What Is Inflammation?
More and more, people are being educated about eating anti-inflammatory food. But, what is inflammation really?
Inflammation can be good, but it can also get bad. Then there is a need to understand silent inflammation—the type of inflammation people don’t usually think about. It doesn’t cause any pain nor exhibit any symptoms, but it can be deadly.
What’s Good About Inflammation
It’s difficult to think that an inflammation is actually not a bad thing. In a healthy situation, inflammation is essentially your immune system rushing to the area that is “injured” to help fight any damages, viruses or bacteria that might be affecting it. This injury could be caused by various reasons:
- An infection—could be pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or fungi
- An external injury—such as a scrape or a wound
- An internal injury—such as a bruise
- An allergic reaction
- Extended/prolonged stress produces a hormone called cortisol which can be very damaging to the body
- Chemical or radiation irritants—these get into your body through the food you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe, the radiation and other chemicals from the products you use through your skin.
Your body is intelligent and is designed to heal by itself. In cases of any of the above “injury” to the body, your brain sends signals to initiate the release of various inflammatory mediators to the injured site for relief.
What happens is that a widening of the blood vessels takes place to increase blood flow to the injured site to “comfort it” and begin healing. If you ever had a swelling, you may have felt that the swollen area is a little warm to the touch. This is an inflammation that is absolutely necessary for that affected area to heal.
There is a lot of activities going on when there is a swelling. The increased blood flow to the area carries the good guys—leukocytes (from your white blood cells) and plasma—to clean up and fight any pathogens in the area. There is also work going on to clot the blood, if any, to prevent continuous bleeding. Because of all these activities, the affected area turns red and warm.
So, inflammation at this point is all good. The pain could last a few days, and eating anti-inflammatory foods will help ease the pain somewhat and speed up the healing.
What’s Bad About Inflammation
When your immune system is poor, the inflammatory response may take a longer time to repair and heal the damages. And, when you’re not daily eating foods that are high in nutrients in sufficient quantity, (example, if your diet consisted of mostly processed foods), then healing will be more difficult. Sometimes the injury just doesn’t heal and continues to fester and becomes a chronic inflammation.
The “good” inflammatory mediators are on-site at the time of injury and will require constant help to keep up with the repair and healing work. This is where eating the right anti-inflammatory foods really help as they improve circulation, carrying more nutrients (enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, etc.) that are needed to rebuild the damaged tissues at the injured site.
With a poor immune system, there are times when these injuries don’t recover completely. When I say injuries, this can also be injuries that are inflicted from artificial chemicals in foods that we eat knowingly or unknowingly. Pain may not be felt, but they are doing some damage to your cells and they fester quietly. This is called “silent inflammation”—inflammation without pain or symptoms. It grows when it’s not intervened with the right nutritious foods. Eventually, this silent inflammation manifests as a chronic disease, or cancer.
A very rare but dangerous complication of an inflammation is called sepsis. Sepsis may occur if bacteria multiply quickly in a certain part of the body, and then suddenly enter the bloodstream in large quantities. This can happen if the body does not succeed in fighting the inflammation locally, if the pathogens are very aggressive, or when the immune system is severely weakened.
What Could Induce Silent Inflammation?
Other than the few obvious causes of inflammation mentioned above, these are other causes that we don’t give any thoughts to, that can cause silent inflammation:
1. Toxic Diets
Faulty diets are often the biggest contributor of silent inflammation. Foods that are high in sugar, processed carbs, artificial food additives, harmful fats, gluten, meat with antibiotics and artificial hormones, are the worst culprits. The toxins from these manmade artificial “food” stays in the gut (digestive tract) and cause chronic inflammation in the gut.
Some of the diseases that manifest includes: IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), celiac disease, gastroenteritis, and the like.
Inflammation caused by toxic diets often can go further than the guts, it causes many chronic diseases such as migraines, heart attacks, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, asthma, gout, arthritis, auto-immune diseases, diabetes and more!
Related reading: Avoid these harmful foods.
2. Deficiency in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
An intake of foods high in Omega-6 will induce production of inflammatory ecosanoids (a type of hormone) that will set-off a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli. Vegetable cooking oils are the biggest culprits that are high in Omega-6. Using the right cooking oil and eating foods high in Omega-3 does the opposite, as it is anti-inflammatory and best for healing and reducing inflammation.
3. Prolonged/Extended Stress Or Grief
Occasional stress or grief may be necessary, but allowing them to prolong on months on end could cause serious damage to your body, starting from the gut. It attacks your gut and may cause many other health issues, especially affecting your moods and your brain. In some cases when stress or grief goes on for too long, it can cause a permanent damage.
With stress, most often lack of sleep goes hand-in-hand. Sleeping insufficiently or poorly will retard your body in many ways. Without proper sleep, your body is not able to heal and rejuvenate, causing even further stress. Ultimately, the immune system breaks down and contributes to the manifestation of silent inflammation into something more serious.
Learn to manage your stress level. If possible, take time off and get complete rest from whatever that is causing you the stress. There is nothing more important than for you to take this time for yourself and to heal. Prolonged stress is not worth whatever you are stressing for!
Related reading: Don’t underestimate the damages that stress can do to your guts.
4. No Exercise Or Too Much Exercise
There has to be a balance when it comes to exercise. When there is a lack of bodily movement or activity, it can contribute to low-grade inflammation that can fester into something bigger. Excessive exercise, on the other hand, produces stress hormones as if you are undergoing stress. The effect can be as damaging as mentioned above.
How To Fight Inflammation Naturally?
If you know you have some degree of inflammation in your body—in fact most people have inflammation in their bodies—then there is a need to eat anti-inflammatory foods to help your body heal. These foods can be eaten on a long-term basis, so that it can heal even the silent inflammation.
Here are some helpful articles to help you take the next steps: