Updated: Nov 16
Chronic inflammation, a persistent and low-grade immune response, has emerged as a key player in the development of various chronic illnesses. Unlike the temporary inflammation associated with, say, the redness to be found around a small cut or a burn, chronic inflammation acts on a system wide basis. Chronic inflammation is related to a number of conditions including:
Autoimmune diseases, for example, rheumatoid arthritis
Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure
Gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
Lung diseases, for example, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Mental illnesses, such as depression
Metabolic diseases, for example, Type 2 diabetes
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease
If you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle. Links to any supporting studies are at the end of page.
Central to understanding inflammation are biomarkers called cytokines, proteins released by cells have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells. Commonly measured pro-inflammatory markers are: C-reactive protein (CRP), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α). Each offers an insight into the body's inflammatory state.
CRP, produced by the liver in response to inflammation, serves as a reliable indicator of systemic inflammation. Elevated CRP levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and other many chronic conditions.
IL-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine, plays a dual role. It is essential for the acute inflammatory response, however, prolonged elevation can be related to infection, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
TNF-α, another cytokine, regulates immune responses and, when overproduced, fuels chronic inflammation implicated in autoimmune disorders, psoriasis, arthritis, even diabetes.
Several factors can tip the body’s balance towards chronic inflammation. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as a sedentary routine and a diet rich in processed foods, can trigger inflammation. Excess body weight, particularly abdominal fat, acts as a reservoir for inflammatory chemicals. Smoking (and smoke), burnt or fried foods also inflict damage. Stress and poor sleep further fuel the inflammatory cascade.
Several lifestyle modifications can act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents, reducing inflammation:
A diet rich in fruits, berries, vegetables, herbs, spices and omega-3 fatty acids possesses anti-inflammatory properties, countering the effects of a pro-inflammatory diet. Look towards enjoying eating practices that are in keeping with your tastes, whether Mediterranean, Asian or other.
Reduce or avoid processed foods, refined grains, packaged breakfast cereals, flour; fried or heavily browned foods. Avoid soft, sugar sweetened drinks.
Stress management also plays a crucial role in modulating inflammation. Chronic stress, day-in day-out, activates the release of stress hormones. Incorporating relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, breath work, a walk in the park or hanging out with your friends, can counteract these effects.
Balancing the gut microbiota is another key factor in mitigating chronic inflammation. The gut plays a pivotal role in regulating the immune system and an imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to systemic inflammation. A fibre-rich (prebiotic rich) diet fosters a healthy gut microbiome, reducing inflammation.
Understanding and monitoring these biomarkers provide valuable insights into one's health status. Routine measurements of CRP levels can serve as an early warning system, signalling the need for lifestyle modifications. Similarly, IL-6 and TNF-α assessments can provide a more comprehensive picture of inflammation, aiding in targeted interventions.
Chronic inflammation is a silent precursor to various health issues. Lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, stress management and gut health, play pivotal roles in either promoting or curbing chronic inflammation. At the Whole Health Practice we work with our clients to promote health through lifestyle, perhaps we can support your journey to health too?
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