What do difficulty thinking, headaches, fever, bloating, gas, and asthma all have in common? They are the symptoms with ties to inflammation. Different tissues respond differently to inflammation, and the substances that mediate the inflammation vary in different parts of the body and are dependent on what's causing the inflammation.
According to The Diabetes Cure by Alexa Fleckenstein, MD, chronic inflammation may be harder to spot, mainly because the inflammatory process takes place inside your body and is, therefore, less visible than acute inflammation, say, something like a splinter in your finger. In its chronic form, inflammation often leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, joint pain, and inflamed organs. Here's a list of many things Dr. Fleckenstein says trigger inflammation:
2. Artificial colors and flavors
5. Dairy (Milk is highly inflammatory for many people. It's designed by nature to make calves gain weight quickly; our bodies don't require it.)
7. Exercise (Both too much and too little can be harmful.)
8. Fats (Certain dietary fats heal, while others cause harm.)
9. Insulin (Although we need insulin to process dietary sugars, too much can damage your cells.)
10. Preservatives (Man-made preservatives are often damaging, whereas plant-derived preservatives like curry, which is used in India to preserve food, are beneficial in lower doses.)
"There is good stress and bad stress," Dr. Fleckenstein says. "Good stress comes from things like cold showers, limited exposure to antioxidants, and small amounts of exercise, while bad stress results from too little sleep, too much exercise or none at all, and bland processed foods."
It is important to note, though, that not all inflammation is bad. In fact, we couldn't survive without it. "Inflammation is the healthy and necessary response to damage to our bodies. It is part of the process by which the body heals itself," explains Gary Kaplan, DO, author of Total Recovery and medical director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in Mclean, Virginia. "Problems with inflammation occur when the inflammatory response does not stop, but continues on in a chronic manner."
Examples of chronic inflammation can be thyroid disease (Hashimoto's thyroiditis), resulting in hypothyroidism (low thyroid); lupus; multiple sclerosis; and type 2 diabetes. The autoimmune diseases can make antibodies to very specific tissues such as the thyroid or brain.
While you may have a genetic disposition for inflammation, there are certainly lifestyle choices you can make to ease the condition. Every day, Dr. Fleckenstein says, you are making a decision to either put out the fire of inflammation or stoke it. "The little-acknowledged truth is that our bodies are made for outdoor living, not for sitting in a cubicle day in and day out, eating fabricated 'food,' and watching TV until late in the night," she says.
Dr. Kaplan adds that it's a matter of figuring out what's causing the inflammation and eliminating it from your body and your life. "Protection against long-term inflammation is dependent on eliminating what is causing the tissue damage," he says. "In the case of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, carbohydrates and sugar cause the inflammation, and so reducing or eliminating those from our diets will reduce inflammation. If we are allergic to other foods such as soy, eggs, corn, or nuts, we need to get those foods out of our diet."
6 Easy Ways to Ease Inflammation • Cut out or limit alcohol consumption. • Use green cleaners. • Learn how to de-stress. • Opt for whole, organic foods as much as possible. • Avoid having the worst chemicals in your home. • Go on an "elimination diet" to figure out which foods are making you feel bad.
Even just adopting one or two of these meausures at a time can help drastically reduce the amount of inflammation in your body.