The body is a complex combination of systems and reactions that all work to keep us healthy. The average person may not understand all the systems at play (after all, there are a lot!), but one important process to understand is inflammation. Inflammation is one of our body’s most vital and high-risk immune responses.
Why is it high-risk? Well, it can be complicated to grasp. Let’s unpack inflammation and its effects on our bodies over time. The more we learn about inflammation, the better we can prevent the negative impact it may have on us.
What is inflammation?
In basic terms, inflammation is the process of your body trying to protect itself from unwanted intruders or injury to the body, like germs or toxins. Our immune systems send white blood cells to start the healing process; to our eyes, this can take the form of redness or swelling. This is called acute inflammation: a temporary and essential response to real-time healing for cuts, bumps, and even cases of flu or colds.
But there’s another kind of inflammation that can cause distress and damage to the body — chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation occurs when our bodies are on high alert and generate white blood cells for a prolonged time. There may be a definitive reason for our bodies acting this way, such as an untreated illness or infection. Other times, there’s no clear-cut reason as to why some people experience long-term inflammation.
However, there are known factors that contribute to chronic inflammation. These include excessive drinking, smoking, loss of sleep, and most importantly, poor diet. Foods with high levels of LDL cholesterol, high levels of sugar, and refined carbs can all prompt inflammation in the body. This includes foods like:
- Fried food
- Processed bread and pasta
- Processed meat, like sausages and ham
It may not be a surprise that these foods are harmful to us. Many of us grew up understanding that we shouldn’t consume large quantities of these foods. In addition to increasing the risk of chronic inflammation, these foods also increase the chance of obesity, another risk factor for inflammation.
What are the effects of long-term inflammation?
Prolonged inflammation has a high chance of becoming very dangerous. When our bodies are continuously in an inflamed state, the inflammatory cells can actually begin to attack healthy tissue in our bodies.
And because chronic inflammation occurs over months and years, constant inflammation can damage our bodies over time and increase our risk for deadly diseases. In fact, over 50% of deaths in the world can be attributed to inflammation-related diseases.
Inflammation is widely regarded as the culprit associated with numerous life-threatening health concerns, including:
- Heart attack or stroke. The link between inflammation and heart diseases is still being studied by scientists, but one thing is clear: long-term inflammation is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
- Cancers in the kidney, lung, and more. Scarily enough, chronic inflammation can damage our cell DNA and increase the risk of cancer.
- Diabetes. Chronic inflammation and diabetes are closely linked. Insulin resistance leads to inflammation, and inflammation can cause more insulin resistance. As a result, blood sugar levels can rise and cause type 2 diabetes.
- Alzheimer's disease. Studies have found that people with Alzheimer’s disease have higher markers of inflammation. Plus, higher levels of inflammation are associated with general declines in cognitive and memory function.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis occurs when inflammatory responses attack the tissue. This can happen throughout the body, but rheumatoid arthritis (which affects the joints) is the most common form of arthritis that people experience.
In addition to these diseases, those with chronic inflammation may also experience uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Pain in joints, muscles, or other parts of the body like the chest or the abdomen
- Weight fluctuations
- Depression or anxiety
- Constipation, diarrhea, or acid reflux
Bottom line — chronic inflammation is likely to cause reactions in our bodies that shouldn’t be happening. And when our immune responses fail us, we get sick.
However scary the consequences of prolonged inflammation may be, there’s good news. Inflammation can be reduced with simple lifestyle changes, particularly with an improved diet.
How do you reduce inflammation?
Diet plays a key role in reducing inflammation. Just as certain foods can increase long-term inflammation, some foods can ease the effects of inflammation, too. Anti-inflammatory foods are a hot topic in the nutrition community, and with good reason. Studies have shown that certain foods, like fruits and vegetables, have antioxidant properties that reduce or even reverse inflammatory responses.
And to no one’s surprise, the top foods that reduce inflammation are the very same health foods that we are encouraged to eat regularly. The top anti-inflammatory foods include fish with omega-3 fatty acids, avocados, grapes, and fruits with antioxidants like blueberries. So, it’s not hard to find foods that you’ll enjoy and include in your daily diet!
Health supplements can also play a supportive role in the management of inflammation. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is a known antioxidant that may encourage normal inflammation processes. You can up your curcumin intake with NatureWise Curcumin Turmeric, which includes ingredients like BioPerine black pepper extract that helps the absorption of curcumin.*
You can also add NatureWise Black Seed Oil to your supplement intake to support your immune system and promote normal inflammation responses. (Plus, it has other health benefits, like healthy skin and hair!)
Managing Inflammation for a Healthier Body
In the case of inflammation, the good can come with the bad. We need our immune system to respond to injuries and illnesses with inflammation, yet too much of it causes serious health risks.
But that doesn’t mean you should feel stuck. The best way to go forward is to reduce lifestyle choices that increase the risk of chronic inflammation (like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption). Additionally, you can follow the advice of scientists and nutritionists who have extensively studied the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods and increase your consumption of such foods. Start managing inflammation now, and your body will thank you!