Inflammation is our body’s natural response to harmful triggers.
Although the symptoms of inflammation may be cause for concern, it is actually how our immune system repairs the damage or, in other words, heals the injury.
However, inflammation is not only acute. It can also be chronic.
This chronic type of inflammation is what we should avoid.
In the long term, it may initiate arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and several other severe health conditions.
Acute inflammation usually has a very specific reason and can be easily identified and cured. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is challenging to spot and affects our quality of life.
That’s why it requires more attention.
Chronic inflammation doesn’t usually have an exact cause or beginning.
It might not show any signs at first, and it can last for years, driving our health down.
Vague symptoms like constant fatigue, bloating, and rashes might show up from time to time but usually won’t last long enough for the afflicted to understand what’s happening.
Interestingly, chronic inflammation doesn’t seem to have a purpose like acute inflammation. At the moment, research studies have yet to find its motive.
It is worth noting that inflammation is not the sole causing factor of the disease.
However, it is one of the major contributors to the progression of an illness.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
There are several main reasons for chronic inflammation, and they are mostly related to lifestyle and natural aging.
Anti-inflammatory compounds are released when our muscles are ‘at work’. Not meeting minimum activity requirements increases the risk of developing inflammatory-related diseases.
Stress hormones negatively influence our gut microbiome and disrupt its work, leading to leaky gut and inflammation.
Lack of sleep
People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have elevated inflammation markers than those who sleep 8 hours every night.
This bad habit prevents the body from producing anti-inflammatory molecules, leading to increased inflammation.
The fat tissue produces pro-inflammatory chemicals. Therefore weight loss is a critical factor in reducing inflammation.
Food high in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, and sugars are the leading sources of inflammation.
Actually, most Western diets are full of unhealthy foods. It’s not unreasonable to say that it is the primary reason for many health issues, including chronic inflammation.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Since our diet takes such an essential role in our health, it requires a thoughtful approach.
Here are the most common foods that cause inflammation:
- Refined grains. These are grains that have been stripped of many good nutrients. They become very similar to sugar as they are empty calories. Refined grains are found almost everywhere. The most common ones are found in pastries, noodles, rice, and bread.
- Fried/fast foods. These types of food are especially harmful to our health. While they cause inflammation, they also decrease our ‘good’ cholesterol and increase the ‘bad’ kind. Foods that fall in this category should be avoided, including any commercially baked goods and anything made with partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening.
- Sugar, soda, and other sugar-sweetened drinks. Besides being inflammatory to our bodies, sugar also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses. What’s more, sugar is often ‘hidden’ on labels under many names. It can be called corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, golden syrup, sucrose, and maltose.
- Processed meat. Meat contains an agent that, when consumed, increases inflammation in the human body. And not only that. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research announced that any meat product that has been modified to improve taste or extend shelf life increases the risk for multiple types of cancer.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to identify all of the exact foods that may cause chronic inflammation because each individual can potentially be sensitive to something different.
Unlike allergies that usually hit moments after the food is consumed, inflammation may take days, weeks, or even months to show up.
Treating and Preventing Inflammation
Inflammation can be diagnosed. However, it takes many tests and requires a thorough medical examination, blood tests, imaging, and more.
If diagnosed, inflammation can be treated using various types of anti-inflammatory drugs. Unfortunately, many of them have harsh side effects.
Please consult your physician before taking any anti-inflammatory medication.
Other alternative practices to prevent or even eliminate inflammation include:
- Exercising for the minimum required amount of time per week (150 minutes).
- Eating a healthy diet filled with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Quitting bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking.
Intermittent Fasting and Reduction of Inflammation
Intermittent fasting can be described as various meal timing schedules that cycle between fasting and non-fasting over a given period.
There are many fasting protocols to choose from. The most popular is having an 8-hour eating window and then fasting for 16 hours.
However, if this seems too complicated, starting slowly with a 14-hour eating window is also a good choice. For males, it is recommended to choose the 16:8 method, while females should safely practice the 14:10 pattern.
Reportedly, intermittent fasting helps practitioners lose weight, which as a result, reduces risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular illness.
Also, a few researchers followed people who fast for religious reasons (29 days of intermittent fasting). It showed that such periods of fasting limit inflammation, suppress pro-inflammatory cells, improve glucose levels, and reduce blood pressure.
In addition to that, Mount Sinai researchers reported that “fasting reduces inflammation and improves chronic inflammatory diseases without affecting the immune system’s response to acute infections.”
Positive microbiome changes set aside, there are also many mental benefits to fasting.
Fasting lets the digestive system rest, which helps our gut microbiome balance good and bad bacteria correctly.
A healthy gut sends signals to our brain through hormones and neurotransmitters, influencing our state of mind, helping us focus and think more clearly.
The Final Word
Chronic inflammation negatively affects all of our body functions by adding to the onset of severe diseases. It also affects our brain, influencing our mood and mental health.
Although inflammation may not be obviously noticeable, we can identify and eliminate it by observing and listening to our body signals.
Food is one of the leading causes of inflammation. Therefore your fridge is a good place to start if you decide to help your body heal.
1. What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our body’s natural response to harmful triggers. Although the symptoms of inflammation may be cause for concern, it is actually how our immune system repairs the damage or, in other words, heals the injury.
2. What foods cause inflammation?
Here are the most common foods that cause inflammation: refined grains, fried and fast foods, sugar, processed meat and other foods that would usually fall under the unhealthy foods category.