Dousing the Flames of Chronic Inflammation
Not all forms of inflammation are created alike - acute inflammation plays a central role in wound healing and immunological protection from infectious agents that can enter the body.
In response to infection the body initiates an acute inflammatory response which increases local blood flow to the infected area, enhances the permeability of local capillaries and allows for the entry of white blood cells into the infected tissue. This helps limit the spread of infection and/or expedites the healing process for a wound such as a cut. Conversely, Dr. Andrew Luster, of the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital describes chronic inflammation as, "… a smoldering process that injures your tissues, joints, and blood vessels, and you often do not notice it until significant damage is done."
Chronic inflammation is essentially a red flag indicator of metabolic or hormonal disorder within the body. Protecting yourself from damaging inflammation usually starts with properly managing your diet and lifestyle habits. The following include some practical steps for limiting your risk for inflammation-associated disease:
- Lose weight around the abdomen - high levels of visceral fat is strongly associated with chronic inflammation and metabolic disorder
- Manage your cholesterol – get your levels tested as needed and modify your diet to limit excess intake
- Quit smoking – this is overall sound health advice for reasons which surpass simply lowering systemic inflammation
- Chuck out the bad carbs - eliminate simple sugars (candy), beverages that contain high-fructose corn syrup, and refined carbohydrates; overindulgence in these types of foods easily contributes to weight gain and can trigger inflammation
- Get your antioxidants - add foods rich in polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory properties such as onions, turmeric, berries, plums, dark green leafy vegetables, red grapes and green tea
- Get your healthy fats - olive oil, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel offer healthy doses of omega-3 fatty acids, which have long been shown to reduce inflammation systemically – including your brain
So how does one know if they have chronic inflammation? A series of blood tests can be performed by your doctor to measure for a liver chemical known as C-reactive protein (CRP), which rises in response to systemic inflammation. Often a CRP level of 1-3 mg/L signals a low, yet chronic, degree of inflammation. Levels >3 mg/L can indicate a high risk of inflammation. "This reaction is not confined to one particular place either," explained Dr. Luster. "Inflammation can travel throughout the body and cause problems all over. If you get arthritis or heart disease, odds are chronic inflammation is a contributor."