Chronic inflammation is something we have all dealt with at some point in our lives. It has caused us pain and has even limited our mobility.
In the worst cases, inflammation has prevented us from doing the things we love to do the most - like outdoor activities and spending time with our families.
We often associate inflammation with injury, infection and/or old age, but what else can be causing our chronic inflammation? More importantly, what can we do to fight it and how can we stop it from negatively affecting our lives?
What is Inflammation?
According to most medical sources, inflammation is a reaction by the human body which leads to swelling, heat, redness, and in most cases, pain.
Inflammation can be acute, meaning sudden, or it can be chronic. Acute inflammation is typically the body's reaction to injury or infection. It often comes on rapidly after a fall, injury or after a fever starts to develop.
It can last for minutes, hours or even days; however, acute inflammation eventually dissipates. But chronic inflammation, on the other hand, does not.
It is long-lasting and can persist for months or even years. Chronic inflammation is the type of inflammation which typically impacts our daily lives.
It can make us uncomfortable day in and day out as well as prevent us from enjoying life and being active. Chronic inflammation is also the type of inflammation which can negatively impact our overall health and well-being.
How can inflammation impact our overall health and well-being?
When our bodies are inflamed it means that our bodies are in a state of stress. Fortunately, thousands of years of evolution have prepared and equipped our bodies with response mechanisms to deal with stress.
One of these response mechanisms is referred to as the flight or fight response. During the flight or fight response, adrenaline and other natural chemicals found in the human body are released to trigger internal changes such as pupil dilation and increased heart rate.
These internal changes provide us with the means to avoid danger or escape harmful situations. The flight or fight response is meant for short-term use.
It is a mechanism intended for short bursts of action in times when our bodies are stressed. Evolution has not designed our bodies to accommodate intense stress for excessive or long-periods of time, like in the case of chronic inflammation.
Or bodies our not equipped to handle the stress chronic inflammation inflicts upon them. Thus, like anything else not designed to hold up under extremely long-periods of stress, our bodies begin to break down.
This internal breakdown caused by the stress of chronic inflammation occurs at a cellular level.
Slowly, over time, the cells in our bodies begin to change. Once our cells begin to change, our organs and organ systems begin to experience changes as well.
These changes, which can range from a decrease in functionality to a loss of functionality, over time begin to impact our overall health and well-being.
Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Crohn's disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer's disease.
So what are the treatment options available to combat chronic inflammation?
Chronic Inflammation Treatment Options
Fortunately, there are treatment options for chronic inflammation such as heat-cold therapy, massage therapy and physical therapy.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned treatment options often don't effectively alleviate chronic pain or individuals simply don't have access to them.
More often than not, when individuals seek treatment for chronic inflammation, they are initiated on medication therapy.
Some of the medications that may be used to treat chronic inflammation include the following:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs),
- muscle relaxants,
- anti-seizure medications and
Those types of medications do offer relief from chronic inflammation. However, the relief typically comes with a host of potential side effects such as: nausea, drowsiness, fatigue, tolerance, physical dependence and addiction.
To compound the issue, due to the nature of chronic inflammation, individuals can be on medication regimens for very long periods of time...
Further exposing themselves to the potential side effects of the medications and the health complications that come along with them.
For that reason, many individuals seek alternative routes of treatment for chronic inflammation. One of the alternative routes of treatment for chronic inflammation is diet. Yes, you're reading this right your diet can help you manage your chronic inflammation.
Diet and Inflammation
In fact changing your diet can help you manage your chronic inflammation.
There are two primary ways you can use diet and diet modifications to help manage chronic inflammation.
The first way is to remove foods from your typical diet which can lead to inflammation.
According to many health sources, including the Harvard Health Watch, specific foods such as:
- refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries,
- fried foods,
- excessive red meat,
- processed foods like hot dogs and margarine all can lead to inflammation.
Therefore, by simply removing those foods or limiting your consumption of those foods, you can help manage and reduce your chronic inflammation.
The reason the aforementioned foods and food types lead to inflammation is due, in part, to the ingredients found in them.
Some of their ingredients have been directly or indirectly linked to inflammation, which means if an individual consumes those types of foods on a daily basis, it is likely they will experience inflammation.
Furthermore, if an individual consumes those foods chronically then it should be no surprise that he or she may suffer from chronic inflammation.
By removing foods which are linked to inflammation from your diet, you can take the first step to managing your chronic inflammation and improving your overall health and well-being.
The second way diet can be used to manage inflammation is by adding foods to your diet which reduce inflammation.
What to add...
Foods that have been shown to reduce inflammation include: tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, tuna and salmon.
The previous foods have many anti-inflammatory properties and incorporating them into your diet can be an effective way to combat chronic inflammation.
Removing foods that are linked to inflammation and adding foods that possess anti-inflammatory properties can reduce chronic inflammation and help increase overall health and well-being. It really can be that simple.
If you want to feel better, reduce your pain and increase your mobility, you can eat your way to less inflammation and a better quality of life.
With that said, what is the best way to modify our diets? How can we easily remove inflammatory foods from our diets and add anti-inflammatory foods to our diets in a well-balanced manner?
Is there a plan or diet available that can get you on the path to less inflammation and improved health? Simply put, yes, the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Diet
If you are looking for a diet to help you manage your chronic inflammation, look no further than the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet has been a well-established healthy way of eating to maintain overall well-being.
Also, the Mediterranean diet maintains many of the principles behind anti-inflammatory eating.
The Mediterranean diet integrates anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fish.
Another difference is that the Mediterranean diet omits many of the foods which can lead to inflammation. Making it a great one-stop approach to modifying your diet in order to manage chronic inflammation.
Because of its anti-inflammatory potential... The Mediterranean diet is an effective method to prevent or limit the risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
The Mediterranean diet can help you manage your chronic inflammation and help you improve your overall health and well-being.
Following an Anti-inflammatory Diet
It has been four months since you have adopted the Mediterranean diet. You are eating more strawberries, blueberries, spinach, kale, nuts and fish.
You have stopped eating fried foods and drinking soda. One night you are out with some friends and one of them asks you how you have been feeling. You do not hesitate.
You answer quickly; "I have less pain, more mobility, I have lost weight and I feel great". Your dietary changes have paid off and you are well on your way to managing your chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation causes unnecessary stress on the body. It can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
It can also drastically reduce your quality of life.
Following healthy, anti-inflammatory diets such as the Mediterranean diet can help you manage your chronic inflammation and improve your overall health and well-being.
So if chronic inflammation is negatively affecting your health, it may be time to eat your way to a happier, healthier life.
Food, Health & You
Doctor of Pharmacy with over 10 years of experience