When we hear the word inflammation, we may think of pain in our joints, necks, or backs. However, inflammation in the body can also signal a problem that needs solving, whether it is in response to injury (sudden, onset, or acute) or is chronic in nature (inflammation from an ongoing condition). While the most common symptom of inflammation is pain, people experience other noticeable issues as well. So whether you experience inflammation that’s related to bone, digestive, or heart health, there is a connection to lifestyle, diet, and stress.
Chronic inflammation in the body can contribute to or be a primary cause of various chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, bone and joint disorders, and cancer.
What are the causes of inflammation?
Causes of inflammation can vary widely and range from blunt, trauma injuries to life-long, chronic health issues which occur over time. Inflammation can also occur from muscles and joints, or broken bones that have failed to heal or are healed incorrectly.
A major cause of chronic inflammation happens when the immune system becomes compromised. Both the immune system and digestive tract are weakened as a result of varying factors such as environmental exposure, diet, and stress. Less-than-optimal dietary habits can definitely be a culprit of chronic inflammation.
In modern life, another factor that greatly contributes to inflammatory responses in the body is from a rapid rise in blood-sugar, often triggered by the consumption of foods containing refined or processed (simple) sugars. When this happens, biochemical changes occur in the cell. One of the best ways to decrease inflammation is to avoid processed and artificially- produced products, especially products with added sugar – whether refined or otherwise.
Gluten and casein
Gluten and casein proteins (found in wheat and dairy), are two inflammatory substances common in modern diets. These irritate the intestines and penetrate walls of intestines, allowing toxins into the blood stream (also known as leaky gut syndrome). The body recognizes these proteins as foreign invaders, and the result is pain or discomfort, signaling that something is not right. The severity of the condition depends on the amount of inflammatory conditions due to an unhealthy diet (absence of proper nutrition and enzymes), our environmental conditions, as well as stress.
If you have a known sensitivity to gluten or casein, or suspect you may have this sensitivity, it might be worth eliminating these sources of inflammatory response in your diet for a period of time.
If you do plan to add either of these back to your diet sometime in the future, it is recommended to ensure these foods are from clean sources, meaning organic and non-GMO, and that any grain foods are sprouted and soaked and/or fermented prior to consumption.
Dairy foods are recommended to be raw and sourced from healthy animals on pasture, not administered antibiotics, hormones or inflammatory feed such as grains, soy, corn or other, and not exposed to pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Cultured dairy foods are an excellent source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids as well as contain enzymes and probiotics (friendly bacteria) which aid in the absorption of nutrients in the food and support digestive and immune system health.
Some find that even though they have undergone a period of healing and abstaining from gluten and casein-containing foods, they are still unable to consume them. Each case is unique and must be taken into consideration given the health and needs of the individual.
The role of essential fatty acids in inflammation
If you are experiencing inflammation, one reason can be from nutritional deficiencies such as an imbalance of essential fatty acids. Maintaining this balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is critical to health. While Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, too much Omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation.
In a healthy diet, you should be receiving approximately 1 – 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. The Standard American diet contains 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. From research studies, this imbalance has a strong connection to the increase of inflammatory health issues in the U.S.
Ways you may be receiving too many Omega 6 essential fatty acids in your diet are from processed products such as those containing polyunsaturated fats such as canola, soybean, cottonseed oil corn, safflower, peanut grapeseed, and sunflower oils. These oils are found in many products on the consumer market and also recommended in recipes and by conventional health authorities for consumption. Many of these widely consumed oils not only contain Omega 6s essential fatty acids, but are very likely sourced from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Consumption of GMOs is associated with health risks. As well, these oils are typically produced with industrial processes and/or high heat/pressure conditions. This creates rancidity in the oil and further damage occurs the longer they sit on the shelf or are used for cooking.
Other sources of inflammation can come from other products which are high in Omega 6 essential fatty acids such as breads, crackers, muffins, pastries, cookies, cakes, desserts, food bars, popcorn and other snack food, and nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds that are raw and soaked and sprouted, from organic sources eaten in moderation are recommended.
How the inflammatory process works
The presence of inflammatory proteins tells the body to increase blood flow to the affected area. Nutrients and enzymes, along with anti-inflammatory hormones are mobilized to aid in the restorative process are sent to remove inflammatory protein messengers out of the blood to return homeostasis to the body. This is a all part of the body’s normal process for healing tissue and cell damage.
In a toxic environment, unhealthy and chronic inflammation happens because the body is unable to make repairs to damaged tissue efficiently. When cell and tissue damage exceeds your body’s ability to repair, the result is lingering inflammation. In this case, what has occurred is either physical trauma or too much free-radical damage without enough intervention from antioxidants.
