What is inflammation? Our bodies need an inflammatory response to fight off infection and heal injuries. However, inflammation can also be problematic. Too much of an inflammatory response can cause the immune system to mistakenly target healthy tissue, leading the body to attack itself. Science has proven that a quality omega-3 fatty acid like EPA-DHA has remarkable benefits for reducing inflammation in the body. But let’s go deeper into what inflammation actually is …
GOOD VS. BAD
Acute inflammation, the kind that arises after a scrape or cut, tonsillitis, an infected ingrown toenail, or a sprained wrist, is considered “good” inflammation. It’s a sign that the body is attempting to heal itself. Chronic inflammation isn’t as helpful. In fact, it can be pretty destructive. With “bad” inflammation, the body sends an inflammatory response to a perceived internal threat. An army of white blood cells swarms the area, but because they have nothing to fix, they eventually start attacking healthy organs, tissues, and cells. Chronic inflammation, and it contributes to or causes many debilitating illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.
WHAT CAUSES IT
There are many events that can turn on the inflammatory response embedded in our genes. As we mentioned before, physical injury can cause inflammation. Another source of inflammation is microbial invasion, or infection, which can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. Now, researchers know there is a third component in our daily lives that can turn on our inflammatory response: the food we eat.
Here’s how it works: first, there’s some sort of initiating factor – let’s say you just ate a donut from your favorite bakery. The sugar in that donut initiates your body’s inflammatory response, which continues until the resolution response occurs.
Ideally, these two responses are balanced. What invariably happens, though, is that the inflammatory response is too strong, or the resolution response is too weak. Either way, the result is cellular inflammation. Cellular inflammation is below our perception of pain, which means we might be experiencing inflammation without feeling it. Inflammation can fly under the radar for years, eventually surfacing as chronic disease.
WHAT FOODS CAUSE IT
The main culprit of inflammation is sugar. Dairy, alcohol, fried and processed foods filled with trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat also top the list. However, there are some seemingly innocent foods that can cause inflammation in the body, too. Take agave, for example. It’s debated as a “healthy” sweetener, but it’s full of sugar. Those with a gluten sensitivity may experience inflammation from eating oats and rye (especially those with Celiac disease). Like dairy and gluten, peanuts are a common food allergy, and allergies set off our inflammatory response as the body struggles to fight off the foreign invader.
Another surprising culprit of inflammation is omega-6 fatty acids. While we need omega-6 fatty acids for healthy growth and development, excess consumption can trigger inflammation. These fatty acids are found in cooking oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable oil. On the 21-Day Clean Program, we avoid all inflammation-causing foods to give our digestive and immune systems a much-needed break.
HEALING FROM CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
If you think you might be living with inflammation, talk to your doctor about tests that can confirm or deny your suspicions. While treating it looks different for everyone, the primary tool is our diet. We can start by cutting sugar and processed foods, reducing our intake of omega-6 fats, and getting more omega-3s from healthy fish, seaweed, fermented turmeric, flaxseed, and quality supplements. It’s also critical to avoid any foods that cause an allergic reaction or sensitivity. The Cleanse Diet is a great jumping off point for healing inflammation, as you can slowly reintroduce potentially triggering foods and see how they affect you.
Written by Kate Kasbee
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