Sunday, 19 February 2012

What is inflammation?

In the paleo/primal world, "inflammation" is thrown around everywhere. Don't eat this because it can cause inflammation. Eat this to prevent inflammation. Take these supplements to help inflammation. Auto-immune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer can all be caused by inflammation in the body.

Whenever I get someone who is intrigued by my odd eating habits who let me explain why I don't eat grains, legumes and dairy is because of the inflammation it can cause in the body, they seem to just smile and nod and let me keep going. But did they actually understand?

The first thought that comes into my mind, and probably the general public's, when I hear "inflammation", is some kind of acute injury that has become swollen and inflamed. But I'm not sure if people really understand what kind of "inflammation" I'm talking about and what it can do to your body and health. I guess I need to be more specific and that I'm talking about chronic inflammation and left unaddressed, chronic inflammation can cause serious long-term damage.

So what is inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response. When a person experiences pain, injury or illness the immune system is activated causing inflammation. It occurs when blood cells, antibodies and other immune system components are directed to the site that’s under stress in an attempt to repair the damage.

Acute inflammation to some kind of injury or pathogen is a healthy response to a harmful condition. It is short-term and may last several days, but is necessary for proper healing.

Chronic inflammation is a constant low-level reaction that can spread damage throughout the body. Researchers from a variety of medical areas repeatedly conclude that inflammation plays a major role in a variety of illnesses.  The the body's defense system -- the immune system -- triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off. The body's normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal. 

What can result from chronic inflammation

Some not mentioned: insulin resistance, depression, obesity, chronic pain

Some major contributors to chronic inflammation:
High sugar, high carbohydrate, low-fat diets (i.e. a diet high in omega -6 fatty acids)
Lack of Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet
Not enough sleep
Lack of exercise

So to reduce chronic inflammation it basically comes down to eating real, whole foods (that means fresh food, nothing from a package or plastic/cardboard box Mom), getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, reducing your stressors and being active. 

Mark's Daily Apple had a good article about inflammation.

1 comment:

  1. I don't eat packaging :)
    But seriously, I'm trying, Lauren! Your dedication and drive are truly inspiring. Xox