What You Need to Know About Inflammation
Inflammation can occur just about anywhere in the body from the gut to the gums to the eyes and the joints. We’re all familiar with the acute pain of stubbing a big toe, but other more chronic forms of inflammation can have serious health consequences. Let’s take a look at the different causes of inflammation in the body and how you can help support a healthy inflammation response.
Healthy inflammation vs. unhealthy inflammation1
When you sustain an injury like knocking your knee on the desk or cutting yourself while making dinner, the body responds by flooding the area with fresh blood carrying hormones and antibodies to fight disease, infection and stop the bleeding. A stubbed toe can become red, swollen and painful to the touch; this reaction is called acute inflammation. It is a natural, temporary response to help your body heal.
However, when inflammation becomes chronic or long-lasting, it can signal conditions that are more serious like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. That’s the difference between healthy inflammation response and chronic inflammation.
Factors known to cause chronic inflammation
- Stress and anxiety
- Being overweight or obese
- Toxins and pollutants
- High salt diet
Conditions related to inflammation
- Associated diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
Diseases associated with unhealthy inflammation include heart disease, gum disease, digestive disorders, depression, asthma, and more.
Autoimmune diseases are caused by your body’s defense system attacking good and bad cells in an attempt to survive. This causes unhealthy inflammation in the body and leads to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and many cancers.
Effective ways to support healthy inflammation response
Here are some healthy lifestyle habits to help keep inflammation in check:
Eat a low salt diet2
Eating too much salt can elevate your blood pressure, causing your tissues to retain fluid and your joints to swell. This added pressure in your joints inhibits free movement and compromises your range of motion. In addition, too much salt in the bloodstream puts an enormous strain on your heart. A low salt diet, preferably one rich in anti-inflammatory foods, is always recommended and helps support healthy inflammation response.
Smoking can cause bone loss by negatively affecting calcium absorption and reducing estrogen levels, weakening joints. It’s also a leading cause of cancer, particularly lung cancer, which is itself an inflammatory condition of the lungs. Replace your smoking habit with eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Get regular sleep4
Lack of sleep can increase inflammation in your body and cause increased pain, particularly in your joints. You need a certain number of hours sleep a night for metabolic recovery and to maintain homeostasis within your body. So if you consistently find it hard to get a good night’s sleep, try some slow stretching exercises before bed. This will help you focus on your breathing and relax your body and mind.
Maintain a healthy weight5
Carrying around too much weight can take its toll on the health of your body, not to mention your joints, and is linked to many health conditions like diabetes and arthritis. Add other factors to this mix like smoking and eating a high fat, high salt diet, and it’s a recipe for bad health and chronic inflammatory issues. The best way to manage your weight is to get active.
Adopt an active lifestyle6
Genetics play a huge factor in how your body ages, but adopting a healthy, active lifestyle is always a good measure to increasing longevity. Exercise not only helps alleviate stress, but in conjunction with a healthy diet, can also help you manage your weight. Regular exercise helps to strengthen your bones and muscles that help to support your joints.
- Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease: The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/
- Richards, Linda. Arthritis Foundation. Excess salt consumption can raise your risk of serious health problems. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/excess-salt-consumption.php
- OrthoInfo from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Smoking and musculoskeletal health. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/smoking-and-musculoskeletal-health/
- Kundermann B, Krieg JC, Schreiber W, Lautenbacher S. The effect of sleep deprivation on pain. Pain Res Manag. 2004;9(1):25–32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15007400
- Why weight matters when it comes to joint pain. Healthbeat, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-weight-matters-when-it-comes-to-joint-pain
- Nita Chainani-Wu. Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma longa). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Feb 2003.ahead of print http://doi.org/10.1089/107555303321223035 Published in Volume: 9 Issue 1: July 5, 2004 https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/107555303321223035?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&
- Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
- Blog Contributor