thinking, I heal without thinking, I sweat when my body wants to cool down, and I shiver when my body wants to warm up ALL without even thinking about it.
But, often our body is sending us a message, and most of the time, we aren't listening. That is what brings me to inflammation! Inflammation is our bodies way of telling us that something is wrong; something in our body is trying to harm us!
When our body senses something that isn't supposed to be there, it sends in the troops that help defend itself from infections, injuries, and toxins, and also sticks around to heal itself; it releases antibodies and proteins and increases blood flow to the area.
Short term or acute inflammation only sticks around for a few days to a few weeks (subacute), and can show up in our body by way of pain, redness, heat, swelling, loss of function and can be severe in some cases. But, it can also be rather sneaky and not really show up in a way we notice.
Most common causes of acute inflammation:
Environmental factors (exposure to a substance)
Injuries ( muscles; burns/cuts; splinters, etc.)
Most common symptoms of acute inflammation:
Pain/stiffness around tissues + joints (might lead to immobility)
Difficulty breathing or smelling; chest pains
Sore throat/fever/cough/all around not feeling well/fatigue
How to treat acute inflammation:
NSAID's (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen)
Topical Analgesics (Tiger Balm/Salonpas/Arnica/Badger Sore Muscle rub are my favorites)
Epsom Salt Bath!
Drink lots of water
Herbal Remedies (for cold/flu)
I feel like acute inflammation is the kind of inflammation we are well aware of. I think you know when you have hurt yourself, or are sick/not feeling well.
But when it comes to chronic inflammation, things get a little trickier, and usually more severe/damaging long term. When you have chronic inflammation, the response to the trigger by your body lingers, and puts your body in a constant state of alert, and usually results in long term negative consequences on your tissues, organs, and can lead to disease/disorders. Unfortunately, symptoms sometimes never appear or do so in a way that appears to be something else. You might have inflammation for years and never really recognize it as such.
Research shows that chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases. Your body thinks that it is under attack, so it is constantly in fight mode, which sometimes leads to your white blood cells attacking perfectly healthy organs and tissues. In medical terms, anything ending in -itis is an inflammatory condition/disease.
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation:
Body Pain (chest, muscle, joint, abdominal)
Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia
Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux
Skin issues (itching/redness/rashes/blisters)
Common Chronic Inflammatory disorders:
There are a lot of inflammatory disorders/diseases, as every organ, tissue, gland and cell can become inflamed, usually our immune system responding to a trigger (either correctly or incorrectly).
They are generally caused by:
Genetics (autoimmune disorders)
Persistent acute inflammation
Low sex hormones
Below are just a few inflammatory disorders/diseases:
Asthma: mostly affects children; more severe when something is irritating lungs; can be caused by exposure to allergens (mold, dust mites, etc); can also be genetically predisposed; your airways become inflamed
IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease): Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis; inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract; long term inflammation leads to damage. Crohn's can affect any part of the GI tract, but with Ulcerative colitis, the colon and rectum are affected. You can be genetically predisposed. Exact cause is unknown, but generally, your body is incorrectly responding to triggers (viruses/bacteria/food sensitivities) leading to inflammation and damage over extended period of time. Diet, gut health, genetics, and immune system play a large role in severity. Also considered an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune Disorders: (your immune system mistakenly attacks itself/health cells/tissues/organs) Causes of these can be genetics and environmental factors.
Coeliac Disease or Celiac Disease: (not to be confused with gluten intolerance) When ingesting gluten, your body attacks itself, specifically your gut (small intestine). Gluten (dietary protein, usually wheat, barley, rye) is found in so many items (sometimes in a sneaky ways) such as pasta, cereal, bread, sauces, ready to eat meals, beer, and many more. Common symptoms are diarrhea, stomach aches, bloating and flatulence, indigestion, constipation, fatigue, weight loss, itchy rash, etc. The damage to the gut (small intestine) leads to malabsorption of nutrients.
Multiple Sclerosis: Affects the Central Nervous System (Brain or Spinal Cord). Your T cells (immune cells) attack and damage the myelin sheath (layer that surrounds the nerves of your brain and spinal cord). This can lead to cancer of the brain, vision problems, balance and coordination issues, thinking, learning and planning difficulties, etc.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. "Flare ups" is where the symptoms worsen. Your immune system attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making the joints swollen, stiff and painful. This will lead to long term damage to your joints, cartilage, and nearby bone. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, or loss of joint function, fatigue, numbness and tingling, and limited range of motion.
Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus): Your immune system attacks healthy tissues in many parts of the body (joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs). first symptoms of lupus usually occur somewhere between the teen years and the 30s and may be mild, severe, sporadic, or continual. "Flare ups" and remission can occur for up to a few days to weeks. Common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness, extreme tiredness, skin rashes, weight loss, swollen glands, etc.
Aplastic anemia: the body fails to produce blood cells in sufficient numbers. Increased risk of bleeding, bruising, petechiae, as well as feeling tired, pale skin, and a fast heart rate are common symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes: A form of diabetes in which very little or no insulin (hormone required for body to use blood sugar) is produced by the pancreas, leading to very high levels of blood sugar. Treatment with insulin is required for survival. Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes. Common symptoms are frequent urination, increased thirst/hunger, losing weight, blurred vision, and difficulty healing.
Sinusitis: Inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, the cavities that produce the mucus necessary for the nasal passages to work effectively. Can be caused by viruses, bacteria, pollutants, fungi, or an autoimmune reaction. Chronic cases can last up to 12 weeks. Symptoms include pain in the face, blocked nose, discharge, congestion, loss of smell, and a cough.
