How Inflammation Affects Your Health and Causes Early Aging
We’ve all experienced painful inflammation at times. But, did you know that you can also have ongoing inflammation that you’re not aware of? This type of inflammation can be detrimental to your health and negatively affect your quality of life. In this article, we’ll explore inflammation and what we can do about reducing ongoing inflammation in our bodies.
Have you ever felt swelling, pain, heat, and redness whenever you’ve cut your finger or twisted your arm? Well, that’s inflammation. It’s the body’s built-in mechanism that aggressively reacts to injury or hostile microbes. This is to ensure the survival and restoration of health at all times. Without inflammation, any wound could fester and infections could become life-threatening.
Unfortunately, not every inflammatory process is helpful to human health. Factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, stress, consumption of excessive sugars, and smoking can cause the body to be inflamed for a long time.
And, long-term inflammation can contribute to chronic diseases. In fact, statistics show that diseases like diabetes, cardiac complications, cancers, and lung infections are linked to inflammation.
For this reason, it’s critical that you understand what inflammation is, its key drivers, and how to stop or reverse it.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a healing response by the body’s immune system to an injury or infection, real or imagined. You may feel the injured area warming up and turning into a reddish patch of skin. This is a sign that your body is responding and trying to heal the situation.
Did you know that even the pimples forming on your skin are a product of inflammation? Many people often confuse the small inflamed pus-filled bumps appearing on the skin for products of bacterial infection. But, it’s your body producing an inflammatory response to a clogged pore and sometimes a bacteria.
Inflammation is inseparably linked to the immune system and the two work in tandem to optimize your body’s defense system. However, as the famous quote by Theodore Levitt goes, “Anything in excess is a poison,” and so is inflammation.
When the immune system overreacts or continuously reacts, the resulting inflammation can be dangerous to the body. What’s even more concerning is that once you have an inflammatory disease, the probability of developing another is unbelievably high.
How does inflammation happen?
Depending on the severity of the response, inflammation can be categorized into two broad classes: acute and chronic.
What is acute inflammation?
Acute inflammation occurs as soon as something harmful happens to your body. It’s a short-term inflammatory response like the redness that occurs around a scratch or swelling when you’ve sprained your ankle.
Essentially, blood plasma (the yellow light fluid of blood that carries salts, water, and enzymes) and white blood cells (leukocytes — the blood cells that fight microbes) move to the injured tissues. Their presence initiates a series of reactions that culminate in an inflammatory response. Acute inflammation occurs in two stages:
The vascular phase: The blood plasma entering the damaged area is loaded with molecules such as antibodies and fibrin (a clotting factor). These help with defending and healing the body.
During this phase, special white blood cells, called macrophages, trigger a cellular response that causes the blood vessels in the area to increase their permeability. This shunts more blood into the area which causes swelling. Swelling is a sign that your body is defending itself.
The cellular phase: This stage involves the movement of leukocytes from the blood vessels to the damaged area to initiate and maintain the inflammatory response. Some of the white blood cells ingest the cellular debris, viruses, and bacteria present at the site. While others damage the pathogenic invaders through the release of enzymatic granules. In short, the leukocytes either eat or damage the “bad guys” to defend the body.
Once the cause of the injury or attack on the body has been dealt with by the various defense systems, the swelling goes down and the body will carry on healing the area until it’s completely restored.
The problem occurs when the body can’t bring down the acute inflammation, overreacts to the stimulus, or when the stimulus that causes the inflammatory response doesn’t subside. When this happens, we develop chronic inflammation.
What is chronic inflammation?
When acute inflammation is prolonged, it enters the chronic phase. In other words, chronic inflammation is an ongoing inflamed state over a long period.
In this stage, certain types of white blood cells such as macrophages and lymphocytes collectively known as mononuclear cells, populate and storm the injured area. If there are no microbes or “bad guys” to destroy, they may eventually cause destruction to “normal” tissues or internal organs.
Chronic inflammation is also known as persistent, low-grade inflammation that just simmers away in the body. It can be detected by a tiny rise in various markers that indicate inflammation.
Common Inflammatory Disorders
Low-grade persistent inflammation (chronic inflammation) has been associated with chronic disease. Here are two of the most common.
Heart disease and arterial inflammation
An impressive array of studies have shown a relationship between inflammation of the arteries and heart disease. Some of the studies led by Paul M. Ridker, a medical researcher at Birmingham University, have indicated that the root cause of heart disease is actually inflammation and not cholesterol.
