When we speak of inflammation, our mind often pictures redness, heat, swelling and pain, such as when you fall and hurt your arm. Or even the inflammation that can come from a mozzie bite. This type of inflammation is referred to as acute. It has a purpose and is a productive and short-lived condition that helps to heal the body. However, today we are going to talk about an entirely different type of inflammation, chronic systemic inflammation. Let’s take a deep dive into what this is and how it profoundly impacts your health, wellness and ageing.
Chronic inflammation doesn’t develop overnight. It is a long-term condition, taking years to develop fully. A recent article on this topic cites the following causes to chronic inflammatory states (1):
- An acute state of illness, with infection that remains behind after the initial
- Recurrent exposure to an irritant or foreign matter. This could be chemicals inhaled through work or things like undiagnosed food intolerances and lifestyle irritants such as perfumes, body products, chemicals in the air etc.
- Autoimmunity conditions, there are many of these.
- Inflammatory disease states that cause oxidative stress in the body. Examples include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and allergies.
The body is always looking for danger when chronic inflammation is present. This constant state of alertness causes a considerable amount of stress in itself, adding to oxidative damage and inflammation. Over time this can impact the function of organs, DNA and also accelerate signs of ageing (2). Skin, moods, joints and overall wellness are drained by the constant inflammatory state, causing breakdowns and malfunctions.
A long term and untreated state of chronic inflammation causes what is called ‘inflammaging’. Basically, the ageing process is drastically increased, prodded on by the presence of smouldering and unrelenting inflammation. Many varied factors play into this, including immune reactivity changes and elevated levels of pro-inflammatory compounds; both of these states driving inflammaging and age-related diseases (ARD) (3).
Whilst none of the above sounds encouraging, there is a lot that we can do about it. First let’s look at the leading causes of chronic inflammation and inflammaging, and then we will discuss ways to mitigate them.
The following are some of the main culprits that cause chronic inflammation and inflammaging to occur (4):
- Stress and anxiety, this is huge!
- Obesity, specifically central obesity in the
- Poor gut health and disruptions to the microbiome through antibiotics, poor food, infections
- Chronic infections that go undetected for long periods of time
- Lack of quality sleep
- Lack of exercise
This list includes a number of lifestyle factors, which means that we can work on these to still the fires created by chronic inflammation. Recent research has shown that healthy lifestyle interventions can slow and, in some cases, reverse the progression of chronic inflammation and inflammaging (5). Fantastic news!
How to prevent and treat inflammation
Food is a truly powerful ally when it comes to preventing and treating inflammation. Yes, it’s truly that powerful! Anti-inflammatory eating is based on wholefood principles, eating food the way that nature intended it to be eaten and cutting out all processed foods. This is something we cover in-depth in the Metabolic Balance program, so if you’re interested in learning more about this please get in touch with me.
Managing stress and anxiety is also super important when it comes to managing inflammation. This is because chronic stress increases cortisol in the blood, a stress hormone that ramps up inflammatory pathways. It also keeps you in a vicious cycle of stress, and more stress, which makes it very hard to get out of. Some beautiful lifestyle practices that can help you reach moments of calm include things like:
- Yoga or tai chi
- Full body relaxations – you can find these on YouTube
- Journal writing
- Spending time in nature
- A good cup of tea!
Exercise is another crucial factor in reducing inflammation. Too much strenuous exercise will add to your inflammatory load. However gentle rejuvenating practices like walking, slow swimming, yoga and tai chi are known to reduce stress and improve mental health. Find a way of moving that you love and do it as often as you can – at least 3 times a week is a good aim.
In conclusion, inflammation that becomes chronic and unchecked can wreak havoc on your health, lead to disease states and drastically increase ageing. However, many of the factors that increase inflammation in the body are lifestyle related. This is great news, because it means with dietary improvements and lifestyle adjustments, we can really dampen systemic inflammation and even halt it in its tracks. One of the best ways to do this is with the Metabolic Balance Program, which is aimed at getting to the bottom of your health concerns in a truly unique and individualised way.
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