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How to Win The Fight Against Inflammation

Inflammation in the body is a natural process, but at the same time, inflammation is associated with substantial pain for many people and is also associated with the development of some diseases.

Because of this, it becomes very important to work out how to reduce body inflammation.

While medication does offer one approach to reducing inflammation, it is an approach that has its own disadvantages.

To understand how to effectively reduce inflammation, it is important to first understand what inflammation really is and the role that it plays in the human body.

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What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural process in the body that is directly related to healing.

Even though we try to suppress inflammation as much as possible, it’s important to note that there is nothing unnatural about inflammation itself.

In fact, some level of inflammation is important for the body to protect itself.

There two primary paths of inflammation that occur within the body.

The first of these is the primary pathway, which has an emphasis on repair and detoxification.

This process does not cause significant symptoms within the body.

The primary pathway is critical for cleansing the body and ensuring that toxins do not build up over time.

This function is very important because the human body is exposed to a lot of stressors in the process of everyday life.

Girl with back pain, inflammation concept

The second pathway is more significant.

This pathway is often referred to as either chronic inflammation or the secondary pathway and it serves a protective purpose.

To achieve this, the pathway of inflammation allows the body to adapt to stresses that are occurring, causing swelling, stiffness and pain.

Because of this, the presence of inflammation can be an indication that there is something wrong with the body that needs to be resolved.

However, there are also cases where inflammation occurs as the result of problems that cannot be resolved and as a consequence it results in significant and prolonged swelling and pain.

In addition to causing significant pain, prolonged inflammation can also result in the development of degenerative conditions, such as cancer, arthritis and coronary artery disease (1). The site Paleovation offers a detailed consideration of the implications of inflammation, along with some of the symptoms to watch out for.

As such, inflammation can act as both a protective and a dangerous component within the body and one that must be handled with care to ensure optimal health.

The Modern Diet and Inflammation

There are many types of diets that are promoted as ways of improving health overall and of reducing weight.

However, many of these diet types promote foods that are high in inflammation-causing components, particularly as the result of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Because of this, the diets of many people may be promoting inflammation and they may not even be aware of this.

Just How Bad is Inflammation?​

Historically, inflammation has only been associated with some specific diseases, including appendicitis and arthritis.

In fact, the association is often made between disease names that end with -itis and chronic inflammation.

Inflammation in the shoulders

However, inflammation may have a much greater impact than anyone previously believed.

For example, many of the negative impacts of inflammation may not be evident and may not even produce symptoms that are immediately obvious.

Some people believe that this may include issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancers (2).

On some occasions, inflammation has been referred to as a ‘silent killer’ and may be responsible for many ailments that are currently significant within the population, but are not recognized as being related to inflammation (3).

C-Reactive Protein and Inflammation

An important element to consider in any discussion of inflammation is C-reactive protein and the role that this protein plays within the body.

Often abbreviated to CRP, C-reactive protein is one of the most important indicators of the level of inflammation in the body, partially because it can be easily tested for using a C-reactive protein blood test.

When a person has elevated levels of CRP it is an indication that this level needs to be lowered, either by addressing the underlying problem or by taking approaches to lower the level of inflammation.

This is what makes C-reactive protein blood tests so important because these tests can help to reveal whether a person is likely to be suffering negative impacts from inflammation.

It is very important to note that significant levels of inflammation often do not present with outward symptoms.

Because of this, if it’s possible for a person to have an elevated level of C-reactive protein without ever being aware of it.

Research has indicated that a high level of C-reactive protein is associated with negative health impacts, such as an increased likelihood of death (4).

How to Reduce Body Inflammation Safely

In general, there are two main approaches used to decrease inflammation within the body.

The first of these is through medications, must commonly NSAIDS (short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Advil (5).

These medications do offer significant advantages, and in some cases, they are essential for protecting the body and health overall.

However, there are some significant disadvantages to relying on anti-inflammatory medication, as these are also toxins that must be expelled from the body.

Because of this, the toxic components of the anti-inflammatory drugs must also be processed by the first inflammation pathway.

This is counterproductive because it reduces how effective the first inflammation pathway is, which may have negative health impacts over time (6).

Additionally, like any drug, there are often complications associated with taking NSAIDs, with more than 100,000 patients estimated to be hospitalized every year as the result of gastrointestinal complications from the use of NSAIDs (7).

Statins are also sometimes used to reduce inflammation as they lower the level of C-reactive protein also (8).

However, statins are associated with significant side effects and are a type of medication that should only be taken when absolutely necessary.

I am not saying that people should not take anti-inflammatory medications, but these types of medications should be taken carefully and only when necessary.

This suggests that the second approach to reducing inflammation is safer in the long term and offers significant health advantages.

This second approach is a diet that reduces inflammation naturally.

This has the significant advantage of being healthier overall and also not introducing any toxins into the body.

​What is an Anti-Inflammation Diet?

The concept of an anti-inflammation diet has been growing in popularity in recent years and for good reason.

It is certainly true that the modern diet does nothing to reduce the level of chronic inflammation in the body.

In fact, this whole diet approach may even be the cause of many of the inflammation problems that people experience.

An anti-inflammation diet is not a term that applies to any specific diet, but rather to eating decisions that reduce the level of chronic inflammation within the body.

There is a strong indication that the modern diet may contribute to high levels of inflammation, particularly as the result of heavily processed foods and foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Dietary Approaches

Omega-3

Within the body, omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in the primary path of inflammation, helping to support the body and decrease the accumulation of toxins.

