The word “inflammation” traces back to the Latin for “set afire.” In some conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, you feel heat, pain, redness, and swelling. But in other cases — like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes — it’s not so obvious.
If you didn’t go looking for it with tests, you wouldn’t even know it’s there.
It’s not always bad
Inflammation is part of your immune system’s natural response to heal an injury or fight an infection. it actually is good in the short term, but it’s supposed to stop after that.
If it becomes a long-lasting habit in your body, that can be bad for you. Long-term, or “chronic,” inflammation is seen in many diseases and conditions.
Could it lead to a heart attack?
Inflamed arteries are common among people with heart disease. Some researchers think that when fats build up in the walls of the heart’s coronary arteries, the body fires back with inflammatory chemicals, since it sees this as an “injury” to the heart.
That could trigger a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
The diabetes connection
Inflammation and type 2 diabetes are linked, although Doctors don’t know yet if it causes the disease. Some experts say obesity triggers the inflammation, which makes it harder for the body to use insulin.
That may be one reason why losing extra pounds and keeping them off is a key step to lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
Tied to Alzheimer’s
Chronic brain inflammation is often seen in people with this type of dementia. Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how that works, but inflammation may play an active role in the disease.
Experts are studying whether anti-inflammatory medicine will curb Alzheimer’s. So far, the results are mixed.
It can hurt your gut
Chronic inflammation is tied to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are types of inflammatory bowel disease.
It happens when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy bacteria in your gut, and causes inflammation that sticks around. You could have symptoms such as belly pain, cramping, and diarrhoea.
In rheumatoid arthritis it does damage
What many people think of as “arthritis” is osteoarthritis, in which the tissue that cushions joints, cartilage, breaks down, particularly as people age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different. Here the immune system attacks your body’s joints, causing inflammation that can harm them — and even the heart. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and red, warm, swollen joints.
When it happens fast
Sometimes inflammation strikes suddenly when your body is fighting an infection. Maybe it’s cellulitis, a skin infection, or appendicitis, which affects your appendix.
You’ll need to see your doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment initially.
6 Ways to help yourself
There are several critical areas where you can make a difference. Diet, exercise, the right supplements and keeping at a healthy weight are all important.
1 How your diet matters
Your diet will affect how much inflammation you have. Get plenty of fruits vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts).
The omega-3s in fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna can help reduce inflammation. Fish oil can help, too. Include healthier oils, like olive oil as part of your daily intake.
People who are low on vitamin D also tend to have more inflammation than others.
Also eat foods with probiotics, like yoghurt but choose those with no or little sugar. Limit saturated fats, found in meats, whole-fat dairy products, and processed foods.
2 Stay active >
Even if you have a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis in which inflammation is a problem, exercise is still good for you. If you make it a habit, it pays off in many ways.
For instance, it helps you stick to a healthy weight, which is another good way to keep inflammation in check. Ask your doctor what types of activities are best for you.
3 Get some sleep!
You need to get your rest as research shows that when healthy people are sleep-deprived, they have more inflammation.
Exactly how that works isn’t clear, but it may be related to the stress the body is put under when not getting optimum rest.
4 Smoking makes it worse
If you are still a smoker, then unfortunately this is guaranteed to raise inflammation. Like most people who try to kick the habit, it may take you several tries before you quit for good — but it will definitely benefit your health in more ways than one.
5 Spices hold promise
Ginger root has anti-inflammation benefits, and so do cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and turmeric. Scientists are studying how much it takes to make a difference.
These spices are safe to enjoy in foods but check with your doctor if using them as supplements as there may be contraindications for any medicine you may be taking.
6 Progesterone and inflammation
Although many women use progesterone to help with menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and mood swings, it is also an anti-inflammatory and so can be very helpful if you are also dealing with such conditions.
Keeping weight down is a critical element in dealing with inflammation, so progesterone can also help you there too.