Inflammation Part One – Overview and What Causes It

*** take note that I will often ‘hyperlink’ certain terms. By clicking on these hyperlinks, it will take you to web pages with a lot more information on a particular subject. Ya know, for those people who need all of the gory details : )

Inflammation, how do we get rid of it?

Well, first off, it’s actually a good thing at times. Why? It’s our body’s immune and self-healing system springing into action. If you were to get a cut on your arm, if it didn’t get red, swollen, and puffy, it wouldn’t heal and it would probably get infected. However, it does do all of that, different chemical reactions occur to break down damaged tissue and fight off germs, as well as other chemical reactions occur that help rebuild healthy tissue again. After a week or two, you don’t even know it was there.

When this system is working correctly, our body should not be ‘inflamed’ normally, but should be ready to do this at a moment’s notice. However, for many people, some inflammation seems to be there more often that it should be.

What does inflammation look or feel like?

Inflammation can present in a variety of ways. For some it’s obvious. They might have chronic pain that often gets worse with activity. These people are often diagnosed with some sort of arthritis, bursitis, or tendonitis. For others it’s less obvious and can be expressed as various health issues such as heart disease and atherosclerosis (inflammation of the arteries), Alzheimer’s (inflammation of the arteries in the brain), polycystic ovarian disease and fibrocystic breast disease (inflammation of the associated structures), and even allergies and sinus issues (chronic inflammation of the mucous membranes and stimulation of certain immune cells). Some experts even suggest that inflammation plays a role in things like cancer, diabetes, and auto-immune diseases.

Conventional medicine will often treat the end result or symptoms of the inflammation with medications. The natural, or holistic approach will do the same, but also aims at trying to reduce a person’s overall inflammatory state.

Causes of increased inflammation

Before we talk about how to reduce the inflammatory state, we must know why people become inflamed to begin with. By far the biggest reason is the Standard American Diet (which I will refer to as SAD). The SAD consists mostly of corn, soy, and wheat based food products (can’t really even be called real food the way they are processed), along with meats and dairy from animals that are fed these same food products. So what? Well, these food and animal products contain high amounts of inflammation promoting “things”. Specifically, they are called fatty acids.

Fatty acids can either be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. We need both because as mentioned above, inflammation is part of our body’s normal functions. Most sources say that we do well with 3 pro-inflammatory fatty acids for every 1 anti-inflammatory fatty acids. However, in the research I’ve read, that ratio is about 30 to 1!

30 to 1. It sounds like a huge imbalance and it absolutely is one. The problem is that with that much of the pro-inflammatory fatty acids in our body, it’s really really easy for our body to turn on the inflammatory process. In fact, it’s too easy and happens when it shouldn’t. Plus, it’s really tough for the anti-inflammatory side to turn on. The end result is that many of us end up perpetually inflamed! That is definitely not a good thing.

I mentioned corn, wheat, soy, and animal products from animals fed those things as being pro-inflammatory. To mention several food products specifically, this includes bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pies, fried and fast foods, french fries, cheese, milk, fried rice, cereals, chips, pretzels, etc. Basically, anything made with white flour, corn, or processed soy. Vegetable oils are also usually highly pro-inflammatory. For a more comprehensive list, click here: Dr. Perricones List of Pro-Inflammatory Foods

WAIT! DON’T STOP READING! I know I probably listed everyone’s favorite foods (myself included). I’m not saying you can never eat these foods again. What I am saying is that you should start to recognize how much of your diet these foods make up (for some, it’s damn near close to 100%!), and if you are having issues, seriously consider limiting these foods and possibly even cutting out these foods for a period of time. Those with serious issues aside, for everyone else, it’s not an all or none thing. It’s about doing the best you can and just being aware of what you are eating day in and day out. Awareness is the first step.

Definitely Pro-Inflammatory!

In addition to dietary factors, there are other causes of body-wide inflammation. Poor digestive tract function is a common cause. It’s usually due to diet, but medication use over time can begin to adversely effect the function of the ‘gut’ as well. This can come in the form of leaky gut syndrome or intestinal flora imbalance (again, click on the hyperlinks for more info).

Other causes of inflammation are infection, hormonal imbalances, immune dysfunction (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.), and environmental (mold, pollen, dust, etc.). These must be taken into consideration and treated if possible (especially infection). For others like immune dysfunction you can’t do much about, however, it is important to address what you can, like making sure that you’re not exacerbating your condition by consuming a pro-inflammatory diet. Often I see people who have things like rheumatoid arthritis or bad allergies to pollen in the air, yet they’ll do significantly better by eating an anti-inflammatory diet and using other strategies that we’ll discuss in part two of this topic.

For an excellent overview on this topic, check out this article by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, “Causes of Inflammation”.

And with that, I’m off to work on part two of this series, “Natural Anti-inflammatory Strategies (herbal, nutritional, etc.)”

Thanks for reading, and please share this link with others (email, Facebook, etc.). It’s information that is important for people to be aware of (awareness is the first step!) and could help them with issues that are dealing with right now.

Part Two is now ready and can be seen by clicking here: INFLAMMATION PART TWO – NATURAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY STRATEGIES

(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County. He helps people develop strategies to improve their health and overcome issues through changes in diet and other lifestyle factors. For a free consultation to discuss your issues and determine if he can help, call the office at 570-366-2613.)

3 thoughts on “Inflammation Part One – Overview and What Causes It

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s