Chronic Disease Inflammation and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Most chronic disease is a manifestation of inflammation which is a major threat to longevity. The average number of prescriptions per elderly person in the United States reportedly grew from 19.6 in 1992 to 38.5 in 2010, an increase of 96 percent. Most are used to treat the symptoms and underlying conditions of chronic inflammation.
In a healthy person, there is a balance between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory processes. You cannot avoid all injury, trauma or invasions, so you need a top-performing immune system. Normal inflammation is essential for healing. When tissues in the body are injured, the damaged area is flooded with blood and special cells that fight infection and remove waste. This influx of fluids causes the typical outward inflammatory symptoms of swelling, redness and pain. It is also the first step in the inflammatory response which triggers a sequence of events in the immune system. This sequence includes the release of proteins that stimulate a body-wide inflammatory response. Sometimes the stimulus continues, resulting in long-term inflammation. Chronic inflammation can damage healthy tissues in the body and can contribute to longevity threatening diseases like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancer
Inflammation has obvious outward indications like swelling, redness and pain. However, you may be a victim of rampant internal inflammation without knowing it until you check your blood pressure or blood sugar. You may have outward symptoms of inflammation like swollen, painful joints or headaches. Treatment tends to follow two broad paths. Medication can be taken to suppress the symptoms or the underlying causes can be addressed which should also enhance longevity.
Why are so many of us inflamed? Most of it is a result of typical modern life. Stress from commuting traffic to working long hours can increase inflammatory chemicals. Bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents can evoke an inflammatory response. Environmental toxins like plastics, pesticides and toxic metals contribute to inflammation. Various combinations of stressors can cause specific ailments. For example, sleep deprivation, emotional stress and elevated lead can result in increased blood pressure.
How can we treat the underlying causes? Nutrition plays a primary role in creating inflammation. For example, too many omega-6 fats from vegetable oils along with too few omega-3 oils can increase your susceptibility to inflammation. Some experts think the shift away from traditional cooking oils (like ghee, coconut oil and olive oil) and toward refined, hard-seed vegetable oils, has increased the incidence of chronic inflammation. Antioxidants are important anti-inflammatory nutrients. Foods rich in vitamins A, C, E and D as well as zinc and selenium especially help reverse the disease process. Due to consumption of non-organic, processed foods, fewer antioxidants are consumed today than in decades past. Sugar and refined carbohydrates also are shown to increase inflammation.
– Eat unsaturated fats including vegetable oils like soybean, corn, safflower, canola and olive oil. All are anti-inflammatory and help lower cholesterol. The most important anti-inflammatory fats are omega-3 fatty acids because they diminish inflammation. Good sources of omega-3 are flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts, salmon, herring, trout and tuna.
– Consider omega-3 supplements. Taking fish oil is probably the easiest and most effective way to reduce inflammation. Fish oil is effective for both healthy brains and balanced inflammatory states. Both fish and cod liver oils contain EPA and DHA, but cod liver oil generally is higher in DHA, which supports brain health, while fish oil is higher in EPA, which supports a healthy inflammation response.
– Limit sugar intake because high blood sugar stimulates inflammation. Limit the amount of pro-inflammatory white flour products and sugars you eat like white bread, pasta, crackers, snacks, soda and sweets.