What is inflammation and how is it caused?

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We asked Katy Mason DIPCNMFNTP, Nutritionist at NutriCentre.com to help explore this common health issue.

The body creates inflammation in response to irritants it does not want in to the body and wishes to remove such as, damaged cells and Pathogens (anything that can cause disease). Inflammation is part of the immune system and it is there to help us stay healthy. It is important to remember that inflammation is a natural part of the immune system and not something you want to eradicate. It is only when the inflammatory response is constantly triggered; causing the body to be in a constant inflammatory state that the immune system can become harmful, chronic (long term) inflammation has been linked to many diseases such as heart disease.

Acute Inflammation

This type of inflammation starts quickly, and soon becomes severe; examples include a sore throat from a cold or flu, a scratch/cut on skin, exercise, tonsillitis or a blow to the body, after removing what is causing the problem and healing the area the inflammation will end.

Chronic Inflammation

Long term inflammation which can last from months to years such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever this kind of inflammation can be caused by:

• The failure to remove what is causing the stimulation of the immune system – such as bacteria in the mouth (plaque)

• An autoimmune response, when the immune system starts attacking itself – an example would be rheumatoid arthritis where the immune system attacks the joints

• A chronic low intensity irritant that persists – such as drinking milk if you have an intolerance (not allergy which is different) to it

The sign of inflammation are:

Redness – more blood flow to the capillaries make the area red

Heat – the excess blood that is brought to the area will also cause heat

Swelling – this is cause by excess fluid and blood brining immune cells to the site

Pain – chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are release, making the area sensitive and painful

Inhibited or lost function – there can be some loss of function due to the pain and swelling

What can I do to reduce inflammation or prevent inflammation?

To reduce your chances of inflammation you can avoid the six main causes of inflammation which according to naturopathy are toxicity, infection, allergy, nutritional deficiency or excess, injury or emotional trauma.

Toxicity – Reduce your exposure to toxins and chemicals such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, radiation, asbestos and pesticides.

If you have to use chemicals use them responsibly, for example when you are decorating look out for products that contain less chemicals and safer chemicals, do your homework.

Wash your fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides and where possible buy organic.

Infection – Coming from pathogens such as yeast, fungus, virus, bacterium and parasites these can attack the body causing inflammation.

If you improve the integrity and health of your body through diet and sensible exercise you will be strengthening your immune  system and organs to help prevent such infections.  Allergy – An Allergy is when the body responds to a harmless substance such as food or pollen as if it was a pathogen creating an inflammatory response.

A food allergy is a severe reaction to a food that prevents you from eating it; there are less obvious reactions to food groups that are referred to as intolerances. Food intolerances can appear at any age but can be linked to getting older when your immune system becomes more sensitive and you digestive juices don’t break down food as effectively. Poorly digested foods can cause intolerances.

To prevent the inflammation that is caused by food intolerances you can remove the food from your diet. If you have think that you may be intolerant to a food then don’t ignore it, remove the food completely for at least a month to see if any symptoms and inflammation you may have been experiencing improves.

Nutritional deficiency or excess – A lack of nutrients may lead to the body not having what it needs to support all of its processes. This may lead to hormonal imbalances; a strained immune system and inflammation.

An excess of some foods such as an can also contribute to inflammation, too much sugar (glucose) in the blood cause damage to the blood vessels that stimulates the immune system and inflammation.

Injury – When trauma has occurred in the body inflammation is part of the body’s response to heal the area. Although injury is often caused by an accident and can be hard to prevent you can take precautions such a stretching before exercising. Providing the body with the right nutrients from a balanced and whole food diet can also help your body to recover quicker from injury and inflammation.

Emotional trauma – Stress can increase levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body which can cause imbalances in your hormones and inflammation. This is one of the many reasons why yoga and meditation can be beneficial to our health, as they help reduce these stress hormones.

Some great supplements for chronic inflammation would be:

Fish oil – contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which increase prostaglandins in the body which is great, because prostaglandins control inflammation.

Not a fish fan? Try VeryWise’s new range of fruit based Omega 3 health shots. This innovative new range comes in 6 targeted health shots with added vitamins and plant sterols; CardioWise, MetaboWise, BrainWise, JointWise, EnergyWise and all rounder OmegaWise.

Available from verywisenutrition.co.uk from £5.95

Curcumin, an extract from turmeric – CurQu MAX by Quest vitamins contains 200mg of curcumin, as well as black pepper which

naturally activates the anti-inflammatory properties in Curcumin.

Available from all good health stores and online at www.questexcellence.com from £9.99

These supplements work on the inflammatory pathways and are taken by those wishing to reduce inflammation in the body. If you suffer from chronic inflammation chose a wholefood diet based on foods that are not processed, ensure you eat plenty of:

Antioxidants – fruits, berries, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses

Essential fatty acids – nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish, cold pressed seed oils

Good quality proteins – meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans and pulses

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