By reducing inflammation in your body, you'll not only look and feel younger, but you'll also lower your risk for chronic disease. So, what is inflammation? Keep reading to find out everything about the body’s inflammatory process and how you can treat inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a vital part of the body's immune response. It is the body's attempt to self-protection and to heal itself after an injury. Inflammation defends against foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria; and heals wounds.
Without inflammation, damaged tissues would fester and infections could become deadly.
Inflammation does not mean infection. Infection is caused by a bacterium, virus or fungus, while inflammation is the body's response to it. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it, the signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is trying to heal itself.
Chronic inflammation is long-term and occurs in “wear and tear” conditions, including osteoarthritis, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of inflammation:
The signs of normal inflammation are heat, pain, redness, and swelling. These signals tell you that your immune system is being called into action. Inflammation begins when pro-inflammatory hormones in your body call out for your white blood cells to come and clear out infection and damaged tissue. These agents have anti-inflammatory compounds, which move in once the threat is neutralized to begin the healing process.
Arteries dilate, blood flow increases, and capillaries become more permeable so that white blood cells, hormones and nutrients can move into the spaces between cells. White blood cells swarm the injured area and ingest germs, dead or damaged cells and other foreign materials to help heal the body. Hormones called prostaglandins create blood clots to try to heal the damaged tissue and remove them when healing is finished. They also trigger pain and fever as part of the healing process.
Causes of Inflammation
Habitual or environmental factors, such as excess weight, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, pollution, poor oral health, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet can lead to chronic inflammation. Here are some of the food ingredients that may trigger more inflammation in your body:
- Saturated fats,
- Trans fats,
- Refined carbs,
To restore your body's balance, it’s crucial to keep a healthy diet and lifestyle. When your body is in an inflammatory state, what you eat may not only increase inflammation, it can also set you up for other chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
There are a number of treatment options for inflammatory diseases including medications, rest, exercise, and surgery. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors, including the type of disease, the person's age, type of medications he or she is taking, overall health, medical history, and severity of symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory Diet and Foods
Anti-inflammatory diets have become popular in recent years. The recommended foods are typical of a Mediterranean diet and include eating more fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy fats; eating moderate portions of nuts; avoiding red meat and alcohol. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids is important. Anti-inflammatory food will protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation and omega-3 fatty acids inhibit an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation. Here are some of the foods you should add to your diet in order to fight inflammation:
- Fish: Especially salmon, these are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avocados: They contain phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation.
- Walnuts and other nuts: Another great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale and cauliflower and other green leafy veggies contain sulforaphane, which may be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems and inflammation.
- Watermelon: Watermelon contains lycopene, a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes.
- Onions: A good source of quercetin, which inhibits histamines known to cause inflammation, according Jimenez.
- Olive oil: A good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Berries: They are rich in polyphenol compounds, particularly anthocyanins, which produce dark red pigments and moderate inflammation.
- Certain spices: Ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg have anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the biochemical process of inflammation.
Treating Inflammatory Diseases with Turmeric
Let’s talk a bit more about one of the spices above - turmeric – which is one of the most studied foods in the World. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice often used in Asian cooking. It contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is an antioxidant that demonstrates powerful anti-inflammatory properties in conditions such as arthritis, muscle sprains and other injuries. In addition, turmeric may prevent and slow cancer growth, protect against liver disease and help reduce symptoms of digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
The list of benefits from consuming curcumin is impressive. Studies have shown curcumin to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. The laboratory studies have identified a number of different molecules involved in inflammation that are inhibited by curcumin including phospholipase, lipooxygenase, cyclooxygenase 2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase and elastase. By bringing their levels back to normal, chronic systemic inflammation in the body decreases significantly.
At this point you might be wondering how to take advantage of curcumin’s impressive anti-inflammatory properties. The easiest way is to add it to your food regimen. There are plenty of tasty and easy recipes using turmeric powder on our blog. You can also learn how to prepare turmeric golden milk tea, a tasty and comforting way of consuming turmeric and treat inflammation.
Another way of treating inflammation with turmeric involves topical application. You can mix turmeric powder with ingredients such as warm water, rose water, milk or sesame oil and create a paste that, when applied to the skin, helps to reduce inflammation and swelling. This turmeric paste is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to cleanse wounds, promote healing and reduce inflammation.