The causes of chronic inflammation

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There are several ways to reduce pain associated with ongoing inflammation through both medications and supplementation. It is also important to consider the things we can eliminate that lead to chronic inflammation in the first place.

Inflammation occurs when our body is trying to protect itself by getting rid of toxins it considers harmful. This is an important aspect of the healing process when our body is injured, but when it continues too long, inflammation becomes a problem.

There are a tremendous amount of health conditions that are being associated with long term inflammation. Inflammation of the joints is called arthritis. Inflammation of the arteries is called heart disease.

Other diseases that can have a relationship to chronic inflammation include asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even depression, bone loss and some cancers have been associated with chronic inflammation.

When our body is fighting viruses, bacterial infections, and repairing damaged tissue, inflammation that happens immediately is called acute. This starts quickly and will typically stop in a few days. When it lasts for months or even years, we call this chronic.

It is our immune system that initiates inflammation and sends out defense cells that surround and project the damaged area, like a cut or infected area of our body. We have cells that contain enzyme-filled granules that can break down foreign substances.

We have other cells, called lymphocytes, that can be directed at specific microbes that have invaded our body in order to eradicate them.

Our body is good at turning this process on and typically knows how to turn it off. When it doesn’t, or if it’s left on for no apparent reason, problems will arise.

Toxins like cigarette smoke or too many fat cells, especially in the belly area, can create lasting inflammation. When this inflammation gets inside our arteries it leads to atherosclerosis. This is when fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque begins to build up.

Our body will see such build up as a problem, either abnormal or foreign, and begin to wall the plaque off from the blood that is flowing by. At some point these walls might break down and the plaque move into our blood, forming clots as a result. These can block blood flow and lead to heart attacks or strokes.

There are plenty of anti-inflammatory products available, from aspirin to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDs. Use of these long term is also a problem due to potential damage to our stomach, liver and kidneys.

There are many things we can do to minimize inflammation starting with moderate exercise and low-calorie diets. These are well regarded as the surest thing for preventing degenerative inflammatory disease.

Refined carbohydrates and trans fats contribute to the inflammatory response. Keep these at a minimum. Stress and not getting enough sleep are major factors. Make sure you find a healthy attitude about what happens every day. Limit your exposure to environmental toxins and address chronic infections, like in your gums and teeth.

Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is always a good idea since we cannot always eliminate every contributor. This includes cold-water fish like salmon, herring and mackerel. Olive oil is another source of the omega3’s that are well known as protective against inflammation. For many of us, taking a high quality omega3 supplement becomes important.

Avocados are beneficial in keeping inflammation down. As well as broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Berries that have dark red pigments can help moderate the problem. Whole grains have been associated with decreased markers of inflammation.

There are even spices like ginger, rosemary, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg that posess anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the process of inflammation. One of my favorites in curcumin, though try to get this in a liposomal or phosphatidyl choline form in order to insure adequate absorption.

If you are looking into supplements you might want to consider devil’s and cat’s claw, mangosteen, frankincense and willow bark. I know all these names are a bit strange, but worth considering anyway. Stop on by anytime if you’d like to talk more.

Scott Porter, a functional medicine pharmacist, is the director of the Center for Functional Nutrition at Sandpoint Super Drug.

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