Inflammation: The Covert Killer
It’s more than just a buzz word. While inflammation is your body’s natural response to fighting infection and healing wounds, it can also lead to long-term and even deadly serious health issues. “Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
We can experience two types of inflammation: acute inflammation is the immune system’s immediate and necessary response to threats like injury or bacteria. Commonly we will see red swelling around a sprained ankle or maybe a red, puffy eye when a toxin enters that needs to be flushed. This type of inflammation is safe and helpful. Chronic inflammation is when the inflammation lingers, the body thinks it is still under attack, and white blood cells continue to attack tissues that are not a threat at all, creating serious long-term damage with symptoms that can be easily misdiagnosed.
- Body pain, arthralgia, myalgia
- Chronic fatigue and insomnia
- Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
- Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Balance problems
- Insulin resistance
- Muscle weakness
- Lower back pain
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are no highly effective laboratory measures to assess patients for chronic inflammation and diagnoses are only undertaken when the inflammation occurs in association with another medical condition. In other words, much harmful chronic inflammation isn’t identified or treated until a serious health issue has already developed. Some of these can include arthritis, IBS, and even asthma.
This means prevention is key.
What Can We Do?
Especially in recent years, the balanced, comprehensive plant-based diet (one that excludes animal products) is evidenced to be an extremely effective way to reduce and even eliminate chronic inflammation.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study published in Public Health and Nutrition showed that people who followed a vegan diet had significantly lower CRP levels. CRP stands for C-reactive protein. CRP is a marker for chronic inflammation.
You Are What You Eat
Even if you’re not ready to make a full transition to a plant-based diet, reducing foods that cause inflammation is a great way to start. These include added sugars, trans and saturated fats, red and processed meats, refined carbs, and oils high in omega-6.
Now let’s focus on filling up on foods high in antioxidants that are known to fight inflammation. They include:
- nuts and seeds
- turmeric (curcumin)
- extra virgin olive oil
- dark green leafy vegetables
- brown rice
- onions & garlic
- soy protein
Based on this list, one can see why those eating diets rich with fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich natural foods are living longer, healthier lives.
Still not convinced?
This jaw-dropping statement by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health and subsequent case study findings cited may do the job:
“Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. We present a case study as an example of the potential health benefits of such a diet. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, high cholesterol levels can be a solid indicator of possibly dangerous inflammation. The Oxford Vegetarian Study recruited 6,000 vegetarians and found that non–meat eaters had significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol concentrations.
The body of evidence continues to grow in favor of a balanced plant-based diet, already naturally low in saturated fats, toxins, and cholesterol which all contribute significantly to chronic inflammation.
Enjoy that “powerhouse” smoothie, try the alternative milk (they’re delicious!), and support your local farmer’s market. The benefits are truly bountiful.