That’s a Spicy Meatball! Inflammation and How It May be Affecting Your Body
Written by: April Adan & Laura Tetrault
Reading time: 4 minutes
What is Inflammation?
Can you remember stepping on a red ant or getting stung by a bee? Did your foot swell or did you develop a rash? That rash was actually caused by your immune system. Think of the swelling as the field where your white blood cells engaged the foreign enemy in battle. The insect injected you with a small amount of a toxin and your body defended itself. This is called acute inflammation. It’s usually localized to the site of injury or trauma. Acute inflammation can also be caused by cuts, burns, or infections. The good news is that it’s temporary.
What causes Inflammation?
Many factors can lead to inflammation, such as:
- Chronic and acute conditions (bacterial, viral infections etc.)
- Certain medications
Exposure to irritants or foreign materials your body can’t easily eliminate
(e.g. environmental toxins and pollutants)
- Your gut bacteria - Approx. 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so bacteria inside your GI tract can either suppress or activate inflammation.
- Pro-inflammatory foods (e.g. alcohol, processed foods, eggplants etc.)
Types of Inflammation
With acute inflammation, our immune system releases inflammatory compounds, dispatches the invaders, and goes back to business as usual. Balance is usually restored within a couple of days or weeks. But what happens when inflammation becomes more chronic and lasts for months or years? What happens when our body keeps sending signals even after a small injury has been resolved?
The barrage of signals tells the body that it is under attack constantly - it has no way to identify a “false alarm”. In its hyper-vigilant state, the body doesn't get the rest it needs or the chance to repair its defenses. We call this chronic inflammation.
Inflammation has useful purposes in the body for short periods of time. It signals the body to repair damaged areas and alerts the system to invaders. But chronic inflammation eventually causes damage over months or even years.
Silent inflammation is low-grade and persistent. It can lurk within our bodies without any telltale symptoms. You may not be aware you have chronic or silent inflammation since early symptoms can be overlooked or may persist for years before an illness becomes apparent.
According to Harvard University, signs of inflammation are like a car's dashboard engine light. It tells you that something is wrong. No one likes to see the dash light blink. But when it does signal on, you don’t take out the bulb. Instead, you figure out what caused the light to turn on. "It's the same with inflammation," says Dr. Shmerling. "It's telling you that something bigger is going on that requires attention."
Here are a few early symptoms of low-grade inflammation that may be overlooked:
> Mouth sores
> Recurring sinus infections
Inflammation and Diet
If only every inflammatory food or ingredient came with a red flashing label. Because they don’t, it is important to be vigilant since inflammation is linked to various illnesses like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and even cancer.
The good news is, we can identify which foods to reduce or eliminate in our diet by reading ingredient labels and becoming more knowledgeable about food.
Why Choose an Anti-Inflammatory diet?
Food is one of the most powerful weapons against inflammation. A great way to ensure you are getting the healthiest foods is by sourcing your food locally, supporting local organic farmers, shopping at local markets, and looking for labels that indicate organic, GMO-free, and hormone-free foods. This will ensure you are getting foods that are free from herbicides/
pesticides, hormones and other chemical ingredients that may promote inflammation.
Look for food that has not been processed with lots of sugar, sodium, and preservatives. Foods that are typically processed have a longer shelf life. They may appear appealing but contain a lot of preservatives and unnecessary ingredients that can extend the shelf-life and are pro-inflammatory.
Tell your body to “stand down” by incorporating these anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on both your physical and emotional health. It can help improve your mood, help reduce depression and lower your risk of developing associated diseases. Incorporating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods will help give your body a fighting chance to stave off a variety of illnesses.
For more information check out the following articles:
Article 2: How to Lower Your Inflammation Without Major Changes to Your Diet
Article 3: What is Quercetin & Its Benefits
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