At the center of the inflammatory model of heart disease, is a C-reactive protein (CRP) that also doubles up as an inflammation marker. As the level of inflammation rises, the C-reactive protein reading also shoots. Generally, if your CRP level is higher, you are much more likely to suffer from a heart attack than someone whose CRP levels are lower. As a matter of fact, CRP levels are used to predict your chances of getting age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease. We’ll be going into more detail on CRP in a future article, but for now CRP levels are an indicator that there is ongoing inflammation.
You may wonder that if inflammation is the cause of heart disease then why not take anti-inflammatory medication or supplements to sort out the problem? That is an option and studies have shown that anti-inflammatory supplements, like fish oil, can reduce the risk of heart disease for healthy people. But, reducing arterial inflammation is only part of the picture.
Oxidized low-density cholesterol also plays a role in heart disease.
What is oxidized LDL?
Basically, oxidized LDL refers to inflamed LDL. When arteries are inflamed, oxidized LDL burrows into them causing blockage and ultimately the thickening of blood vessels.
This finding narrows the focus from the broader category of LDL to this specific type of LDL. Digging deeper into the origin of oxidized LDL reveals that smoking and car fumes are among the two main sources of LDL oxidative stress.
Therefore, if you want to reduce your oxidized LDL levels, ensure you observe the following lifestyle changes.
Quit smoking: Smoking promotes atherosclerosis (a buildup of cholesterol, fats and other substances on the artery wall that restricts blood flow) by damaging blood vessels. If you quit smoking, your chance of developing heart disease can be reduced by about 50%.
Supplement with antioxidants: Vitamin A, C, and E shield LDL from becoming oxidized. Glutathione is one of the commonly used antioxidants that helps to detoxify the liver.
Avoid traffic congestion: Don’t live or walk in areas that are heavily congested. Diesel exhaust particles can cause oxidative modification of LDL giving it atherogenic and inflammatory properties.
Diabetes and inflammation
A diet high in sugar, obesity, and inactivity increases your risk of developing diabetes. However, research has also indicated that inflammation plays a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
Typically, people suffering from type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin in their bodies or they can’t produce enough insulin. Insulin plays a very important role in shunting glucose out of the blood. If you have too much glucose in your blood, it can cause inflammation in the arteries. This can result in damage to the arteries, internal organs, the brain, and the eyes.
Obesity and the accumulation of fat around the body organs and the belly influence the effect of insulin on tissues. As a result, fat cells will produce chemicals that cause further inflammation.
People with type 2 diabetes have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines inside their fat tissue. This has led researchers to conclude that excess body fat can cause chronic inflammation and drastically change the action of insulin. This can result in a vicious cycle where inflammation causes greater insulin resistance which causes more sugar in the blood, which further increases inflammation and the resulting damage.
How can you control inflammation?
Is it possible to control excessive inflammation and the damage it can cause to your body? The answer is yes, you can even reverse the process by choosing to live a healthy lifestyle and using natural supplements that are anti-inflammatory. Here are some of the proven ways on how to go about this.
- Healthy dietary choices: Loading up with fresh vegetables and whole fruit can be a game-changer. Vegetables and whole fruit contain powerful antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E. Experts also advise that you should reduce your intake of refined sugar. This includes sources that we used to think were healthy, such as fruit juice. Without the fiber that’s naturally found in fruit, the sugar will be released too quickly into our bloodstream, causing insulin to spike. Therefore, it’s recommended that you eat a whole piece of fruit instead of just drinking the juice. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax, and tofu are highly recommended additions to your diet. They help to lower inflammation levels, prevent cell damage, and minimize the risk of chronic diseases.
- Recommended supplements: There is a wide range of supplements you can take to reduce inflammation and fight off oxidation. Some of the best supplements include: Releaf – Releaf contains berberine which has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels. It also activates the AMPK longevity gene which helps control our metabolism. Superba Krill Oil – Krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Preservage – Our unique product combines polyphenols (resveratrol), curcumin, quercetin, and Bioperine. This formula is designed to reduce inflammation and boost the longevity gene Sirtuin.
- Regular exercise: While diet and supplements are tremendous, they can’t work effectively without a healthy workout regime. Setting aside 45 minutes to do aerobic exercise and up to 25 minutes to do resistance training 4 times a week, can help you control inflammation. Regular exercise helps stabilize blood sugar and reduce inflammation.
Inflammation is part of the body’s normal immune response. It plays a defensive role in ensuring your body is safe from microbes. The pain, heat, and redness are all intended for your good.
However, the body’s immune system may also respond excessively or continuously to microbes leading to chronic inflammation and organ damage.
Since you can’t always tell the true extent of inflammation in your body at any given instance, it helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ensure that you eat a diet that is anti-inflammatory. Supplementing wisely will not only reduce inflammation, but it will also slow the aging process from within. Living a long, healthy life well into your golden years is possible.