Pretty much everyone has heard the term ‘inflammation’ being thrown around when referring to the body. You may not know that inflammation is a double-edged sword. Better explained, acute inflammation is something that you’d have if you cut yourself, for instance. Your cells would work hard right at the site of your injury to bring in other helper cells to heal your wound. In the process, you’d see redness and some swelling around the area. That’s acute inflammation. Oh, and it can be painful.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a whole different animal. The kind of animal that can slowly eat at you until something gives. Yup, long-standing inflammation is the building block for every chronic disease we know. Wow. And it can develop from an infectious microbe, a constant irritant or a chemical toxin. Our bodies try to fend these invaders off, but they aren’t always successful. As in an autoimmune condition, the body reacts with inflammation toward its own tissues as though they were the enemy, and thereby harms rather than heals those tissues.
The most surprising thing is that even poor lifestyle habits can promote ongoing inflammation. Obviously, smoking would be way up there with bad inflammatory choices. But did you know that even leading a sedentary life with minimal physical exercise can contribute to it? And if that comes as a shock, brace yourself: eating processed foods (as opposed to whole plant foods) will also cause your body to be chronically inflamed. If your body is being subjected to inflammation because of lifestyle choices the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and even obstructive pulmonary disease increases. These diseases are some of the primary causes of deaths worldwide.
The thing is- chronic inflammation is stealthy. You won’t feel the same acute pain or swelling and redness. There are no big warning signs.
In terms of lifestyle, a great way to avoid systemic chronic inflammation is by simply adopting a Whole Food Plant-Based way of living. It’s good for your head down to your toes and you never have to wonder if you’re doing the right thing. With a little help and support, it’s totally doable and makes you feel great.
More interesting stuff in future blogs!
Kelly Weichsel-Arya, RN, DipABLM