Inflammation is a natural and essential part of our body’s defense system.
It helps us fight off infections, heal wounds, and repair damaged tissues. However, when inflammation becomes chronic or excessive, it can also cause harm and contribute to various diseases.
In this article, we will explore what inflammation is, how it works, what causes it, and how we can manage it.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation: What It Is and Why It Matters. Inflammation is a complex biological response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. It is triggered by harmful stimuli, such as pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi), physical agents (trauma, burns, radiation), chemicals (acids, alkalis, oxidizing agents), inappropriate immunological responses (allergies, autoimmunity), and tissue death (necrosis).
The main purpose of inflammation is to localize and eliminate the source of injury and to remove the damaged tissue components so that the healing process can begin. To achieve this, inflammation causes several changes in the affected area, such as:
- Increased blood flow, which brings more oxygen and nutrients to the site of injury and helps remove waste products.
- Increased permeability of blood vessels, which allows fluid, proteins, and white blood cells (leukocytes) to leak out of the circulation and into the tissue space.
- Accumulation of fluid (edema) and cells (exudate) in the tissue space, which dilutes and neutralizes the harmful agents and forms a physical barrier against their spread.
- Migration of leukocytes from the blood vessels to the tissue space, where they engulf and destroy the foreign substances (phagocytosis) and release various substances that amplify or regulate the inflammatory response (cytokines, chemokines, prostaglandins, etc.).
- Formation of a clot (fibrin) that seals off the injured area and prevents bleeding.
- Activation of the complement system, a group of proteins that enhance the actions of leukocytes and other inflammatory mediators.
These changes result in the characteristic signs and symptoms of inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function. These signs are usually more pronounced in acute inflammation, which lasts only a few days and is usually beneficial. However, in some cases, inflammation can become chronic or excessive and cause tissue damage or disease.
What causes chronic or excessive inflammation?
Chronic or excessive inflammation can be caused by what is the main cause of inflammation in the body occur when:
- The harmful stimulus persists or is not adequately removed (e.g., chronic infection, foreign body).
- The regulatory mechanisms of the inflammatory response are defective or overwhelmed (e.g., genetic defects, immunosuppression).
- The immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues (e.g., autoimmune diseases).
- The inflammatory response is triggered by harmless or normal stimuli (e.g., allergies).
Chronic or excessive inflammation can have detrimental effects on the body:
- Tissue destruction: The prolonged presence of inflammatory cells and mediators can damage healthy tissues and organs. For example, chronic inflammation in the joints can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, while chronic inflammation in the lungs can lead to asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Systemic effects: The inflammatory mediators can enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body. For example, chronic inflammation can cause fever, fatigue, weight loss, anemia, etc. In severe cases, it can also cause sepsis, a life-threatening condition where the inflammatory response becomes widespread and uncontrolled.
- Increased risk of other diseases: Chronic inflammation can alter the normal functioning of various systems in the body and increase the risk of developing other diseases.
- Chronic inflammation can have various negative effects on the body. It may promote the formation of plaque in the arteries, leading to cardiovascular diseases. It can also impair insulin sensitivity, resulting in diabetes. Moreover, chronic inflammation can stimulate cell proliferation and inhibit programmed cell death, which may contribute to the development of cancer.
How can we manage inflammation?
The management of inflammation depends on its cause and severity. In general, it involves these inflammation types:
- Treating the underlying cause: This may include antibiotics for infections, surgery for foreign bodies or necrotic tissues, immunotherapy for allergies or autoimmunity, etc.
- Reducing or controlling the inflammatory response: This may include anti-inflammatory drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, biologics (monoclonal antibodies), etc.
- These drugs work by blocking or inhibiting various inflammatory mediators or pathways. However, they may also have side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding (NSAIDs), increased susceptibility to infections (corticosteroids), allergic reactions (biologics), etc.
- Supporting the healing process: This may include wound care for injuries or ulcers, nutrition for wound healing, supplements for inflammation, etc.
- Adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle: This may include avoiding or limiting the intake of inflammatory foods such as sugar, refined carbs, trans fats, processed meats, alcohol, etc., and increasing the intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil, etc. It may also include regular physical activity, stress management, adequate sleep, smoking cessation, etc.
Treating inflammation varies based on its cause and severity. Several medications can be used to alleviate inflammation, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that can reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. However, they may also have side effects such as stomach ulcers, bleeding, kidney damage, and an increased risk of heart problems.
