Inflammation: Friend or Foe?

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Inflammation, like lots of things in life, has both its pros and cons. As a vital part of the body’s immune response, inflammation prompts the body to produce much needed white blood cells that can heal injuries, repair damaged tissue, and fight off viruses and bacteria. This important part of the healing process is a key component of the body’s basic survival instinct.

Too much of a good thing isn’t always good

However, if your body mistakenly perceives an internal threat, it can respond by shifting into “high alert” and sending out an inflammatory response. When white blood cells swarm, as part of that response, they have nothing to do and nowhere to go, so they sometimes attack internal organs, tissues, and cells. Chronic, low-grade inflammation generates a constant supply of free radicals that overwhelm our anti-oxidant defenses, damage DNA and lead to chronic diseases and conditions, including:

  • Heart disease

Inflamed blood vessels and fatty plaque can lead to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and stroke.

  • Diabetes

Inflammation can interfere with insulin signaling, resulting in increased insulin resistance and spiked blood sugar.

  • Depression

A 2015 study found that people with depression had 30 percent more brain inflammation than those who were not depressed. Widespread inflammation can lead to malaise and an overall ‘blah’ feeling.

  • Lung health issues

Chronic inflammation in the lungs is a factor in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and infections.

  • Bone health issues

Chronic inflammation is associated with increased bone loss and lack of bone growth. 

Inflammation can worsen chronic pain

If you experience chronic pain, inflammation can be particularly challenging. You’ve probably already discovered that stress can make your pain worse. That’s because inflammation is your body’s natural response to stress—and increased inflammation means increased nerve pain, creating a vicious cycle. If your stress continues over a period of time, your level of inflammation can increase, leading to even greater and more widespread chronic pain.

Let food be thy medicine

One of the simplest and most helpful things you can do to combat inflammation—and the resulting chronic pain—is to make some sensible changes to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is highly pro-inflammatory. There are many anti-inflammatory foods that can be added to your daily menu—and some foods that should be vigorously avoided or eliminated to combat inflammation and maximize your health:

Add these foods:

  • Cold water fish

Salmon, herring, and tuna are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect the body against the damage caused by inflammation.

  • Avocado

Avocados contain phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols — all compounds that can help reduce inflammation.

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies

Broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale and cauliflower and many green leafy veggies contain sulforaphane, which is associated with blocking enzymes linked to chronic inflammation.

  • Watermelon

Watermelon contains lycopene, a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes.

  • Walnuts

Walnuts and many other nuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Onions

Onions are a good source of quercetin, which inhibits histamines known to cause inflammation.

  • Olive Oil

Olive oil is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Berries

Berries contain polyphenol compounds, which moderate inflammation.

  • Whole Grains

Eating whole grains has been shown to lower inflammation markers.

  • Certain Spices

Ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg possess anti-inflammatory compounds that inhibit the biochemical process of inflammation.

Avoid or eliminate these foods:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • Margarine, shortening, and lard

Choosing the right foods can lower the level of inflammation in your body—and the chronic pain associated with that inflammation. If you have questions or would like to discuss options for addressing your chronic pain, we encourage you to call Pain Management and Injury Relief at (877) 724-6349 to make an appointment today.

REFERENCES

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/2748_the-anti-inflammatory-diet-a-way-to-manage-chronic-pain

http://www.instituteforchronicpain.org/blog/stress-inflammation-chronic-pain/

http://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

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