How to Fight Dangerous Inflammation

Research in recent years has demonstrated that chronic, low-grade inflammation actually can evolve into something of a silent killer, according to Harvard Medical School. Scientists have concluded that this type of inflammation contributes to medical ailments and conditions that include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes

Harvard Medical School reports that three out of five people around the world die from diseases linked to chronic inflammation. This bears repeating:

Three out of five people die every year as a result of a medical condition that can be tied to chronic inflammation.

Despite what fairly can be called very grim news, the experts at Harvard Medical School have published a report entitled Fighting Inflammation: The Special Health Report. In this publication, experts from the world-renowned university reveal a set of medical and lifestyle steps that you can take to protect yourself against chronic inflammation and its potentially dire consequences. There are seven primary steps outlined in the publication that can help you beat inflammation:

  1. Eat to beat inflammation
  2. Get physically active
  3. Manage your weight
  4. Get enough sleep
  5. Stop smoking
  6. Limit alcohol consumption
  7. Conquer chronic stress

We will address each of these steps in a moment. Before doing so, we provide some general information about chronic inflammation.

What Is Chronic Inflammation?

“Inflammation is a normal physiological response that causes injured tissue to heal,” according to the National Institutes of Health. The inflammatory process starts when chemicals are released by tissue in the body that has been damaged. The National Institutes of Health explains:

In response, white blood cells make substances that cause cells to divide and grow to rebuild tissue to help repair the injury. Once the wound is healed, the inflammatory process ends.

Chronic inflammation is quite different. The inflammatory process can commence even if there is no bodily injury. In addition, chronic inflammation does not end when it should. Why the inflammation continues is not necessarily known. There are a number of ways in which chronic inflammation may be caused, which include:

  • Infections that don’t go away
  • Abnormal immune reactions to normal tissues
  • Conditions such as obesity

The National Institutes of Health notes that “over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer (and other medical conditions). For example, people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, have an increased risk of colon cancer.”

Signs of Chronic Inflammation

Most people are more familiar with the signs of acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is transient inflammation. That means this type of inflammation does not “stick around.” It comes and goes. Signs of acute inflammation include pain, redness, and swelling.

The signs of chronic inflammation typically are far more subtle. The symptoms of chronic inflammation can be overlooked. With some frequency, symptoms associated with chronic inflammation are actually misdiagnosed. Understanding these complications in identifying the symptoms of chronic inflammation, the most commonplace signs of this condition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal complications like diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent infections

We now return to our primary discussion of recommendations from Harvard Medical School experts about what we can do to fight dangerous chronic inflammation.

Eat to Beat Inflammation

Diet is a fundamental element of fighting chronic inflammation. Some specific foods are demonstrated to be helpful in preventing or addressing chronic inflammation that includes:

  • Olive oil
  • Leafy greens, like kale and spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
  • Nuts
  • Fruits, especially cherries, blueberries, and oranges

Examples of foods that need to be avoided when fighting dangerous inflammation include:

  • Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries
  • Fried foods, like French fries
  • Processed meat, like hot dogs and sausage

Fad diets should be avoided when it comes to a desire to address chronic inflammation. A fad diet is one that you might see promoted on television or online that is not supported by science. One diet regimen that is not a fad and that is worth taking a look at if you are concerned about fighting inflammation and otherwise optimizing your health is the Mediterranean diet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet is:

A way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, are the foundation of the diet. Olive oil is the main source of added fat. Fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry are included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally.

Get Physically Active

Harvard Medical School scholars have determined that a balanced amount of exercise is helpful in preventing or combating chronic inflammation. Too little exercise can lay a foundation for chronic inflammation. Too much exercise can result in a chronic inflammatory response.

Both Harvard and Livestrong recommend six exercises that can be beneficial when it comes to preventing or fighting chronic inflammation:

  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic dance and water aerobics
  • Virtually reality sports
  • Brisk walking
  • Bike riding (evenly paced at moderate speed)

These recommended exercises are all low-impact. Higher-impact exercise has the potential to actually cause an inflammatory response in some instances. In addition, a selected exercise regimen should be undertaken in moderation. Moderation is something of a subjective determination made on a person-by-person basis. A rule of thumb is thirty minutes of exercise like those set forth above five days a week.

Manage Your Weight

Managing weight is another step that needs to be taken to fight dangerous chronic inflammation, according to Harvard Medical School. Two areas of concentration should be cutting refined sugar out of a person’s diet (or reducing its use significantly) and eliminating belly fat.

Matters of weight are a double-edged problem when it comes to chronic inflammation:

  • First, a person who is overweight or obese is at a higher risk for chronic inflammation. Obesity can be a trigger of chronic inflammation.
  • Second, an overweight person who suffers from chronic inflammation can face problems losing weight as a means of fighting dangerous inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause insulin resistance, a condition that reduces the rate a person burns calories.

Utilizing the diet strategies addressed previously in this article can be vital when it comes to addressing weight issues associated with chronic inflammation.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting an appropriate night’s sleep is another crucial element in preventing or eliminating dangerous chronic inflammation. Harvard Medical School sets for the scientific connection between lack of sleep and chronic inflammation:

Sleep deprivation is associated with markers of inflammation, such as increases in inflammatory molecules – includ­ing cytokines, interleukin-6, C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation that’s elevated in people at risk for heart disease and diabetes), and others – among people who weren’t sleeping well. While these signs of inflammation could be attributed to other fac­tors – stress, smoking, or obesity, for example – they do suggest that sleep deprivation plays a role in the inflammatory process. And they could help explain why people who sleep poorly are at risk for cardio­vascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among other chronic conditions.

An adult aged 50 and over should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. The precise way in which lack of sleep contributes to chronic inflammation is unclear. With that said, there is one theory that Harvard Medical School is advancing at this time.

This theory focuses on blood vessels. During sleep, blood pressure drops, and naturally blood vessels relax. When sleep is restricted, blood pressure doesn’t decline as it should. This has the potential to trigger cells in blood vessel walls that activate inflammation. A lack of sleep might also alter the body’s stress response system, which can contribute to chronic inflammation as well.

Stop Smoking

A myriad of reasons exists for you to ditch cigarettes if you are a smoker. You can add one more reason to that lengthy list. Stopping smoking can be extremely beneficial when it comes to fighting dangerous chronic inflammation.

Fighting Inflammation: The Special Health Report explains that stopping smoking can have a truly dramatic effect on chronic inflammation. According to the publication, a person can experience a significant reduction in inflammation within a few weeks of stopping smoking

Limit Alcohol Consumption

According to Harvard Medical School, alcohol consumption doesn’t need to end altogether in order to fight chronic inflammation. Indeed, researchers suggest that a little alcohol consumption might be helpful when it comes to addressing chronic inflammation.

Excessive alcohol consumption does cause chronic inflammation. Over time, this type of inflammation can become severe to the point that hospitalization is required.

A few servings of alcohol at different times during the course of a week is not an amount that would contribute to chronic inflammation. As mentioned, a little alcohol may aid in preventing chronic inflammation for some people.

Conquer Chronic Stress

A significant amount of research in the past 20 years has demonstrated that chronic stress can result in a person suffering from a number of different types of diseases. These include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Depression
  • Cancer

Until rather recently (2017, to be precise), the mechanism through which chronic stress triggered these types of diseases wasn’t known. Researchers have now learned, including the team at Harvard Medical, that chronic inflammation is a common pathway for chronic stress to result in one or another of the diseases mentioned a moment ago.

Armed with this information, you can make important lifestyle adjustments that can have a significant impact on chronic inflammation. You can take steps to protect yourself against serious illness and disease – and even add years to your life.