Inflammation is a response from the body (originally meant to protect itself against) that has continued beyond when your body can control it. Inflammation involves an influx of white blood cells and is hallmarked by the symptoms of redness, heat, swelling, pain, and dysfunction of the organs involved. Inflammation in the body is meant to heal injuries or fight infection. Prolonged insult in the body can lead to prolonged inflammation such as chronic infection, chronic stress hormones, or chronically consuming food irritants that stimulate the inflammatory response.
Inflammation that is present for a long period of time becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation no longer acts as protection and in fact, can start to cause damage on healthy tissues. We term this “Silent Inflamation.” Silent inflammation is hallmarked by prolonged chemical mediators present in the blood stimulating a consistent inflammatory response.
Damage by inflammation can occur in many areas. Many times, the damage occurs in the blood vessels because inflammation reacts with the LDL cholesterol, “bad” cholesterol, in arterial walls. This can creating weakening of the walls or problems leading to plaque formation termed arteriosclerosis. Having inflammation in the blood vessels also triggers clot formation, thrombosis. Thrombosis is a later and dreaded complication of atherosclerosis, which is responsible for heart attacks and strokes.
Eight of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States are related to inflammation. These inflammatory diseases leading the mortality rates in the United States are heart disease, cancer, diabetes type 2, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, pneumonia, and kidney disease.
Blood Tests can be easily ordered by your physician to see if high inflammation levels are putting you more at risk for future health complaints.
CRP is a biomarker used to test to see if you have inflammation in your body occurring of which you are unaware. Any clinical disease characterized by tissue injury and/or inflammation is accompanied by significant elevation of serum CRP. How elevated the CRP reflects the extent of tissue injury. Thus, more significant inflammation causes longer periods of CRP elevation and higher peak concentrations.
Cholesterol is not a significantly reliable test for inflammation and heart disease. CRP is directly related to inflammation whereas cholesterol can be elevated for various reasons such as hormonal balance, thyroid function, poor diet, or genetic predisposition. In fact, half of all heart attacks occur in people whose cholesterol is NORMAL. Once again, CHOLESTEROL is not a great predictor of future heart disease. CRP appears to be more consistently related to future cardiac events. Cardiac events are considered heart attack and stroke.
Furthermore, people who have low CRP levels and high cholesterol have a significantly lower risk of experiencing a cardiac event compared to those who have high CRP levels and low cholesterol!
You have some dietary choices you can start immediately to reduce inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids are an important part of the diet that help to reduce inflammation in the body. Cultures that typically eat more fish have lower rates of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.
Here are the Best Anti-inflammatory Food and Spice Suggestions:
- Cold Water fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring
- Wild caught cold water fish consumption should be at least 2 times per week to meet essential fatty acid needs in the body. This may not be enough for reversing inflammatory responses and fish oils should be considered. Farmed fish have been linked to higher levels of toxin residues and should be avoided. These toxin residues, called persistent organic pollutants, have been associated with inflammation, insulin resistance, obesity, and more.
- Flax seeds and flax seed oil
- Hemp seeds
Tasty Tips for Incorporating More Omega 3 Fatty Acids into the Diet:
- Smoothies are a great way to incorporate flax seeds or oil, hemp seeds or oil
- Power balls or protein bars made from scratch are also a great way to incorporate omega 3 filled nuts and seeds into easy to consume snacks
- Healthy cookies – easy way to get nuts and seeds into the diet
- Salmon – bake wild caught salmon and add to stir fry’s, salads, sandwiches
- Second best: wild canned salmon made similar to tuna salad is also an easy way to incorporate salmon into the diet.
- Use more spice when cooking with foods. Marinate chicken and fish in spices overnight
Crucial Nutrients Essential in Reducing Inflammation
- Fish oil: 1,000 – 4,000 mg daily. When comparing fish oils, pick one that has a higher EPA to DHA ratio
- Digestive enzymes and bromelain between meals
- Turmeric: 500 mg 3 times per day and Ginger: 500 mg three times per day. I suggest taking them together as ginger helps with turmeric absorption
- Boswelia extract: 1-2 dropperfuls 3 times per day
- Red Yeast Rice Extract– specifically reduces CRP and cholesterol
- Vitamin D: 1000 IU per day