How your body’s healing process can turn against you

Think about the last time you injured yourself and your wound started to swell rapidly. That was inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from harmful irritants, including damaged cells.

The body defends itself from bacteria and viruses and repairs any damaged tissues, which means that without an inflammation response, wounds and infections don’t heal. However, too much inflammation can become problematic and play a significant role in some chronic conditions.

Inflammatory disease

There are several chronic conditions, where out-of-control-inflammation plays a central part. Treating these conditions, include treating the inflammation. They include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic periodontitis
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Chronic active hepatitis (there are many more)

Types of inflammation

  • Acute inflammation (short-term) appears soon after a scrape or cut on the skin, a sore throat, bronchitis and tonsillitis. The effect subsides after a few days and an abscess may develop or it may persist as chronic inflammation.
  • Chronic inflammation (long-term) is persistent and associated with conditions like obesity, heart disease, asthma and arthritis. The cause may be the failure to treat or eliminate what caused the acute inflammation. It’s also the immune system attacking normal tissues mistaking them for harmful pathogens. At this point, the immune system is overactive and destructs and scars connective tissues. This results in the death of cells and tissues.

Fight inflammation

1. Make sleep a priority.

Sleep is the time when your body is able to heal from the physical and emotional traumas of the day. Not getting enough quality sleep can cut into that healing time and trigger pro-inflammatory changes. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable. Remove electronic devices from your room and use blackout curtains to block outside light.

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2. Put an end to stress.

Your body interprets stress and anxiety as foreign invaders, releasing inflammatory markers to head off impending danger. Stress also increases your blood pressure and heart rate, making your blood vessels work harder. The more you stress, the more likely inflammation will persist. Consider starting a meditation program or try journalling every night to help release stress and protect your health.

3. Get active.

Exercising regularly lowers inflammation by improving circulation and lymphatic flow, and reducing body fat. A 10-year study published in Circulation found that people who did at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise each week lowered their markers of inflammation by at least 12%, regardless of their weight or body mass index. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week to keep inflammation at bay.

4. Enjoy a massage. 

A massage is more than just a treat; it’s good for your health. According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a 45-minute Swedish massage can greatly lower the levels of inflammation-promoting hormones. It may also lower stress hormones. As if you needed another excuse to book your next spa day!

5. Feast on anti-inflammatory foods.

Foods rich in antioxidants are the best inflammation-fighting foods. Antioxidants are effective because they bind and deactivate harmful radicals that are by-products of the inflammatory process. This stops oxidative damage right in its tracks. Include more dark berries, dark leafy green vegetables, and dark chocolate in your diet. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish oil, also plays a protective role by acting directly on signal pathways during inflammation.

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