Inflammation is something we've all experienced. Its major symptoms are: redness, swelling and heat. But sometimes other things such as fever and chills are present, and in some cases it may seem like you are coming down with a cold or the flu.
Inflammation touches many aspects of our life. It plays an important role in our body, and it's not something we can do without. But even as it protects us, and plays a critical role when we are injured, it can cause serious problems if it gets out of control. When this happens we refer to it as chronic inflammation .
It may seem a little ironic that something so important to our well-being and good health can also ruin our health, and even cause death, but it's true. Chronic inflammation is something you definitely want to avoid. It has attracted a lot of attention lately because scientists have shown that in one way or another it is associated with most major diseases. Heart disease and cancer have both been linked to problems with inflammation. In relation to heart disease, it can cause coronary blockage, and a heart attack. We've been told for years to keep our cholesterol down to avoid the buildup of plaque in our arteries, but scientist now believe that inflammation plays just as important a role as cholesterol and plaque.
Inflammation is also a villain in relation to cancer, particularly in the initiation of cancer. Things are not as clear here, and certainly not all cancers are caused by inflammation. Nevertheless, some of the cells and chemicals involved in inflammation have been shown to create mutations in DNA that can eventually lead to cancer; furthermore, it can also cause pre-cancer cells to become active cancer cells. A few of the cancers known to be associated with inflammation are colon, lung, stomach, esophagus, and breast cancer.
Many other diseases are also associated with inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, MS, lupus, emphysema, and gingivitis are all inflammatory diseases. Indeed, any disease with a name ending with "itis" is an inflammatory disease. A few examples are: bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, hepatitis, and colitis.
When you are injured your body initiates a response that depends to some degree on the type of injury and where it is located, but in general it is characterized by two major components referred to as the cellular and exudative responses. In the cellular response, white blood cells from the blood vessels are rushed to the injured tissue. They are filtered out of the capillaries and quickly engulf and consume any foreign objects such as bacteria or cellular debris; They also help to "wall off" the infection to prevent it from spreading.
In the exudative response there is movement of fluids that contain fibrin and various types of antibodies. Blood vessels are dilated upstream from the infection, and constricted downstream. This causes a swelling in the infected area. Various types of particles and cells are involved in the process; some trigger inflammation, others turn it off. What you don't want is to have too many that trigger inflammation, and too few that turn it off. Once the injury is healed and things have returned to normal the inflammation should go away. If it doesn't you're in trouble, and you should do something about it.
What can you do? For an answer, let's look at some of the major things that lead to chronic inflammation. They are:
1. Our genes.
2. The food we eat, particularly saturated fats.
3. Lack of sleep.
4. Lack of exercise.
5. Polluted air and water.
7. High cholesterol.
We can't do much about our genes, but we can do something about the food we eat. One of the best anti-inflammation agents is omega-3, and one of the best sources of it is fish, particularly salmon and sardines. Aside from fish, you should eat whole grains, nuts and seeds, and vegetables and fruit. Staying physically active is also important, and maintaining proper weight; overweight people are much more susceptible to inflammation. Finally, make sure you get enough sleep, and avoid polluted water and air.