What is Inflammation? We have been hearing this term tossed around more and more these days. But are you aware of what inflammation is, what causes it and how to prevent it?
Inflammation comes from the Latin word inflamatio, meaning to set on fire. It is your body’s natural response to harmful stimuli (physical or immune) for protection against injury and aid in the healing process. Inflammation is used as a protective mechanism in some instances; we actually need this inflammatory process. Without the inflammatory process, all of our wounds and inflections would never heal properly and would progressively get worse.
Acute vs. chronic Inflammation:
Types of Inflammation include acute, your initial response to harmful stimuli, and chronic, your response over a period of time to continued harmful stimuli.
Acute Inflammation may last seconds, minutes, or a few days. Cuts, scraps, bruises or acute muscle spasms are examples of acute inflammation. An acute micro-trauma may over time become a chronic inflammatory process that people state as “normal pain.” This is an oxymoron to me. Is pain actually normal? Should we ever get use to these small aches and pains? The answer is no! These “normal” aches and pains can and in most cases do become serious injuries or diseases.
Chronic Inflammation on the other hand has a prolonged response and may last months to years. Yes, years! That old shoulder injury from picking up your groceries, the poor posture that gives you headaches or shoulder and back pain, the elbow you hurt while working out 3 months ago. All of these are examples of the chronic inflammatory process that most of us chalk up to “getting old” or “normal aches and pains” that are not normal, but instead not being treated properly.
Examples of chronic inflammation that are sometimes ignored and can become infected are cuts, scrapes, and bruises. Other examples include car accident, accidents/falls, muscle tears, sprain/strains, and long term muscle spasms that have lasted more than 1 week or have occurred on more than one occasion, and those injuries that become the result of an underlying joint or muscular condition from a repetitive micro-trauma.
The dangers of chronic inflammation are significant. Inflammation that is ignored, unchecked or not treated it may lead to a variety of illnesses, diseases, and decreased physical abilities, such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic sprain/strains, chronic muscle spasms, chronic joint dysfunctions, and increase the chances of pulled muscles and muscle weakness. Chronic inflammation can also cause an imbalance between the major systems of our bodies: the central nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and respiratory system can all become affected by poor nutritional and dietary means.
Another source of inflammation that is gaining speed in our population these days is poor nutrition and dietary habits. This is fueled by eating pro-inflammatory (causing inflammation) foods. These pro-inflammatory foods can lead to chronic pain and disease. There are many researched diseases connected to inflammation. Cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease are among the most popular. Examples of pro-inflammatory foods, and thus foods you should try to avoid on a regular basis are non whole wheat or rye bagels, Breads, rolls, baked goods, and flour. Candy, cakes, cookies, and muffins are all inflammatory properties causing free radical damages and excitotoxin release. Others include cornstarch, corn bread, corn muffins, corn syrup, croissants, doughnuts, fast food, fruit juices, fried foods, sugar, and most snack foods. But not to be worried, there are plenty of anti-inflammatory (preventing inflammation) foods. Fruits, vegetables, water and green tea, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, fish and extra virgin olive oil are all a few examples.
So what are some other sources of inflammation?
Decreased Physical Activity and sedentary lifestyles may lead to a decreased function of the body, causing inflammation to take place. Toxins are stored in fat cells, so burning fat releases the toxins. So, if you are one of the millions of Americans getting less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, you are causing inflammation to occur in your body. Did you know that when you perform physical activity endorphins are released that are natural anti-inflammatory? Balances in insulin levels are sustained; there is an increases muscle metabolism which can decrease body fat percentage over a period of time.
Poor lifestyle habits and foreign substances an also cause our immune system to become overloaded and lead to inflammation, mostly chronic, that can lead to other diseases and disorders. Smoking, recreational drug use and excessive alcohol and caffeine are all examples.
How do you treat and prevent inflammation?
Taking proper care of the muscles, joints and systems of your body will help you prevent inflammation. In a chiropractic office you would receive, after a full evaluation, manual therapy and rehabilitation, neuromuscular re-education, therapeutic exercises, strengthening and stretching programs and adjustments/joint function restoration for your physical inflammatory pains, such as an injury or for chronic muscles spasms and muscle tenderness. Nutritional consultations are done for those suffering from aches and pains brought on by not just outside forces and posture, but also by the improper sources of food they are feeding their bodies. This may consist of adding better foods (anti-inflammatory) to your diet, decreasing and eliminating poor foods and adding supplements to your diet.
Overall, if you want to prevent the inflammatory process you need to pay careful attention to the foods you are eating and their affects on the body. Increase your physical activity and, if needed, weight loss will improve your overall health and wellness. Decreasing or eliminating those poor lifestyle habits will increased immune function and decreased inflammatory responses to un-necessary stimuli. This is your body, treat it right.
Dr Tonya Ingalls, D.C.
Categories : Fitness News