At the same time, these fatty acids also help to reduce the level of chronic inflammation, which is the inflammation that is responsible for the pain and swelling that people experience as a result of inflammation.

The most significant approach for including omega-3 fatty acids within the diet is by consuming fish as a regular part of the diet.

This is the most desirable approach because omega-3 fatty acids have many positive implications for health.

However, people also have the option of taking supplements containing omega-3, such as fish oil or krill oil. There are also many high-quality fish oil brands to choose from.

Regardless of how people include omega-3 within their diet, the fatty acid is able to significantly reduce the secondary path of inflammation.

​Curcumin

The compound curcumin has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties (9). This compound comes from the spice turmeric.

Turmeric power and supplements

Curcumin is particularly useful as an addition to the diet because it can be included as an ingredient within food and it is also available as a supplement.

Actually, curcumin has been linked to a large number of health advantages, with upwards of 5,000 published studies on the role of the spice in health.

This extends beyond the anti-inflammatory advantages and includes aspects like anti-diabetic elements and potentially even anti-tumor functions (10).

Fermented Foods​

Another food group that plays a significant role in reducing inflammation, even though it is often overlooked is fermented foods.

There is a range of different types of fermented foods, including probiotic drinks that are becoming popular, and researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface of the health benefits that they offer.

One study found that a specific probiotic drink named kefir could act to decrease the allergic responses that some people, particularly children, have to food.

Additionally, the same study indicated that the drink was able to help control inflammation occurring within the digestive system (11).

This role has been linked to the presence of microbes within fermented foods, which can be critically important in the immune system, particularly in promoting self-regulation in the immune system.

In turn, this self-regulation can help to turn off many of the cues that promote inflammation, resulting in an overall decrease in inflammation (12).

In fact, research suggests that as people age, their bodies stop making the enzymes that they need to reduce inflammation, which can result in higher levels of inflammation, particularly in the gut (13).

Other Dietary Elements

There are many different aspects of a diet that decreases the level of inflammation in the body.

Some other elements of this type of diet include a diet that is focused on whole-grain foods, fruits, eggs, nuts and fish (14).

Another food that has been linked to a decrease in inflammation is broccoli, a function that is linked to many of its bioactive elements (15).

A similar outcome is also associated with tart cherries (16).

Other common dietary components that are associated with decreased levels of inflammation include onions (17), garlic (18), pineapple (19) and spinach (20).

​These types of healthy and natural foods are also prevalent in the Mediterranean diet, and may be one reason why this diet is promoted as an anti-inflammatory diet (21). 

As can probably be seen by some of the foods that I have talked about here, a good general rule for reducing inflammation is to focus on foods that are not heavily processed or heavy in refined sugars.

For example, this includes focusing on grass-fed meats over corn-fed meats, as the corn-fed variants are often subjected to a considerable amount of hormones.

It is also important to note that what causes an inflammation response is not necessarily the same for every person.

In particular, an inflammatory response may often appear as a result of an allergic reaction to food. For example, the site foodintol talks about the association between food intolerance and inflammation, along with what can be done about it. 

Reactions like these are different from one person to the next and in some cases a persona may have a response to the food that they are not aware of.

Weight Loss and Inflammation

Research has consistently indicated that weight loss is able to significantly decrease the level of C-reactive protein within the body and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (22).

Woman with scale, weight loss concept

This provides a strong indication that losing weight can decrease the level of inflammation.

It is important to note that not all types of diets are the same, and all calories are not equal to one another (23).

For example, the role of weight loss in inflammation is unlikely to apply if the person loses weight through an approach that significantly increases inflammation, such as a reliance on foods heavy in omega-6.

Supplementation

While dietary approaches can often be effective for reducing inflammation, supplementation can also be important for lowering the level of inflammation.

One important vitamin for reducing inflammation is vitamin E, which is also associated with antioxidant action (24).

Vitamin E is a vitamin that is able to be obtained from a range of foods, including green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts (25).

Additionally, vitamin E can be taken in supplement form and is readily available.

In a similar way, vitamin D is associated with a reduction in inflammation, particularly when consumed in combination with calcium (26).

There are other supplements that have also been associated with a reduction in the level of inflammation present in the body.

Another example of this effect is vitamin C, which can be obtained from food or from supplementation (27).

Final Thoughts

Inflammation is a complex process, and there is no simple answer to resolving high levels of inflammation within individuals.

This is strongly related to the way that inflammation can act as a signal that there is something in the body that needs resolving.

Puzzled girl in a red shirt

Because of this, the best approach to combating inflammation is a multi-faceted approach that considers the potential root cause of the inflammation while also helping to reduce the presence of chronic inflammation.

This means that a very important approach for how to reduce body inflammation is to engage in an anti-inflammatory diet while also taking advantage of supplements to further reduce inflammation as well as NSAIDs when absolutely needed.

This approach has the advantage of naturally reducing inflammation without the risk of side effects.

Additionally, it means that any inflammation that remains may be an indication of an underlying condition, making this situation easier to identify and address.

It is also important to note that treating inflammation with medication is an approach sometimes referred to as downstream medicine.

This means that it is an approach that attempts to address the symptoms of the problem without actually looking at what is causing it.

In some cases, this may be necessary to prevent the negative impacts of inflammation, but it isn’t a good solution in the long-term.

The use of an anti-inflammatory diet can be particularly important because of the potential for the modern diet to contribute strongly to the presence of inflammation.

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​What do you feel about inflammation? Do you take approaches to reduce it, or do you largely ignore it?

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