Understanding and Addressing Chronic Inflammation

A healthy immune system works to identify “stranger signals” found in food and other substances and mounts appropriate responses to “danger signals” from things such as toxic chemicals, fragments of tissues (resulting from injury), and bacteria, viruses and parasites. When these things are detected in our body, the immune system becomes activated to fight them and sets off a process called inflammation. Inflammation is a normal response by the body, but it becomes a problem when it is excessive or persistent. And although you may only see effects of inflammation in one specific area (e.g. swollen joints, diarrhea, rash, etc) the underlying process is happening all over your body. Inflammation becomes persistent or chronic when there is ongoing injury or the immune system fails to shut the inflammation off.

How and why does this chronic inflammation happen?

  • Inflammatory diet (fast food, processed foods, high sugar intake, trans fats, grain-fed red meats, etc.)

  • Poor intake of antioxidant phytonutrients (colorful vegetables and fruit)

  • Food sensitivities, particularly gluten sensitivity

  • Chronic intestinal infection (bacterial, fungal/yeast, parasitic)

  • Leaky gut

  • Genetic mutations

  • Exposure to mold or other environmental toxins

  • Stress

Persistent inflammation is a problem because it is associated with many chronic diseases including atopic syndrome/eczema, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, ADHD, and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis. Because inflammation is behind so many disease processes, we encourage you to include as many anti-inflammatory foods in your diet as possible. In general, fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods that provide omega-3 fats are the best way to provide anti-inflammatory support to your body. The typical America diet contains a higher percentage of omega-6 fats which can be pro-inflammatory when they are out of balance with omega-3 fats.

Specific anti-inflammatory foods to include are fatty fish, grass-fed lamb or bison, nuts and seeds, red or blue fruits and veggies, dark green leafy vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, and certain spices such as turmeric, ginger, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, garlic, cloves, and cayenne. Use moist, low-heat cooking whenever possible as this form of cooking creates fewer inflammatory by-products called AGEs or advanced glycation by-products.

Just as it is important to get in the habit of eating a rainbow of phytonutrients daily for their many health benefits, adopting a lifestyle of eating anti-inflammatory foods is crucial for preventing chronic disease and becoming your best.