Inflammation is a normal biological response within the body. The inflammatory response is triggered by stimuli such as pathogens, dead, injured or infected cells, toxic compounds or radiation. It is a healthy response in which the body helps to bring circulation to the area to remove and heal the problem. However, if the inflammatory response is continuously initiated, it amplifies damage to the body, and this damage can lead to disease.
Often people are trying to switch of inflammation but, as it’s a natural process within the body, we should be striving to regulate it. It is not about stopping what’s going on but rather we want the body to be able to utilise its own innate intelligence to heal. Being in a state of continual inflammation can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions.
Our modern day lives are rife with irritating substances ingested through diet, the environment and the day-to-day stress we all experience with our fast-paced lifestyles.
Chronic diseases that are driven by inflammation:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fatty liver disease
We are even noticing how inflammation affects not so chronic disease such as mental health disorders, fertility, skin conditions and everyday vitality.
How does this all piece together and why don’t I have all these diseases?
We all have our own set of genetics and grew up in completely different environments. This all intertwines to switch on and off different genetic pathways.
WHAT CAUSES INFLAMMATION
Unfortunately, we live in a world where we are surrounded by toxins. We can do our best to minimise the intake of these toxins but we can also help our bodies to excrete them easier. This can be done by supporting the pathways of elimination such as our digestive system, liver, skin and urinary system using proper nutrition and herbs.
Our diet plays a major role in how inflammation acts within the body. By reducing toxins in our diet, we can ensure we aren’t adding to the inflammatory response. This means being mindful of chemicals used in food and non-organic produce, oxidised fats and highly processed oils (e.g. canola) as these can set off the inflammatory response.
Chronic low-grade inflammation is a well recognised contributing factor to type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep increases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and interleukin 6, and 24-hour secretion of cortisol is also elevated.
Infections & injury
This should be the main source of inflammation and it should be transient. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t completely heal and put strain on ourselves in other ways that means we don’t fully recover. Ensuring we are getting lots of rest and giving our body what it needs to heal is important to resolve the remaining inflammation.
Eat the rainbow! Yes, you’ve heard this before and it sounds like fun, but it has a massive impact on inflammation and also contributes to supporting microbiome health which plays a major role in reducing inflammation. The deeper the colour of the food, the more antioxidant rich. Think red cabbage, dark chocolate, blueberries, apples, strawberries.
Get good sleep
Among so many other benefits, sleep plays a major role in immune regulation, reducing stress and reducing inflammatory pathway activation. Make sure you maintain a regular bedtime, staying away from phones and as much light as possible and ceasing any caffeine before 12pm.
Removing any stimuli
Addressing your environment is important as part of treatment to stop the constant stress on your immune system. This means ensuring your house isn’t filled with toxic chemicals (personal and cleaning products), watching out for mould and not over training.
Support the inflammatory response and your immune system
Ensure the immune response is appropriate to what is going into the body. Many conditions have progressed to autoimmune conditions meaning the body has started attacking its own cells. We can support our immune system by lessening our stress levels, supporting our gut health and including immune-modulating nutrients such as zinc, vitamin a, vitamin c and selenium.
Turmeric is one of my favourite herbs as it is effective and has been widely studied for its many uses. It is well known to have applications in inflammatory conditions. The most fabulous thing about this herb is the multitude of ways you can use it in your everyday diet. If you are on medication, it is important to speak to a practitioner before taking turmeric as it can interact with medication.
Speak to one of our naturopaths to get a health assessment and find out if inflammation is a driver of your health condition. Book an appointment.
Written by Ally Stuart, BHSc