Chances are, you've heard of inflammation, and you know it's not a good condition to have. But we're betting you're a little fuzzy on exactly what inflammation means.
Generally speaking, inflammation is your body's immune response to what it perceives as a threat. This response, however, can have negative consequences for your health over the long term.
We asked our resident health coach, Jennifer Hall Taylor from Buckwheat to Butter, to give us the lowdown on inflammation and what it can do for your health.
I hear so much about inflammation and how bad it is but I don’t really understand it. Can you break it down for me?
Inflammation is a healthy immune response to fight off disease. We actually need inflammation to heal. However, chronic inflammation over-taxes the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to illness and disease. Chronic low-level inflammation is caused by toxicity in the body. Toxins are substances that create irritation in the body. Some toxins are created internally as a natural byproduct of cellular activity, while others — chemical additives in processed foods, pollutants in our air and water systems, pesticides in our soil, chemicals in products we use on our skin and hair, drugs and medications we take, alcohol we consume — are ingested.
Okay, so what does inflammation do to my body?
In essence, any substance — even “healthy” ones — in excess can result in toxicity. Anything the body can’t utilize or eliminate can create inflammation in the cells and tissues, interfering with regular bodily functions, and resulting in a range of symptoms, including but not limited to:
- chronic headaches
- weight gain/loss
- brain fog
- abnormal bowel function
- joint pain
- depression and mood swings
- cravings for starchy, salty and/or sugary foods
Yikes! How can I stop inflammation from making me sick?
Our bodies are incredibly intuitive and sophisticated and we possess an amazing natural detoxification system made up of the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory system, the lymphatic system, the urinary tract, and the skin.
When everything is functioning optimally, these systems rid our bodies of toxins we ingest and produce. However, when we overload our systems with toxicity (overeating, regular ingestion of drugs and alcohol, poor diet, chronic stress, lack of exercise), the body is unable to effectively detoxify and your immune system flares up to respond to the un-flushed toxins. The result is chronic, low level inflammation that eventually suppresses the immune system. Studies have linked chronic inflammation to everything from allergies to cancer.
You can reduce inflammation in the body by eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like wild salmon and sardines. Limiting stress and following a regular exercise routine will also help reduce unhealthy inflammation.
Jennifer Hall Taylor is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Private Chef. She creates customized wellness programs for a varied clientele all over the country, helping each person create his or her own unique roadmap to optimal health. There are many roads to health. Walk your own path.
Photo credit: Haldean Brown via Flickr