How chronic inflammation could be affecting your health
By Maria Roldan, CNP
Have you ever sprained an ankle, hit your head really hard, or have simply gotten a splinter? Within a few minutes or hours after the injury, you most likely developed some of the common signs of inflammation: pain, redness, swelling, heat, and sometimes loss of movement or function.
Acute inflammation is a short-term process and believe it or not, it is actually a good sign because it shows that the body has started the healing process.
However, inflammation is not always so obvious. There is something called chronic low-grade inflammation, which can silently affect every cell in your body. Among its causes are diet (especially one with excess sugar intake), free radicals, heavy metals, bacteria, and stress.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has gone as far as launching an initiative aimed at understanding the link between inflammation and disease. They want to confirm what many health practitioners already know through their clinical observations. Inflammation plays a crucial role in a wide range of chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and multiple sclerosis. It also plays a key role in the most common causes of death worldwide, including atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive lung disease.
It sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Inflammation and your health
If you suffer from food sensitivities (allergy or intolerance), your immune system could trigger an inflammatory response. If you continue to expose yourself to the offending food(s), the inflammation remains within your body, and it becomes chronic.
Also, certain foods are pro-inflammatory by nature and you don’t have to be allergic or have an intolerance to them to experience the negative effects they have on your levels of inflammation.
Most common inflammatory foods:
- Sugar – If consumed in excess it spikes insulin, which is a pro-inflammatory hormone.
- Dairy products – Especially those derived from cow’s milk.
- Some fats – From animal meats, dairy, eggs and peanuts.
- Trans fats – Margarine, shortening and hydrogenated oils.
- Gluten – Found in grains such as wheat, spelt, barley, rye, triticale and kamut.
- Nightshades family – Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco, peppers, with the exception of black pepper.
- Eggs, soy, corn and oranges.
An anti-inflammatory diet
It comes as no surprise that a healthy, natural diet with limited processed foods will serve as an anti-inflammatory diet. You can still eat delicious, anti-inflammatory foods following this guide:
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables in all colours of the rainbow (except those from the list above).
- Breads and cereals made with rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, tapioca, arrowroot and amaranth.
- All legumes (except soybeans).
- Organic, grass-fed meats (in moderation) from chicken, turkey, wild game or lamb.
- Vegetable oils: Cold-pressed olive, flaxseed, safflower, sunflower, sesame, walnut, pumpkin oils.
- Natural sweeteners in moderation: Honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and stevia.
- Superfoods, including turmeric, hemp seeds, moringa, spirulina.
- Bone broth—it’s not just a trend! Our grandmothers already knew about the power of a good slowly-simmered chicken soup. The key here is that bone broth has amazing healing properties for the gut and a healthy gut is the foundation of good health.
- Water—lots and lots of water!
If you want to step it up a notch, you can also add some supplements to your health routine to help you prevent inflammation. A good place to start includes the following:
- Fish oils – Omega-3s are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. They became mainstream once researchers proved their ability to help treat and prevent many cardiovascular conditions.
- Probiotics – Keeping a healthy balance in your intestinal flora is crucial for a properly functioning immune system. It’s also essential for mental health (don’t forget that stress is one of the causes of chronic inflammation).
- Magnesium – known as the anti-stress mineral, some forms (e.g. citrate) also promote intestinal regularity which is one of our body’s primary ways of detoxification. By keeping things moving, you don’t promote a terrain where inflammation can proliferate.
If you are concerned about the negative effects that chronic low-grade inflammation could be having on your health, I highly recommend that you start watching your diet and try some of the supplements and see what aspects of it can be triggering this silent threat.