- Acetaminophen: This is another OTC drug that can relieve pain and fever, but not inflammation. It is generally safer than NSAIDs for most people, but it can cause liver damage if taken in high doses or with alcohol.
- Corticosteroids: These are prescription drugs that can suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. They can be taken orally, injected, or applied topically.
- Examples include prednisone, hydrocortisone, and dexamethasone. But foods are the best medicine. They are effective in treating severe or chronic inflammation, but they may also cause side effects such as weight gain, diabetes, osteoporosis, infections, and mood changes.
Other treatments for inflammation may include:
- Antibiotics or antifungals: These are prescription drugs that can treat infections that cause inflammation. They work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria or fungi. Examples include penicillin, amoxicillin, fluconazole, and ketoconazole. They may have side effects such as allergic reactions, diarrhea, nausea, and yeast infections.
- Immunotherapy: This is a type of treatment that uses substances that stimulate or suppress the immune system to treat inflammatory diseases. Examples include monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and immunosuppressants. They may have side effects such as infusion reactions, infections, allergic reactions, and organ damage.
- Lifestyle changes: Some lifestyle factors can contribute to what is inflammation in body or reduce inflammation in the body. For example, avoiding or limiting inflammatory foods such as sugar, refined carbs, trans fats, processed meats, alcohol, etc., and increasing anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil, etc. may help manage inflammation. Other lifestyle changes that may help include regular physical activity, stress management, adequate sleep, smoking cessation, etc.
- Supplements: Some vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D) and supplements (zinc) may reduce inflammation and enhance repair. Other supplements that may have anti-inflammatory effects include omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), curcumin (turmeric), ginger, and garlic.
There are some words often hard to understand and recognize the meaning of such as ‘Inflammo’, a Latin word that means “to set on fire”. Have you been feeling like you’re on fire lately? No, I don’t mean the good kind of fire. I mean inflammations. Inflammation is a good thing. It is our body’s natural defense mechanism against infection and traumas.
The real problem starts when your immune system starts to overdo it, and when too much inflammation occurs. When inflammation has gone wild this can slowly destroy a person’s organs and different functional abilities. They were found to be the root causes of deadly conditions like heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and even cancer. These chronic inflammations can also be caused by low physical activity, a poor diet, and the stress of everyday life.
So how exactly do we prevent this from happening?
Most of the time people resort to prescription drugs such as ibuprofen or Advil. Unfortunately, these drugs can have serious and dangerous side effects. The answer to a chronic inflammation-free life is a healthy lifestyle. This includes staying active, exercising regularly, getting all your needed rest, and of course, eating healthy. This includes as many anti-inflammatory foods and fruits as possible.
- Real Food
To have a well-balanced diet that helps fight against inflammation, you need to keep eating real food. This means fresh, unprocessed, natural food that isn’t full of additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients, sugar, and trans fats.
Although, let’s not get confused about fat; make no mistake, unprocessed saturated fat is good for you. The main food categories that health experts usually refer to help inflammation are omega-3 fatty acids, such as herbs, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory fruits. Not only fruits but also by eating a lot of oily fish like salmon and tuna.
These also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts, seeds, and olive oil contain omega-3. Herbs are often overlooked here. Add as many herbs as possible to your meals.
Many herbs help against inflammation. Some of these are basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, ginger, and turmeric.
Avoid drinking sodas, any type of soft drinks, sports drinks, and as well health drinks. Most fruit juices also contain ingredients that are better avoided. Making your juice from fresh fruit is a better option. Some juices are free from artificial sweeteners and flavorings, such as apples and pomegranate. Make sure you check the label first; it should say 100 percent pure. Make green tea one of your regular beverages; instead, of sugar use honey as a sweetener for taste.
Remember, your parents were right when they told you to eat your vegetables. Start piling veggies like broccoli, carrots, radish, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, beets, ginger, and sea vegetables on your plate. It is important though, not to overcook or fry them. It’s best to cook them slowly or eat them almost raw, only lightly simmered or steamed. Many of these vegetables are rich in plant sterols. The many nutrients in vegetables are vital for general health and to continue a good immune system. Ginger reduces inflammation; ginger also is an effective natural remedy for pain.
- Anti-Inflammatory Fruits
There are many varieties of fruits that you can eat containing anti-inflammatory properties. However, all the darker, more vividly colored fruits are somehow the ones packed with the antioxidants and phytochemicals needed to combat chronic inflammation. Also, the best fruits to eat are those with the least amount of natural sugar.