When toxic, free-radicals exceed a sufficient supply of antioxidants in the body, the result is damage to tissues and cells. Unmanned free radicals are responsible for serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer. The problem is exacerbated when deficiencies in nutrients, proteins, enzymes, and essential fatty acids necessary to complete damage repair are present.
Dietary and lifestyle habits are key factors
If your body is receiving adequate nutrition, it is more able to address natural acute inflammation, which is something our bodies produce as a natural survival response. When nutritional deficits occur, inflammation increases because of damage to cells and tissue. Then, your body creates inflammatory proteins to repair damage.
Here are 8 ways to prevent and eliminate inflammation in the body:
Cod liver oil. Green Pasture Products Blue Ice Royal Fermented Cod Liver Oil and High Vitamin Butter Oil, one of the most potent forms of Omega 3 essential fatty acids and Vitamins A and D. Useful for reducing inflammation and arthritis pain, ADHD in children, healthy hair and skin, preventative for cancer, heart disease & stroke, maintains healthy cholesterol levels, fights infections, anti-asthmatic, and helps to reduce conditions contributing to artherosclerosis.
Joint inflammation/discomfort Smarter Curcumin Removes free radicals which contribute to inflammation and disease, promotes healthy inflammatory response, aids cognitive function. liver and cardiovascular health, digestion and immunity.
Digestive support Enzorb by Sunwarrior. Contains a diverse variety of proteases (4) with different pH ranges to digest proteins twice as fast as most enzymes (most contain only two types). Contains 13 enzymes that target different carbohydrates for a more complete breakdown and utilization of these vital nutrients, and 25 total that focus on different nutrients.
Enzyme/herbal support Try GastroVen. Featuring 3 nutritional blends that promote healthy stomach function and digestion. This formula provides bromelain enzymes (derived from pineapple) that gently support protein digestion. Stomach Digest-Pro™ and Stomach Prime Blend™ work together to provide broad spectrum nutritional support. Also, Inflammatone, a combination of herbs, nutrients and proteolytic enzymes for modulating the inflammatory response, supporting the natural removal of proteins like kinin and fibrin, and for supporting healthy lymphatic drainage.
Probiotics Try HLC MindLinx by Pharmax, Complete Probiotics, or MegaSporeBiotic. Beneficial bacteria in probiotics are essential for maintaining digestive and immune system health and helps with nutrient-absorption. HLC Mindlinx is the first probiotic specifically developed for those with gluten and casein intolerance. It has specific bacteria to break down gluten and casein, both inflammatory proteins, and is useful for those experiencing autism, ADHD, celiac disease, and food allergies.
Dietary changes Consume nutrient-dense foods: grassfed and finished meats, pasture-raised poultry, dairy, and eggs from animals and birds on pasture, traditional fats such as butter, tallow, olive oil, and those with antimicrobial properties such as organic extra virgin coconut oil, and palm oil. Choose complex carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index such raw apples, brown rice, winter squash, and sprouted grains and legumes. Use real sea salt in your food, and drink purified water throughout the day.
Reduce stress and get more rest. Making time for rest and relaxation is another way to reduce inflammation in the body. Modern lifestyles encourage a constant schedule of activities and tasks. Find ways to make time to stop moving and doing, and close your eyes, use prayer, stretching, meditation, a hot bath, or other calming activity to recharge and replenish your mind and body. Consider evaluation of your current sleep schedule to include more hours of sleep (if you are receiving less than 7-8 hours nightly) and retiring to bed at an earlier hour than previous. Going to bed before or around 10 p.m., for example, will provide more rest for important processes such as detox and replenishment than if you regularly put off bed time until 11, midnight or 1 a.m.
Unplug from your devices and go outside, get sun exposure, go barefoot. Getting away from electronics, Wifi, EMF and other devices is important for reducing inflammation in the body. Making contact with the earth by taking off your shoes, being out in the sun, and exposing yourself to friendly bacteria in soil and earth can greatly boost your immune system and overall well-being. When you are home or in the workplace, make changes in your environment that can positively affect your exposure to electronic devices such as using a speaker or headset for talking on your phone, take breaks from devices frequently, ensure you are not near modems or routers and turn off anything when not in use. You can also purchase products to help mitigate EMF exposure when you are unable to “get away”. Here is a helpful article on use of a bed canopy to protect yourself from EMF exposure while sleeping and achieve higher quality sleep. Turn off devices well before bedtime to ensure higher quality sleep, and avoid having devices (clock radios, stereos, televisions, cell phones, computers, tablets, etc.) in your sleep environment.
Supplementation, healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes can reverse chronic inflammation and all the uncomfortable symptoms that come with it.
Cover image by Raw Pixel on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/M1FUX2SDzyQ