We've all felt it flare up at some point or another, the body in reactive disagreement with what we may or may not have done. Inflammation is when your body activates your immune system, sending out inflammatory cells. Doing its job of keeping us alive, these cells attack bacteria, signaling a virus, infection or injury and begin healing damaged tissue.
The response can be visible swelling, lingering pain, even discolouration or redness. It can last hours, days or longer. This inflammation is acute and depending on your condition can last all through the healing process. It's when this system goes awry and the body sends out inflammatory cells when you're not sick or injured. That false alarm may be a disease like Arthritis. Joint tissue is attacked by inflammatory cells that cause the tissue to become inflamed, rendering us in pain and damaging our joint function. This is the long term effect of Rheumatoid Arthritis. It becomes chronic and it can last for years.
Inflammation can also present in other less visible forms such as abdominal or chest pain, fever and shortness of breath, fatigue or even insomnia. This kind of malaise can stir up anxiety, even depression or other mood disorders. It can trigger bouts of diarrhea or constipation or even repeating (acid reflux). Sores in the mouth or changes in body weight may also be experienced.
As to what causes or triggers inflammation it can be ingested, something we have become averse to. It may also lay in exposure, in environmental harms that, over time, catch up to our diminishing immunity. Overindulgence, repeated exposure or overuse where the cells in charge of stopping inflammation aren't keeping up and inflammation succeeds in breaking down the body over time.
Some precautions to consider that may have a hand in chronic inflammation are excessive alcohol use ie: daily or binge drinking, a high body mass index (BMI) that is headed toward obesity and pre-diabetes. Chronic stress, sleep depravation and smoking play a distinct and rapid drain as well as too much or too little physical activity.
The reversal of any of the above is a step in the right direction. Rest, sensible foods that agree with you and in keeping with the energy you need. Being sure your nutrition is balanced and adequate for your age and health profile. This means a chat with your local Registered Dietitian. Have your medications assessed by the Pharmacist and be mindful that even over-the-counter medicines and supplements should be properly evaluated for your overall best health and wellbeing.
As often as possible, let food be thy medicine. Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon) and leafy greens like spinach, kale and chard. Healthy oils (olive) and modest amounts of nuts and seeds, much of the list of the Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower levels of inflammation in the body. Foods that raise it are the heavy hitters: anything fried and reusing oils, cured meats with nitrates, highly refined oils and refined carbohydrates like sugary goods.
We can have a huge say in our health even with injuries or chronic conditions that may set off inflammation. Strive to maintain a healthy weight for you and don't smoke. Get your daily dose of movement and think about the use of alcohol in your life. You can manage your stress in good health by surrounding yourself with good supportive activities and people. Use tools like meditation and journaling to connect. Experience nature and enjoy your life. You can't go too far wrong with the sensible basics. Make it a Happy New Year.