What is inflammation?
When you think of inflammation, you probably think of pain and swelling when you get bitten by a bug, or you whack your leg on the corner of a table. You might also think of pain in your joints after sitting badly, or aching muscles after a good workout. These are all signs of what is known as acute inflammation.
Acute inflammation is the body responding to damage, germs and chemical irritation. It is a short term reaction and has those very noticeable symptoms. Where things get dangerous however is with chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, the symptoms of chronic inflammation are barely noticeable, and it can usually only be confirmed with specific blood tests. A few things cause chronic inflammation, and one of them is your immune system not working correctly.
In a nutshell, the immune system is an incredible, complex net of interlocking processes all geared towards protecting your body. To put it simply, you have different types of cells that fulfill different roles. Importantly, you’ve got T-cells that “chase” the pathogens in your lymph nodes and kill them off there. Then you’ve got your suppressor T-cells which switch off the immune response, to prevent any further internal damage, and allow your tissues to heal.
That’s why when you get sick, you might get a fever and chills: It’s all part of your immune response.
What happens if your suppressor T-cells don’t quite switch the immune response off? Your body’s tissues and organs will continue to be subjected to slow but consistent damage. This has been called inflammaging.
Like a leaking car radiator, this damage will build up over time and cause you problems in the long term. It has even been linked to diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. It follows that if you reduce the amount of inflammation in your body, or remove the source of the inflammation, your body will be under less stress, and therefore be at lower risk of developing these complications.
A lot of the popular writers on this topic see the word “cancer” “inflammation” and “anti inflammatory”, and their brains stop right there. That’s why sensational claims like “eat blueberries to prevent cancer” have become popular.
For sure, blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties. But do not fall into the trap of believing that eating a handful of them every day will protect you from ever getting sick in your old age.
You can reduce your risk of chronic inflammation, but it’s important to maintain an idea of causation vs correlation. This means remembering that things being associated with each other doesn’t always mean they happen because of each other.
Sickness can occur for any number of reasons, and you could be the least inflamed person in the world and still get cancer. However, that is not to say it would hurt to reduce your risk of chronic inflammation.
- Exercise regularly. Inactivity puts you at a greater risk of becoming inflamed.
- Try to eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables (but mind your sugar intake!)
- Bad news for keto… high fat diets increase your chances of inflammation.
- If you are obese, try to manage your weight.
- Get around 8 hours of sleep per night.
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