Inflammation is the result of your immune system’s response to injury or damage—a normal and healthy start to the body’s healing process. Acute inflammation refers to the body’s immediate response to an injury (such as a cut), resulting in temporary redness and swelling. Chronic inflammation, however, occurs when the body continues to send out inflammatory cells when there is no immediate damage or danger.
Since chronic inflammation can play a role in several different disease states—from cancer, heart disease and diabetes to Alzheimer’s, asthma and lung disease—it’s important to understand the role inflammation plays in your health and what you can do to manage it.
Understanding the role of chronic inflammation in your health
Chronic inflammation is involved in many different diseases. With certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory cells attack healthy tissue, causing damage to joints. Nearly 60 million Americans live with arthritis alone, which represents approximately 24% of the adult population.
Over time, chronic inflammation may also cause DNA damage, which can increase the risk of developing cancer.
Considering these risks, and the role that chronic inflammation plays in so many different health conditions, it is estimated that 3 in 5 people worldwide die due to complications from chronic inflammatory diseases.
So, how can you manage chronic inflammation and prevent the health risks it may bring?
Chronic inflammation and lifestyle habits
If you live with chronic inflammation, it’s important to discuss symptom management and disease prevention with your doctor and/or health coach.
Together, you can reflect upon some of the lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your inflammation, such as:
- Exposure to toxins
- Chronic stress
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Lack of exercise
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Excessive drinking
Fight inflammation with a healthful diet
Some foods can increase inflammation in the body, while others have more anti-inflammatory effects.
Foods that can increase inflammation include fried foods, cured meats, trans fats, refined carbs and sugars. Following a Mediterranean-style diet, on the other hand—which is rich in fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), olives, olive oil, nuts and dark, leafy green veggies—may help decrease inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables can also have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, as many of them contain polyphenols, which are disease-fighting compounds that can help protect against the development of certain cancers, heart disease and other chronic inflammatory diseases.
Here are some fruits and veggies to put on your next grocery list:
- Chili peppers
- Red cabbage
- Berries (all varieties)