The Epidemic of Inflammation

obese man with hamburger

There is an epidemic of chronic, low grade inflammation going on in our society. Many people have some type of inflammation going on in their bodies.

Chronic, low grade inflammation, while not severe, will irritate disease process, sprains/ strains, tendonitis, bursitis, anything ending in -itis (pancreatitis, bursitis), anything inflammatory (irritable bowel), to name a few issues it exacerbates. It is my opinion that chronic, low grade inflammation exacerbates almost every problem throughout the body. Inflammation will not create an issue, but it will certainly make it worse.

Any problem that is inflammatory in nature will be irritated by chronic, low grade inflammation. Any muscle pull, sprain/ strain, bursitis, tendonitis has inflammation in it. From most headaches to rotator cuff problems, carpal tunnel, low back pain, sciatica, plantar fascia, tendonitis, bursitis, sprains or strains. All of these issues involve inflamed muscles. Throw something inflammatory on top of it and the problem will get worse. It’s like adding fuel to a fire. Fuel itself won’t make a problem, but it will make one worse.

There are other problems besides muscular issues that are irritated by inflammation. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, most types of arthritis. All of these disease processes will be exacerbated by inflammation.

So how do you create inflammation? Almost everything creates inflammation to one degree or another. Even exercise creates inflammation. But some things create a lot more inflammation than other things do. Sometimes something might create a little bit of inflammation but give a lot more benefit (like exercise).

Processed foods are a major source of inflammation in the modern, western lifestyle. All processed foods are full of free radicals. Free radicals are negatively charged particles that attach themselves to molecules throughout the body and cause damage at a cellular level. A leading theory on aging is free radical based. Meaning the more free radicals in the body, the faster the body will break down and age. Free radicals in the body cause it to break down and age faster than it would otherwise.

Stress is another major cause of inflammation in the body. Our stress response is a good thing. It was developed from our fight or flight system. It automatically gets us ready to fight or to run. But it can be a bad thing when we are under constant stress and have no outlet for it. Like when you’re at work and your boss yells at you. Your shoulders come up to your ears, you clench your teeth, and you grin and deal with it. Stress will also cause the release of cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is causes inflammation. When someone is stressed out all of the time, this hormone is released constantly. Through some stress on top of already inflamed and irritated muscles and the cortisol will exacerbate the injury, pain and problems and make them worse.

Diet is another major contributor to inflammation. It is well established that obesity is accompanied by low-level, chronic inflammation. It is increasingly recognized that regular consumption of processed and other types of foods can lead to increased levels of inflammation. These increased levels will make one susceptible to insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and other conditions that go along with obesity and being overweight. This state of chronic, low-level inflammation makes it very hard to lose weight and to maintain it.

Studies done on non-westernized populations show that hunter-gatherers have almost no incidence of obesity, despite access to abundant food. These groups have no access to processed foods like sugar, grains, refined vegetable oils, and certain dairy products. These modern foods promote obesity and inflammation because our human bodies have not fully adapted to processing these foods yet.

A viscious cycle emerges from eating these processed foods. It has been documented that thin and obese people have different compositions of bacteria in their guts. Ian Spreadbudy at the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit, states that high carbohydrate foods increase the amount of LPS containing bacteria in the gut. LPS (lipopolysaccharide) is a toxin that has been linked to diet induced inflammation. When LPS containing bacteria are in place in the gut, consumption of processed foods increase the absorption of inflammatory molecules into the body. This becomes a cycle where a poor diet preserves the inflammatory bacteria, and the inflammatory bacteria makes you crave more processed and unhealthy foods.

If you can reduce inflammation throughout your body, you will lose weight faster. You will also reduce your overall pain levels. Since systemic inflammation will irritate any process that is inflamed in your body to begin with.

Eating healthy foods like nuts, berries, fresh fruits and vegetables, and taking a good multi-vitamin along with fish oil will all decrease systemic inflammation throughout your body. All of these foods and vitamins are full of anti-oxidants which get rid of free radicals. Free radicals drive inflammation.

Fish oil is full of omega-3-fatty acids. These omega-3-fatty acids act like a natural anti-inflammatory. Take 2 grams of it a day to get a therapeutic dose which will decrease inflammation and take the edge off of your pain.

Exercise will increase inflammation. The act of exercising will produce inflammation. But the benefit you get from exercising will vastly outweigh the small amount of inflammation in your body. Exercise will make you less susceptible to the effects of inflammation. Exercise makes you less insulin resistant. So even though exercise will produce some inflammation, it is still extremely worthwhile to do.

Controlling inflammation through eating healthy foods, taking proper vitamins, and exercise is the Pain Free Way

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