Haims: Inflammation – the good and the bad
In general, inflammation is good. However, when inflammation is bad, it’s very bad. Inflammation is good when it is the body’s response to tissue damage or the invasion of a harmful intruder like a toxin, bacteria, virus, or even a splinter.
Inflammation is bad when it becomes chronic (long-term) and has the potential to cause diseases like obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, blood vessel disease, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s.
When inflammation lasts for a short duration (a few days), it is called acute inflammation. This is the body’s short-term response and attempts to fix a localized effect. When acute inflammation occurs, the body produces proteins, white blood cells, hormones, and nutrients that are carried from the circulatory system to the site of the problem. This type of inflammation is a protective healing process. As the body heals, the acute inflammation gradually subsides.
Conversely, when the duration of inflammation last longer, this is called chronic inflammation. Although acute inflammation is a healing process, chronic inflammation is most often just the opposite. As inflammation persists for weeks, months, or even longer periods of time, white blood cells often end up causing harm to healthy tissue.
As inflammation persists, it often contributes to the progression of many chronic diseases affecting physical and cognitive health. Some of the physical health issues associated with chronic disease are heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The link between inflammation and cognition is complicated and somewhat unclear as it is difficult to be sure about cause and effect. Dr. Robert H. Shmerling from Harvard Medical School says: “It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, does chronic inflammation increase the risk of these ailments, or is it a byproduct?”
Daniela Kaufer, a University of California at Berkeley professor of integrative biology and Alon Friedman of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Dalhousie University in Canada have been studying inflammation in the brain cognitive decline for some time. In a publication from the journal Science Translational Medicine, Mr. Kaufer stated, “We tend to think about the aged brain in the same way we think about neurodegeneration: Age involves loss of function and dead cells. But our new data tell a different story about why the aged brain is not functioning well: It is because of this ‘fo’ of inflammatory load. But when you remove that inflammatory fog, within days the aged brain acts like a young brain. It is a really, really optimistic finding, in terms of the capacity for plasticity that exists in the brain. We can reverse brain aging.”
One of the best counter measures we can do to prevent or reduce chronic inflammation is exercise. Both observational studies and controlled trials have shown that exercise suppresses production of proteins that have harmful effects on inflammation. Further, exercise increase the production of certain molecules that play an important role in inducing anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms
Foods are anther powerful tool to assisting in fighting inflammation. By choosing to avoid certain types of food and integrating others, you can make a profound difference to your ability to fend off chronic inflammation.
Here are some of the foods that combat inflammation: tomatoes, fruits (berries, oranges) olive oil, green leafy, vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts (almonds and walnuts), fatty fish (salmon, tuna,) omega-3 fatty acids; high-fiber foods; and foods high in zinc and magnesium.
Here are some of the foods that exacerbate inflammation: sugar, saturated fats (dairy, fatty meat), refined carbohydrates (fruit juices, pastries, white bread), processed meats (sausage, deli meats high in sodium)
Physical, cognitive, and emotional health can all be tied to chronic inflammation. When you get too tired of the boob tube, go online and educate yourself about inflammation. Do a search for terms like, “health risk of inflammation,” “chronic inflammation symptoms,” or “reducing inflammation in the body.”
When diet and exercise are not accomplishing what you need, consider talking to your medical provider. There are prescription medications that have proven to be helpful in mitigating inflammation.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Vail, Beaver Creek, and throughout Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User