What is inflammation?
Inflammation refers to the body's natural response to protect itself against infection, illness, and injury. There are two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the more familiar type, which occurs when you bang your knee or cut your finger. It is your bodies normal response to microbes, tissue damage or metabolic stress. Your immune system releases an army of white blood cells that surrounds and protects the area, creating visible redness and swelling. Infections such as the flu trigger a similar response to eliminate harmful pathogens. Acute inflammation is short lasting, maximum a few days. If it is longer lasting, then it is referred to as chronic inflammation. When inflammation becomes chronic it is important to try to get it under control to reduce the risk of long-term damage as your body’s inflammatory response can eventually start damaging healthy cells, tissues, and organs (Arulselvan et al., 2016). When left untreated, prolonged chronic inflammation can increase your risk of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis (Kunnumakkara et a. 2018).
Infection is not the same as inflammation. Infections occur when bacteria, viruses, or fungi invade your body, while inflammation occurs when your body tries to remove those invaders. Inflammation plays a critical role in maintaining your body’s immune system, heart function, and in keeping you healthy. Injuries, over-training, and allergic reactions can also cause inflammation.
How do we know if there is inflammation in our body?
There are simple blood tests that are used to test for inflammation. However, these tests are nonspecific in that they are not diagnostic for a particular condition but rather help identify a generalised inflammatory state. These specific blood tests are good indicators of generalised inflammation. Typical tests include C-reactive protein (CRP) and Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which detect increases in protein in the blood, and white blood cell count, which recognise and destroy invaders.
What can we do to reduce inflammation in our body?
Researchers are discovering that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. Eating ingredients that exert powerful anti-inflammatory properties can play a positive role in managing chronic inflammation.
Foods and ingredients that are potent anti-inflammatories include, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, berries such as blueberries and strawberries, healthy oils such as olive oil and hemp seed oil, dark chocolate and cocoa, vegetables such as tomatoes and broccoli, and bioactives such as curcumin (polyphenol found in turmeric) (He et al., 2015) and cannabidiol (CBD; phytocannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa L.) (Atalay et al., 2020).
In addition to this, regular exercise, keeping stress levels low, and taking supplements such as Vitamins C, D and E can also help reduce the risk of inflammation.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Arulselvan et al. (2016). Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation. Oxid Med Cell Longev, Oct 10
Kunnumakkara, A. B., et al, (2018) “Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked?” Journal of Translational Medicine, doi: 10.1186/s12967-018-1381-2.Hewlings, S.J. and Kalman, D.S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods, 6(10):92.
He, Y., Yue, Y., Zheng, X., Zhang, K., Chen, S., and Du, Z., (2015) “Curcumin, inflammation, and chronic diseases: how are they linked?”, Molecules, 20 (5), 9183-9213.
Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., Skrzydlewska, E. (2020). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel), 9(1):21