Inflammation sounds pretty straightforward. It is a natural and helpful part of our immune system’s response to injury and infection. We usually recognize it by redness, swelling, heat, and/or pain.
Inflammation can be critical for healing. However, medical experts are finding that too much inflammation throughout the body can cause serious health problems.
The condition of systemic inflammation is becoming more common, especially in the U.S. due to a diet heavy in saturated fat. Unfortunately, it’s is often undetectable and symptom-free.
Learn more about systemic inflammation. This knowledge could be your first step to reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease, and more.
What is Systemic Inflammation?
When you’re injured, whether it’s a sprained ankle or a cut finger, your body increases blood flow to the affected area to supply more white blood cells and nutrients.
This reaction is called inflammation, and it usually comes along with swelling, redness and increased warmth.
Health problems can arise from this normally healthy reaction when it goes on for too long or extends throughout the body. This is known as systemic inflammation. This can be caused from a host of triggers, including a diet high in processed food/fast food, unhealthy weight levels, or an inflammatory disease.
Even if the response stays at a mild level, it may cause significant damage over time.
How Inflammation Contributes to Disease
Doctors and scientists are exploring links between systemic inflammation and a range of diseases including:
Heart Disease – According to the American Heart Association, it’s not clear that chronic inflammation actually causes heart disease. However, inflammation is a very common symptom in those who have had heart attacks and strokes, so the relationship is being studied. Doctors speculate that when plaque builds up in blood vessels, it may trigger an inflammatory response that can lead to blood clots. These, in turn, are likely to cause heart attacks and strokes.
Certain Cancers – It’s generally understood that long-term, chronic inflammation can damage DNA, which may lead to cancer in some cases. As explained by the NIH National Cancer Institute, people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Alzheimer’s disease – Long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs is linked with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and studies of the brains of people with the disease show long-term inflammation. It used to be assumed that the inflammation was the effect of the disease, but more recent thinking is that it could be causal.
Depression and Mental Illness – NPR reported in 2015 that some researchers now treat depression as an infectious disease. Infection leads to inflammation. They explained:
“Multiple studies have linked depression with elevated markers of inflammation, including two analyses from 2010 and 2012 that collectively reviewed data from 53 studies, as well as several postmortem studies. A large body of related research confirms that autoimmune and inflammatory activity in the brain is linked with psychiatric symptoms.”
Researchers have begun to explore options like supplementing Prozac with low-dose aspirin.
There are three tests I regularly recommend to my patients to screen for systemic inflammation: C-RP, homocysteine, and sedimentation rate.
What You Can Do to Reduce Inflammation
First of all, you should change your diet to avoid foods that cause inflammation and add foods that reduce it, as I explain in this previous blog post.
Other ways to reduce inflammation are regular exercise (at least 30 minutes each day), maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress.
Finally, you can use certain natural supplements to fight chronic inflammation. I recommend two: Systemic Enzymes and and Inflamments Formula.
Systemic Enzymes – Many clinicians believe that these enzymes help your body break down proteins, an important part of cardiovascular health. Polyenzyme therapy is already widely used in Europe and other countries and is becoming more popular in the U.S. as well. Studies have shown that these types of enzyme mixtures reduced swelling (inflammation) more quickly after injuries and operations. They also can help break down immune complexes that are known mediators of inflammation.
Inflamments – Diamond Nutritionals’ Inflamments Formula has been used for many inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel conditions, chronic inflammation, prostatitis, fibromyalgia, and musculoskeletal inflammation. It inhibits the activities and synthesis of a wide variety of compounds implicated in pain and inflammation and is composed of natural ingredients including turmeric, skullkap root extract and bee propolis.
Many of the suggestions above promote overall good health. Understanding the risks of systemic inflammation can provide you with one more reason to reevaluate your habits and prioritize your health. Specific supplements can further aid you in your fight against inflammation and, as a result, a host of other illnesses.
Photo credit: MTDebs / bigstock.com