Body inflammation is getting a lot of press these days, with plenty of talk about anti-inflammatory diets and medications. What is inflammation? Doesn’t everyone’s body become inflamed at some point? Should you be worried about it?
To put it the most simply: inflammation is the response your body initiates when an infection or injury occurs in your tissue. There are two categories of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation can occur in just seconds or minutes after an injury to or infection in the tissue. Immediately after the injury the area gets red and swollen thanks to the body’s attempt to dilute, destroy, or section off the infection or irritant. White blood cells are deployed to fight off the offending agent. You see acute inflammation with things like a swollen ankle, an unsightly pimple, or a bump to the head. Acute inflammation is a natural, helpful response the body initiates, and contributes to healthy repair and healing.
Conversely, with chronic inflammation, the body stays in “fight mode” with white blood cells constantly on guard and fighting, only without an injury or infection to actually fight. These white blood cells, all amped up with nothing to battle, starts turning their attention to organs or other healthy cells. Chronic inflammation can occur with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, as well as with osteoarthritis and Crohn’s disease.
There are a few ways that you can help fight, or reduce your risk for, chronic inflammation.
- Another score for massage. Massage can help fight chronic inflammation by increasing circulation, which can help remove fluid and waste from the tissues. Massage can also help promote functionality to muscles affected by inflammation-causing medical issues. For example, with osteoarthritis, the muscles surrounding your affected areas can become tense and knotted, leading to poorer range of motion and soreness. Also, times of high anxiety and depression have recently been tied to bouts of inflammation, and massage can effectively keep both of those emotions in check. Not only that, but massage can increase your immune system, which can be important for those whose white blood cell attack cause decreased immunity.
- Focus on food. Foods high in omega-3’s, such as walnuts, avocados, and salmon, can help protect your body from havoc wreaked by inflammation.
Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, kale, other leafy greens, and broccoli contain the compound sulforaphane, which is said to block enzymes that lead to the degeneration of joints (which lead to, yep, chronic inflammation).
Move it. Some studies have shown that exercise does a great job of reducing inflammation. Exercise helps to reduce and shrink fat cells, which tempers your body’s immune system, therefore decreasing your body inflammation. In fact, simply losing a few extra pounds (if you’ve got ‘em to lose) can reduce inflammation as well.
Always make sure your doctor is on board with your plans to fight and prevent inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be dangerous, but it doesn’t have to get the best of you.