The following are the usually recommended anti-inflammatory by health experts: Blueberries, strawberries, apples, cherries, citrus fruit, papayas, pineapples, plums, grapes, and pears. Advised is to have at least 5-10 servings of combined fruits and vegetables every day. There are days and times when it is not always possible to follow a diet plan as such. To make up for any shortfall a supplement is the best solution. Although not just any supplement will do; a supplement made from natural ingredients only, of the required fruits, must include omega 3 and glucosamine. In addition: In a liquid form for quick and total absorption into the bloodstream.
If inflammation is one of your issues, wait no longer. Start changing your lifestyle now and throw away that bag of chips on your lap. Anti-inflammatory fruits, omega-3 fats, and antioxidant veggies are the way to go.
We shouldn’t ignore the body’s signs. Have you ever noticed that when an injury happens your body tends to swell up? Our body’s natural reaction to various kinds of injuries is swelling or redness of the infected part.
This automatic response of our body is known as inflammation. There are two types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic. Acute inflammation is the localized response to any injuries. This reaction will help the injured body tissues to heal and restore their functions. If the inflammation stays in your body for a long time, then it is known as chronic inflammation. It is generally caused because of any infection, allergy, or autoimmune reaction.
Many anti-inflammatory drugs are generally used for reducing inflammation. But regular use of drugs normally results in side effects. The more common side effects from prolonged drug medications are indigestion and stomach ulcers; it can affect the liver and kidneys, as well as hypertension, stroke, etc.
- Anti-Inflammatory Spices
Therefore, the recommendations are to eat natural food instead. Such food items that you eat in your normal diet may already be anti-inflammatory, especially if you include anti-inflammatory spices. Spices are much more beneficial. Here are some of the most effective spices available in the market near you.
Turmeric: As mentioned many times in previous articles, turmeric is one of the most commonly and most effectively used anti-inflammatory spices. Go to any Indian grocery store or natural health shop and you are sure to find this brilliant, yellow-colored spice.
Turmeric has an ingredient called curcumin, which is known to have the required properties to reduce inflammation. For centuries turmeric is known to have great medicinal value and is used to treat colds, infections, wounds, and even liver diseases. Turmeric’s main ingredient curcumin is also a good support for the immune system and digestive function.
Ginger: A tingling and zesty spice that is found in most Asian cuisines is another spice with great medicinal value. It is good for effectively treating health problems like headaches, stomach aches, and infections. It is available in most grocery shops either as a root or in powdered form. Include ginger in your daily diet (either in food or even in your tea); plus, all other benefits ginger will help to get rid of inflammation.
Cinnamon is one such spice and comes from the bark of a tree. It is extremely beneficial for treating bronchitis and any issues related to the gastrointestinal. However, Castro intestinal is affecting the stomach and intestines. The element cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon helps in preventing the clumping of the platelets. Thus, it reduces inflammation and is known as one of the best anti-inflammatory spices.
Cinnamaldehyde is also an organic compound that gives cinnamon its flavor and odor. Cinnamon is known in most parts of the world, but there are still many who brush it off. It will greatly help in reducing your blood sugar and risk of cardiovascular disease. Other benefits of cinnamon include lowering cholesterol, helping with yeast infections, arthritis relief, and have provisions of anti-bacterial effects.
Garlic is also recognized for its many health benefits; on top of that, it gives a wonderful flavor to most cuisines. Garlic also has a certain unique combination of sulfur compounds that help in preventing inflammation. It is rich in magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins B6 and C, and others. According to research garlic is a useful way to improve its antioxidant potential.
Black Pepper: This inclusion of a natural compound called capsaicin in black pepper is a good remedy and effective for digestion. In addition, it is also known to reduce inflammation. Since it is milder as compared to chilly, you can include it in all your meals. In addition to being good for health, these anti-inflammatory spices are also cost-effective. Unlike drugs, constant use of these spices does not cause any sort of side effects. So, go ahead, include them in your daily meals, and experience the benefits, stay fit and healthy. There have been decades of scientific evidence to prove, that nutrients, herbs, and spices have tremendous value and health benefits.
Inflammation is a natural and essential part of our body’s defense system. It helps us fight off infections, heal wounds, and repair damaged tissues. However, when inflammation becomes chronic or excessive, it can also cause harm and contribute to various diseases.