Inflammation has been shown to be at the root of all disease. Inflammation can be a good and bad thing. It is the bodies normal response to injury and infection and can therefore actually stimulate healing. On the other hand, chronic sustained inflammation is not good and is the root cause of disease and illness. In this article we will take a closer look at inflammation, causes of inflammation, foods that cause it, foods that prevent it, and ways to measure inflammation in the body.
A Closer Look
In inflammation, chemicals from white blood cells are released into the blood. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues resulting in swelling. It goes without saying that cells that are inflamed, leaking, and edematous are not going to do their job effectively. In other words, inflammation damages your bodies healthy cells and tissue and severely weakens your immune system. Consequently, this weakened immune system is the gateway for disease and illness. The bottom line is inflammation can affect all internal organs and prevent them from functioning properly. For example, inflammation of the kidneys leads to elevated blood pressure and kidney failure. Inflammation also plays a key role in heart disease and the progression of atherosclerosis and blood clot formation. These are just a few of many examples.
Causes of Inflammation
- Lack of Exercise
- Diet Choices
Foods that cause inflammation
- Sugar: Sugar drives inflammation and negates the anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that women eating a diet high in sugar developed breast cancer that spread to the lungs at a much higher rate than their counterparts who ate no sugar.
- Vegetable and Seed oils: Vegetable oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids which promote inflammation in excess. Omega 3’s is a better option.
- Alcohol: Alcohol leads to bacterial toxins moving out of the colon and into the body. A condition known as “leaking gut syndrome.” This leads to widespread inflammation and subsequent organ damage.
- Processed Meats
Foods that Prevent Inflammation: For the purpose of this article, I cannot go into detail about every food but I challenge you to do your own research in an effort to create and maintain a anti-inflammatory environment in your body.
- Berries: Berries contain anti-oxidants known as anthocyanins. These anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory effects that greatly decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Fatty Fish: Contains high concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids which are great anti-inflammatories. Some good ones to eat are salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies.
- Broccoli: Best source of a powerful anti-inflammatory known as sulforaphane.
- Avocados: Protect against inflammation and have been shown to decrease risk of cancer.
- Green Tea
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fermented Foods: Fermented foods maintain a healthy gut which is where most of your immune system lives. Some good examples of fermented foods are yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut just to name a few.
Key Inflammatory Marker
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a good way to assess for inflammation in the body. I always have my physician include it in my lab work. An elevated CRP level indicates inflammation but is non-specific as to location. It is however found in the blood when systemic inflammation is present making it important to have it checked. Ask for the test. In one study, people with excessive alcohol intake had greatly elevated CRP levels which validates that alcohol is something to limit in our diets.
In conclusion, my 30 years of nursing has allowed me to see the negative implications of chronic inflammation in the body. It has brought an awareness to me of the importance of diet as it relates to inflammation and maintaining optimal health.
Until next time,
Eat healthy, be aware, and be well.
Vince is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, Published Writer, and Columnist living and loving in Atlanta, Georgia. Enter your email address to receive his bi-weekly educational, inspirational, and thought provoking work straight to your inbox. You can also follow him on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Your support is deeply appreciated.