Your body was wonderfully made, and it is our goal to help you be healthy and stay healthy. Unfortunately, life choices and environmental factors can affect the level of health you are able to reach and maintain. This month, we want to address a growing health concern: chronic inflammation.
Not all inflammation is bad. When your body identifies an injury or attack, it activates its defenses. Your immune system sends out inflammatory cells and cytokines (substances that stimulate more inflammatory cells). These cells attack bacteria or heal damaged tissue. That’s a good thing.
Acute inflammation occurs when your body responds to a sudden injury like rolling your ankle or illness. Chronic inflammation occurs when your body continues to send out these cells even when you are not sick or injured. For instance, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory cells, and substances attack the joint tissue leading to chronic inflammation that can cause severe damage, pain, and deformities.
When you have chronic inflammation, your body is in a constant state of high alert. Over time, chronic inflammation may even cause DNA damage, which can increase the risk of developing cancer. Considering these risks, and the role that chronic inflammation plays in so many different health conditions, it is estimated that three in five people worldwide die due to complications from chronic inflammatory disease—and the number keeps growing.
So, what can you do about it? Causes of chronic inflammation include autoimmune disorders, exposure to toxins, untreated acute inflammation, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, too much or too little exercise, and smoking. Foods that increase inflammation include fried foods, cured meats with nitrates (i.e. hot dogs), highly refined oils and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates (i.e. sugar, pastries, white bread.)
There is another cause of chronic inflammation that affects many of you: chronic stress. You may think any type of stress is bad, but that isn’t the case. Good stress is vital for a healthy life.
Stress is a natural, adaptive, built-in response that prepares you for action, both physically and mentally. That stress response is there to temporarily increase your energy and focus, so you can tackle whatever challenge is in front of you.
Stress that is considered chronic and harmful is stress that is not temporary, that interferes with your day-to-day functioning, that causes you to want to isolate, or that makes simple things feel impossible.
Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation which can lead to many other health issues. We want to help you reach optimal health by addressing both chronic inflammation and chronic stress.