Creative Eldering: Inflammation: The Anti-Youthing Agent
Modern research is still in the process of connecting all of the dots between excess inflammation and numerous disease processes such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases including dementia and even cancer, but it is already widely accepted that the presence of excessive inflammation in your body is problematic.
In some cases, inflammation is a normal and protective immune system reaction when your body is in distress. This inflammation process can express itself on a spectrum from mild to devastating. When foreign or unrecognized particles, chemicals, or organisms invade your body, your body’s defense mechanisms are chemically triggered. This activates your immune system to protect your body by creating inflammation.
For example, if you are dicing a jalapeno to put in your homemade guacamole, and unthinkingly wipe the corner of your eye, you will immediately trigger an immune response to the presence of a foreign chemical in or near your eye. The blood vessels of your eye will dilate and a greater blood supply will come to that area of your body. The protective, biochemical, and cellular factors that are always in your bloodstream congregate at “trouble spots” when a specific area of your body initiates the call for help.
When you experience trauma or injury, this also typically triggers inflammation. The quick action by your immune system is beneficial in assisting acute trauma and injuries heal.
T-cells act as the “soldiers” of your immune system and come to the site of inflammation prepared to kill the invading bacteria or viruses. Other biological and biochemical components of your “traveling immune system,” such as white blood cells, T-cell cytokines and others, are also present to dilute, squelch or neutralize foreign chemicals and particles.
Your “stationary immune system” includes your bone marrow, thymus, spleen, tonsils, appendix and lymph nodes. These glands and organs are found throughout your body. Your bone marrow and thymus give birth to the white cells of your immune system; while the other glands and organs give them lodging and/or nurturance.
When you experiencing chronic inflammation, such as that associated with a chronic disease process like advanced arthritis, lupus, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or neurological degenerative disease, your body is in constant distress. Proactively looking for methods that reduce your inflammation and discovering and eliminating your inflammation triggers can be quite helpful in these instances.
Unhealthy lifestyle patterns and choices can lead to unnecessary “background inflammation”, much like a backyard full of clutter and worthless debris. Once you proactively clear out the rusted or broken tricycles, sandboxes, lawn chairs and trash, you can once again enjoy your cleaned up and now functional backyard.
Removing “background inflammation” from your own body may actually take a little more work than clearing out a metaphoric backyard. The first step you can make is to pay attention to how your body reacts to foods, beverages, aromas, dust, cleaning products, pet dander, and other potential allergens. You can then take proactive steps to eliminate the items that cause your irritation.
The second step you may take is to take an inventory of your dietary practices and include anti-inflammatory foods. Chapters 5 and 6 in Your Aging Body Can Talk will provide more information and nutritional guidelines.
A quick recap of the concepts you will find in those chapters is to focus on eating purely and simply. Avoiding processed foods, added chemicals, and preservatives while enriching your diet with natural, unadulterated foods boosts your nutritional intake and helps your body eliminate toxins and foreign substances that could trigger your inflammatory response team. Remembering to include adequate, even copious, amounts of purified water can help decrease inflammation within your body by flushing out extra toxins from your system while assisting all of your metabolic functions to work optimally.
Foods known to minimize inflammation are numerous. These foods include almonds, apples avocados, blueberries, broccoli, celery, coconut oil, cucumbers, flaxseed oil, garlic, ginger, green tea, kale, leafy greens, oranges, pomegranates, quinoa, raspberries, seaweed, walnuts, walnut oil and wild salmon. Of course, it is best if you find organic and pesticide-free versions of these items.
Several herbs can also assist with decreasing or diminishing inflammation, but you should check with your healthcare practitioner if you are taking medications before including any of these herbs into your daily routine. Inflammation reducing herbs include aloe vera, burdock root, cat’s claw, celery seed, devil’s claw, Hawthorne, stinging nettles and turmeric.
Turmeric is likely the most famous of these herbs. It is responsible for the bright yellow color in curries and mustards. Turmeric assists your body in cleansing and in squelching inflammation. You can buy a shaker of organic turmeric in your health food store quite inexpensively. Turmeric makes scrambled eggs a much brighter yellow and adds anti-inflammatory power to this popular breakfast food. You can also make a simple salad dressing of flaxseed or olive oil with balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and a liberal amount of turmeric. This dressing can be used on salads, steamed vegetables and even added to soups.
A few supplemental nutrients helpful in reducing excessive inflammation are high quality, pure, natural vitamin C supplements, quercetin, vitamin B 12, omega-3 oil, digestive enzymes, colostrum, and probiotics.
Another step in correcting unhealthy lifestyle patterns that contribute to troublesome “background inflammation” was covered in the previous article in this series “And Trash The Rest: Detoxing for Longevity” That article broached the topic of detoxifying and cleansing your living environment and your physical body. The key concept to remember is to surround yourself with the least toxic and most natural items that you possibly can. This includes your bedding, clothing, cleaning products, construction materials and all other imaginable items that you encounter on a daily basis.
One additional helpful hint to defend your body against problematic inflammation is to allow yourself sufficient rest and sleep. During sleep your body automatically works on detoxifying, rebuilding and restoring itself. As you eat, drink and sleep in more healthful ways may you minimize excess inflammation and maximize your body’s functions.
The bottom line is by improving your diet and including nutrient-rich foods in an unaltered state and limiting your exposure to toxins, you can diminish the level of inflammation in your body.