Author: Darrell Miller
Inflammation is a normal part of the body's defense against pathogens. The increase in body temperature, flood of toxic free radicals and inflammation-signaling proteins, and release of killer macrophage cells are the main signs of an inflammatory event that is the body's long-established means of defending against a clear and present danger. This adaptive response can now become a cause for debilitating disease. It is even thought that the aging process may be linked to the very defense mechanism that keeps us healthy when we are young. As we grow older, our ability to regulate inflammation begins to diminish. Instead of protecting us, inflammation becomes silent and systemic, allowing degenerative disease to take root. The symptoms of silent inflammation are extremely different from acute inflammation of redness, heat, swelling, and pain, and can lie undetected until it has been around for far too long.
Silent inflammation causes the body to turn on itself, as its immune system begins attacking its own organs. Over time, inflammatory cytokines such as C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and inflammation producing eicosanoids like prostaglandin E-2 and leukotrienes B-4, start to destroy tissue all over the body. In response to this attack, the body produces even more inflammatory cytokines and free radicals, which creates a self-perpetuating cycle. Silent inflammation damages arteries, destroys nerve cells and organs, compromises the immune system, and promotes cancerous growths. Despite how well they feel today, those with silent inflammation are on a fast track toward degenerative disease. On the good side, preventative measures that are taken today to reduce inflammation can prevent degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's tomorrow.
When there are equal numbers of good and bad eicosanoids, a state of wellness is able to prevail within the body. However, when they become chronically unbalanced, many problems result. This balance is, interestingly, highly dependant upon the level of insulin that is found in the body. High insulin levels, whether they are induced by sugar overload, the onset of insulin resistance, or the hormonal effects of excess fat, set the stage for systematic inflammation. As insulin levels climb, oxidative stress increases dramatically, causing the production of inflammatory cytokines. Along with being too high in refined sugar, the average North American diet is filled with inflammation-promoting fats and scarce in inflammation-reducing omega-3 fats; the consequence of this chronic fatty acid imbalance in an increase in systemic inflammation.
As inflammation rises, so does the production of cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands and is intricately involved in the body's response to stress. In an attempt to reduce inflammation, cortisol increases blood pressure, elevates blood-sugar levels, and suppresses the immune system. This means that systemic inflammation produces chronically elevated levels of cortisol, which then place a heavy physiological burden on all organs, causing a dramatic increase on the risk of degenerative disease.
Fortunately, changing the balance within the body to favor the production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids can be achieved through a conscious dietary change. By simply increasing your dietary intake of fatty fish, eating raw nuts and grains rich in healthy fats, and supplementing with a high-quality cold-pressed fish oil or flaxseed oil, and concurrently decreasing your intake of red meats, eggs, high-glycemic foods, and foods high in saturated fats, chronic inflammation can be reduced greatly. Vitamin supplements can boost ones antioxidant intake and help fight inflammation as well. Quality vitamins are available at your local or internet health food store.
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