Inflammation affects us all at different levels. It is the process through which our bodies’ white blood cells defend us from infections such as viruses and bacteria.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation can be associated with pain, tenderness, redness, swelling, and heat.
If one or more of these symptoms coincide, one may be dealing with acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is necessary to help the body heal from injury or bacterial infections. However, if inflammation persists this may lead to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation makes the body continuously dispatch inflammatory cells even though there is no external danger of viruses or bacteria.
The world over, over 60% of deaths are caused by chronic inflammation.
Autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks its bodily tissues are most associated with chronic inflammation. These diseases are often the most painful and life-consuming.
Chronic inflammation could be associated with abdominal pain (ex. Crohn's disease), skin rash (eg. psoriasis), mouth sores (eg. HIV infection), fever (eg. tuberculosis), fatigue (eg. systemic lupus), joint pain/stiffness (rheumatoid arthritis), chest pain, etc.
An example of how chronic inflammation works in rheumatoid arthritis is inflammatory cells attacking joint tissues producing a sporadic inflammation. Unfortunately, this inflammation induces extreme damage to joints with discomfort and malformations.
Inflammation is widely considered to be the driver of all modern diseases. Symptoms of chronic diseases include extreme weight gain or weight loss, frequent infections, gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, etc., insomnia, tiredness, skin issues like cystic acne or psoriasis, recurring infections, and mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, etc.
I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to prevent or reverse inflammation is to manage stress.
Five ways in which one can manage stress:
1) Namaz (prayer) - our connection with God is the strongest
2) Meditation - to clear the mind of negative thoughts
3) Journaling - for productivity and mental clarity
4) Proper nutrition - nutritional deficiencies or eating processed foods plays a huge role in stressors within the body
5) Regular exercise - walking is an excellent form of exercise that has a calming yet strengthening effect on the body
Chronic inflammation has been linked to early death risk and the remedy to inflammation is our lifestyles. Inflammation caused by smoking cigarettes is one of the top reasons for premature death. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is often undermined as the cause of so much despair.
Prioritising a low-stress lifestyle may help to mitigate these risks, increase longevity and quality of life overall.
The writer is a certified functional nutritionist