By, Joann Colosimo, MSN, ANP
Inflammation can be a very necessary healing response to some type of damage to your body or it can be out-of-control and your worst health nightmare! Either way, inflammation causes some degree of discomfort. Nutrition actually has a tremendous impact on your body’s ability to heal. Let’s break down the ins and outs of inflammation and then I’ll discuss nutrition and its impact on inflammation.
Part I: What is Inflammation?
At its most basic level, inflammation is an acute inflammatory response triggered by tissue injury (trauma, exposure to heat or chemicals) or infection by viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi.
The classic signs of acute inflammation include:
- Redness and heat resulting from increased blood flow.
- Swelling resulting from the accumulation of fluid at the injury site.
- Pain — Swelling can compress nerve endings near the injury, causing the characteristic pain associated with inflammation. Pain is also important to make the you aware of the tissue damage.
Additionally, inflammation in a joint usually results in another sign (impairment of function), which has the effect of limiting movement and forcing rest of the injured joint to aid in healing.
Types of Inflammation
There are two types of inflammation. The first is acute inflammation, which is a healthy response by the body to a harmful condition. The second is chronic inflammation which is a dangerous, out-of-control immunological reaction which can damage healthy cells.
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of inflammation. They include:
- Age: older adults can have consistently elevated levels of several inflammatory molecules.
- Obesity: fat can produce inflammatory molecules at levels sufficient to induce a strong inflammatory response.
- Diet: A diet high in saturated fat is associated with higher pro-inflammatory markers, particularly in diabetic or overweight individuals.
- Low Sex Hormones: testosterone and estrogen can repress the production and secretion of several pro-inflammatory markers.
- Smoking: Chronic smoking increases production of several pro-inflammatory cytokines while simultaneously reducing production of anti-inflammatory molecules
- Sleep: Disruption of normal sleep can lead to daytime elevations of these pro-inflammatory molecules.
- Excess Glucose Levels
- Periodontal Disease
Part II: The Role of Nutrients in Chronic Disease and Inflammation
Chronic diseases, including cancer, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis all have their roots in inflammation within our bodies.
High carb, low protein diets are “pro-inflammatory”. Refined sugar elevates insulin which increases inflammatory processes. Allergens play a role as well. Common allergens (wheat, dairy) can lead to “leaky gut” and other inflammatory issues.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in animal fats, saturated and hydrogenated fats, high in sugar and carbohydrates and high in processed foods that include additives and fillers. SAD is also lower in fiber and plant-based foods, includes a reversed ratio of Omega 3s: more Omega 6 and less Omega 3s and is high in allergens such as wheat and dairy. All which point toward inflammation.
Proper nutrition can actually reduce inflammation.
Here are some tips:
- Lower your glycemic load – cut the sugar
- Avoid known allergen foods
- Avoid foods high in trans fatty acids
- Increase your fiber intake
- Eat lots of fruits, seafood, vegetables, especially those that are naturally colorful
- Add essential fatty acids: nuts, seeds (flax, chia). Cook with grape seed oil; olive oil for salads
- Avoid white sugar and flour and high fructose corn syrup
At Invision Health we are Functional Medicine Specialists. Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention and treatment of complex chronic disease. Our functional medicine providers are highly trained in chronic inflammation. If you or someone you love is dealing with chronic inflammation, give Invision Health a call today.