Atopic Dermatitis (eczema): inflammation of the skin. Symptoms can be redness, swelling, itching, small raised bumps, red to brownish patches, cracked skin, and many more. Can cause problems with sleeping, and infections of the inflamed skin site.
Gout: form of arthritis. It usually affects one joint at a time, causing severe pain, redness, swelling, and heat. Usually affects the feet, toes, and ankles. It is caused by a condition known as hyperuricemia, where there is too much uric acid in the body, and leads to uric acid crystals that build up in the joints, tissues, and fluids of the body.
COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease): a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, lack of energy, frequent respiratory infections, weight loss, chest tightness, cough, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing. Usually caused by irritants in the lungs and smoking. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common conditions that contribute to this disease.
Peptic Ulcer: they are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine. The most common causes of peptic ulcers are infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and long term use of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Symptoms are burning in stomach, bloating, belching, feeling full, heartburn, nausea, and an inability to eat really fatty foods. They can lead to internal bleeding, gastric cancer, obstruction (blocking of food) and an ACTUAL hole in your stomach.
Thyroid Diseases: swelling of the thyroid gland (located in your throat). Your thyroid gland is in charge of making the hormone that controls virtually all of the body’s metabolic functions (how the body turns food into energy)
1) Hashimotos: is an Autoimmune disorder where your immune system doesn’t recognize your thyroid as your own and attacks it, causing the thyroid gland to swell. Symptoms are weight gain, feeling tired, fuzzy thinking and memory issues, constipation, pregnancy issues, thinning hair, menstrual irregularity, sexual dysfunction, and very little energy.
2) Thyroiditis: inflammation of the thyroid gland that causes either really high levels or really low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.
Inflammatory Heart Disease: There are 3 types:
1) Endocarditis is the inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves
2) Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle
3) Pericarditis is the inflammation of the tissue that forms a sac around the heart
These can be caused by an infection, autoimmune disorders, medicine, environmental factors, or a medical condition that damage the heart, thus causing the inflammation. Symptoms can include chest pain, fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, heart murmurs/palpitations, shortness of breath, and many more.
Chronic Inflammation can lead to:
Heart Disease + Stroke
Type 2 Diabetes
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Permanent internal AND external scarring
...and many other diseases/cancers
These bodies of ours, like I mentioned, are AMAZING things. Sometimes we inherit genes that make us predisposed to certain illnesses. But, other than that, if we take care of our bodies, we can avoid having most of these issues.
So, whether you have an autoimmune disorder, or are predisposed to one, or have an inflammatory disease/disorder, or maybe some symptoms of one, OR you are just wanting to prevent these things, here are some tips!:
Green Leafy Vegetables (Kale, Spinach, Chard, Collards)
Nuts (Almonds, Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower Seeds )
Fatty Fish (Omega 3's+EPA+DHA; Salmon, Sardines, Herring, Mackerel, Anchovies)
Berries (Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries)
Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc)
Healthy fats like Olive Oil, grapeseed oil and ghee (Monounsaturated fats + oleocanthal)
Avocados (Monounsaturated fats)
Mushrooms (Lion's mane is amazing!)
Other fruits like Grapes (anthocyanins) + citrus!
BEANS! I LOVE BEANS!
Add more fiber!
Lean and Clean proteins (no hormones, grass fed, local, )
Fill half your plate with vegetables!
Refined Carbohydrates (really anything that isn't whole grain)
Fried foods of any kind
Red meat and processed meat
Sugary foods (soda, candy, cakes/pastries)
Junk food in general (chips, pretzels, fast food, ready to go meals)
Trans fats like shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine
Foods high in saturated fats (cheese, pizza, dairy products in general)
Foods high in omega 6's (usually in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; red meats, and many salad dressings)
Gluten products (if you are sensitive to gluten or have celiac) and/or Casein products (if you have a sensitivity to this milk protein)
Alcohol (plain and simple)
Ayurvedic and Herbal remedies that help to fight inflammation:
Aloe Vera: general tonic for the liver (removes toxins); helps balance your doshas; blood purifier which benefits the liver, gallbladder and stomach; also helps ulcers and colitis; anti-inflammatory; natural expectorant (relieves cough, colds, and congestion); mild laxative; can treat burns, cuts, and traumatic wounds; 2 tsps. three times a day
Castor Root Tea/Castor oil: helps aid constipation, neutralize toxins, and relieves gas; an antirheumatic herb and helps with pain; castor root tea helps with arthritis, sciatica, chronic backache, and muscle spasms, but it also a natural decongestant and anti-inflammatory AND treats gout.
Licorice: Natural expectorant; aids GI secretions; helps alleviate coughs, colds and congestion; effective antidote for peptic ulcers and gastritis; Licorice mixed with ghee can help heal external wounds, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, and colds; helps with inflammation of the gallbladder; aids in digestion after meals and relieves constipation
Turmeric: relieves congestion and aids digestion; soothes cough and asthma; anti-arthritic; aids in gas and bloating; anti-inflammatory (can be used as a topical); helps with diabetes ; blood purifier
Ginger: super simple=anti-inflammatory. Science backs it, and so do years and years of using in other cultures and practices
Cinnamon: also anti-inflammatory, fights off infections, and repairs damaged cells; helps improve sensitivity to insulin; helps lower blood sugar; ONLY USE CEYLON CINNAMON ("true cinnamon")
Garlic: helps ease arthritic symptoms; anti-inflammatory