Posts Tagged ‘inflammation’

sprained-ankle-sprain-6872471-hHave you ever sprained an ankle? Stepped on a nail? Burned your hand on the iron or oven? If so, you’ve experienced inflammation. Inflammation is a normal, healthy response to injury; it is your body’s first “responder.” In the same way that an EMT at an accident scene begins to triage various injuries, your body has a process it goes through to heal itself. Pain, swelling, redness, and a feeling of warmth or heat are all signs of inflammation.

When you get injured, vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) begins. This allows increased blood flow to the injury site, which is why the injured area turns red and feels warm. Present in the extra blood flowing to the injured tissue are plasma and leukocytes. Plasma provides extra fluid to your injured tissues, which explains the swelling. Leukocytes mop up pathogens and direct the healing process. Finally, the body releases an inflammatory marker that is your pain indicator.

No one likes to feel pain, but if an injured area didn’t hurt, you’d be tempted to keep using it and then your body would not have the time it needs to heal itself. In a nutshell, all of these sensations are annoying and painful, but necessary for proper healing. Picture in your mind an inflammation “light” switch. When you’re injured, your body flips it on. When you’ve healed, your body flips it off.

HOWEVER, if the inflammation response doesn’t flip off after the injury heals, bigger issues emerge. Instead of being an acute response to an injury, inflammation becomes a chronic, on-going problem. In the same way you don’t leave all the lights on in your house 24/7 because (a) you don’t need them on, and (b) it would be expensive; you don’t want your inflammation response switch stuck in the “on” setting. The inflammation process breaks tissue down before building it back up; if it is never turned off, it will start to target healthy tissue. What causes the switch to get stuck in the “on” position in some people?

Diet. Repeated intake of processed carbs, trans fat, sugar, and sodium in foods may trigger inflammation.

Not enough Omega 3’s. Healthy fat from fish helps reduce inflammation.

Lack of sleep. Getting too little sleep, for a variety of reasons.

Not being physically active. Sedentary behavior is strongly linked to inflammation.

Stress. Sustained stress requires constant, physiological inflammation response.

Tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Ditto. Sustained use of both requires constant, physiological inflammatory response.

Why is long-term inflammation a problem?
The unrelenting urge to heal keeps the body in a constant state of repair. There are serious consequences to this dilemma. Your “regular” immune response, which would normally handle your daily exposure to bacteria, viruses, and fungus, is compromised because it is too busy dealing with the inflammation. It’s sort of like when a mother has a second child and is so busy tending to the baby that she has no time to supervise the older toddler. Eventually there is going to be a major meltdown or crisis. Long term inflammation in the body can lead to conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, chronic fatigue or pain, and cancer.

How can you tell if you have chronic inflammation?
A CRP (C-Reactive Protein) test will tell you and your doctor if you have chronic inflammation. It is not a test that is automatically included in, say, a blood-lipid profile; it must be specifically requested.

What should you do to help yourself reduce inflammation?Brent Bauer, an internal medicine physician for the Mayo Clinic, says that “inflammation diets that advise us to avoid certain foods are very similar to the Mediterranean Diet. If we choose fruits, vegetables, olive or canola oils, plenty of fish, and very little red meat, we’ll be fairly healthy, and possibly experience less inflammation.” Also, try to reduce stress, increase sleep time, and get moderate amounts of physical activity. Too much intense exercise can actually increase inflammation.

Written by:
Donna Green, BS, MA
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by:
Liz Smith, M.S., RDN, L.D.
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension


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