Managing Chronic Inflammation

September 4, 2018 in Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

From conversations with friends I realize that inflammation much in the media, but how to think about it is confusing for people; so I’ve decided to try to approach the very complex issue of inflammation with a fairly simple approach. Frankly, I still remember struggling to learn the chemical structures of the various immunoglobulin classes. Truly it’s no wonder that the complex immune system with its cytokines, macrophages, neutrophils, Helper T cells, natural killer cells, complement, antibody-antigen complex and my darling - the immunoglobulins, and so on, can be confusing for people.

So let’s just forget about the countless molecules that are involved in inflammation; let the microbiologist and immunologists continue their remarkable work. I will focus on sharing understanding about inflammation in a fundamental way; and how that can assist you in making healthy choices.

First, let’s be clear. Inflammation is not all bad. One of the early memories of many children is like mine. A knee was scraped in play; shortly thereafter, we had an angry red place where our knee met the pavement. That redness, swelling, and heat are symptoms of inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s defense system. So any time our body finds damaged cells, pathogens (like viruses and bacteria), foreign particles (like pollen and dust) our immune system tries to protect us by removing the harmful material and beginning the healing process.

The really wonderful thing about our immune system is that we are born with defenses called innate immunity. Our mother loads us with it at before birth. As life goes on, we develop an adaptive immunity, which our body “learns” from a vaccination or an infection with a specific pathogen.

Inflammation is divided into two types:
Acute (like a cold; flu; skin injury; a sprained muscle) – it starts rapidly and usually is resolved in days or weeks.
Chronic (like active hepatitis; hay fever; rheumatoid arthritis; atherosclerosis) – it starts slowly and may last for months to years.

Chronic inflammation is the type that the popular press is frequently addressing. The reason is that chronic inflammation underlies many chronic diseases. Some of the most challenging diseases of our time, include cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, gout, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s disease are related to chronic inflammation. There are anti-inflammation medications – some over the counter and some very strong prescription medications. Those, of course, should be taken in consultation with your physician. There are MANY treatments for inflammation being offered on the Internet, some are nothing more than nonsense and some potentially harmful. I want to share some safe ways to help manage chronic inflammation. Some of the most powerful ways to protect yourself from chronic inflammation are minimizing stress; getting more sleep; quitting smoking; and exercising moderately. If you read my posts frequently, you probably guessed that food would be part of the answer. If you did, you guessed right. Food is an important part of managing inflammation.

The fact is that our digestive bacteria release chemicals that may either suppress inflammation or encourage it. Some foods promote the growth of bacteria that fuel inflammation and other foods support the growth of bacteria that suppress inflammation.

First, the list of foods that support the growth of bacteria that suppress inflammation:
• Vegetables and fruits; including tomatoes; leafy greens; berries; oranges.
• Nuts and seeds.
• Fish (like salmon, tuna)
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Foods with polyphenols and flavonols (like coffee, green tea, cinnamon, cocoa)
• The Mediterranean diet and the DASH Diet are both excellent eating styles that support the suppression of inflammation. They’re both rich in whole foods and sufficient plant foods.
Second, the list of foods that support the growth of bacteria that aggravate inflammation:
• Sugar, soda, sugar drinks
• White bread, refined carbohydrates, pastries, cookies
• Fried foods, French fries
• Highly processed foods
• Red and processed meat
• Artificial ingredients

Chronic inflammation is not an issue that should be dismissed; as evidenced by the challenging diseases that are associated with it. The fact is that our lifestyle and our eating style can have a positive and significant impact our ability to manage chronic inflammation. Make the effort – take the time, to adopt an eating, sleeping, and exercise style friendly to keeping the problems of chronic inflammation at bay. It’s definitely worth your endeavor.