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Nutrition and Chronic Inflammation

Updated on December 10, 2011

Are You at Risk?

Inflammation is a Normal Healing Process

Inflammation. The word conjures up an image of angry, boiling, red tissue. But inflammation is one of the body’s natural defenses to protect itself from potentially harmful substances and a normal response to injury. When the outer (endothelial) cells of our skin and organs are damaged, the cells nearby send out protein messengers which cause the release of fluid and phagocytes (white blood cells that seek out and destroy invaders) into the nearby area. This creates the swelling, redness, heat and pain that we associate with inflammation. When the invaders are destroyed, the tissue goes back to normal. That is the healing process.

How Chronic Inflammation Make Us Sick

Unfortunately, our sedentary culture, high stress lifestyle and unhealthy, high calorie, low nutrient, refined and processed food diet set us up for chronic inflammation. Our bodies may act as if there is a foreign substance or injury present when there is not. Chronic inflammation can go unnoticed for years. It damages healthy tissue and plays a role in the development of chronic illness, including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel, syndrome, ulcerative colitis, a multitude of auto-immune diseases, and worse. In fact, many researchers suggest that inflammation is the underlying cause of most diseases of aging.

Obesity is a Factor

Obesity is a contributor since fat cells secrete pro-inflammatory phagocytes, specifically Interleukin 6 and Tumor Necrosis Factor. Not only do these macrophages increase inflammation, they reduce our ability to fight inflammation. Chronic inflammation also affects people of normal weight, but who carry a high percentage of body fat. This phenomenon has become an increasing problem in America.

While the population’s health has improved in some areas, the rate of improvement has declined 69% over the past 20 years, according to a recent report published by United Health Foundation. Obesity has increased from 11.6% to 27.5% in the past decade and diabetes has nearly doubled. There is a direct correlation between obesity, insulin resistance (Metabolic Syndrome), Type 2 diabetes and C-Reactive Protein (CRP).

C-Reactive Protein is a Marker

CRP is secreted by the liver, stimulated by the presence of pro-inflammatory proteins. It signals that inflammation exists and can be used to alert physicians of potential heart disease, infection and other chronic disease conditions. CRP levels have been shown to decrease with as little as 5% weight loss. A 10% weight loss has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, as well. Besides facilitating the metabolism of food into energy, Insulin is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Food Allergies May Contribute

Food allergies also promote inflammation. Food sensitivity testing and eliminating the felonious foods may be the answer for some. The top eight food allergens include milk, eggs, wheat, corn, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. Foods in the nightshade family may also offend, such as tomatoes, eggplant, and bell pepper.

Eggplant and Tomatoes are members of the Nightshade family of plants.
Eggplant and Tomatoes are members of the Nightshade family of plants. | Source

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