If you examine top medical journals right now, you would see that most, or even all of them, would make mentioned multiple times of something called “chronic systemic inflammation”. This type of inflammation is extremely detrimental to our health and well-being. However, it is important to understand that all inflammation is not bad. Some is quite necessary.
Inflammation is indeed a very complicated part of physiology. During this process, our bodies respond, for example during an injury, with an acute inflammatory response. We can use the example of a bee sting. The body will react to the harmful stimulus by inflaming or swelling around the area of the sting. This is the body’s attempt to remove whatever is harming it, in this case the stinger. Once the stinger removed, inflammation is reduced and tissue repair begins.
As you can see, this is a positive attempt to remove something negative and to start something positive: healing. Without inflammation, wounds and infections will never heal properly. So in this case, inflammation is a good thing and needed for proper maintenance of the body. In addition, inflammation is certainly involved in the recovery process from exercise.
It is chronic inflammation that becomes problematic.
You will notice that acute inflammation is the body’s immediate response to harmful stimuli. When we speak of chronic inflammation, we are talking about the body’s response to chronic stimuli of over-eating and excess body fat. In both of these conditions, the larger fat cells become the “harmful stimuli” that is causing the inflammatory response.
As larger fat cells dominate, extra fat accumulates, and inflammation continues. As we know, some people accumulate excess fat much easier than others. The response, though, is the same.
Prolonged systemic inflammation is associated with many conditions including: hypertension, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature aging. Further, chronic inflammation has been linked to many of the causes and risk for development of cancer.
What causes chronic inflammation?
Obesity, over-eating, and even over-exercising are all common causes of chronic inflammation. The body is simply overwhelmed by inflammation and cannot keep up with the process. The problem begins with insulin and blood glucose levels. The higher the chronic levels of insulin, the higher the inflammation.
People who are chronically inflamed will have elevated biomarkers in the following categories: C-reactive proteins, insulin, blood glucose, leptin, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Additionally other inflammatory markers which will be elevated to include interleukin-6 and interleukin-18.
How to Reduce Chronic Inflammation
The key to reducing inflammation is found in being in the “rested state” more often. This applies both to being over-fed, being over-exercised, and even over-stimulated. Dr. Mark and I routinely practice intermittent fasting. This consists of fairly routine periods of 18 hours without food. We also limit our high intensity exercise sessions to no more than 2 to 3 times per week. Yes, we exercise on other days; it is just not always high intensity.
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Most inflammation comes from ingesting inflammatory foods. Those include: sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, fast foods, excess caffeine, and excess alcohol. Many times, other foods can be inflammatory as well: gluten, grains, dairy, soy, corn, and yeast.
Simply put, if we eat less often, select better foods, and exercise appropriately, chronic inflammation can become an afterthought. By doing these three things, biomarkers will improve as will overall health.