Inflammation controls every aspect of our life. If you or someone you know suffers from ongoing, chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, migraines, cancer, thyroid issues or dental issues, you are often dealing with inflammation. Learning how inflammation affects the body, and what you can do to stop it, is the first step in realizing your body’s full potential.
Instead of getting to the root cause, doctors, when presented with patients suffering from the aforementioned problems, give their patients pharmaceutical drugs to cover up problems that continue to manifest and get worse. If we were simply told that in order to get better, we have to eliminate the inflammation in our bodies, then we would never have to take another pharmaceutical drug in our life.
Inflammation begins in our gut, with an autoimmune reaction which progresses into systemic inflammation. Thus, we can see how important it is that the foods that we eat are clean, wholesome, and largely plant-based to reduce the level of acidity and “backing-up” which is normally caused by eating animal-based products, refined sugary foods, highly processed foods, and wheat (gluten).
Diseases that result from a build-up of inflammation in the body range from allergies, Alzheimer’s, anemia, asthma, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac disease, chron’s disease, congestive heart failure, eczema, fibromyalgia, fibrosis, gall bladder disease, GERD, heart attack, kidney failure, lupus, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, pancreatitis, psoriasis, scleroderma, stroke, and surgical complications.
How Inflammation Affects The Body & Your State of Well-Being
GI Tract (Stomach, Intestines)
The degree of permeability of your gut depends on a variety of lifestyle factors. If you are relatively stressed most days (raised cortisol), or your thyroid hormone levels fluctuate, your intestinal lining becomes more permeable, making it more vulnerable to toxins, viruses, yeast, bacteria, and undigested food particles from your last meal – otherwise known as leaky gut syndrome (LGS). With LGS, these toxins, yeasts, bacteria and viruses, when moving through the intestine, have better access to the bloodstream.
Having a damaged intestinal lining results in poor nutrient and enzyme assimilation, and eventually results in a variety of diseases by responding with inflammation.
Chronic immune mediated inflammation damages our intestinal lining and can result in issues such as Celiac disease and Chron’s disease. Not only that, but when our esophagus and digestive tract become inflamed due to poor food choices, which mess with the natural pH of our stomach, we may experience heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Inflammation causes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines which results in an array of physical and psychological symptoms. In fact, these pro-inflammatory cytokines can actually cause lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, sleepiness, and loss of appetite. More importantly, the connection between depression and inflammation has been made clear in a variety of studies. One study found that patients with major depressive disorder have significantly higher levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha than their non-depressed counterparts.
Inflammatory cytokines are also responsible for inducing autoimmune reactions against the myelin sheath and vascular and connective tissues which irritate our nerves, which can ultimately result in neuropathy and multiple sclerosis. Destruction of brain cells caused by chronic inflammation is also responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
Autism is also inflammatory based, where inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions in the brain, arresting right hemisphere development.
A build-up of inflammation in the body can lead to an enlarged liver (swelling beyond its normal size), or fatty liver disease, which can ultimately result in liver failure. It can also lead to an autoimmune condition called hepatitis which can scar the liver. The liver is our main way of ridding the body of toxins (including the kidneys and intestinal tract). Without a properly functioning liver, toxins will build up in the body, resulting in ill health and disease. Dandelion greens and dandelion root tea are a great way to start building a healthier liver.
Inflammatory cytokines slow down and restrict blood circulation to the kidneys and damage the delicate nephrons and tubules which make up the majority of our kidneys. This can result in nephritis, and eventually kidney failure. High levels of inflammation reduce urine output, and thus results in a retention of waste products. As a result, we may experience mild hypertension and edema (fluid retention), as well as toxic waste retention which can bottleneck into a series of other medical problems.
Cardiovascular System (Heart, Blood, Veins, Arteries)
A few years ago, a discovery was made that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body. Instead, when we are burdened with an inflammation-heavy body, cholesterol accumulates in the wall of our blood vessels and causes heart disease and strokes.
Foods loaded with refined sugars and simple carbohydrates, foods processed with omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower (aka. pretty much any and all processed foods), or saturated fat heavy animal products like meat, eggs and dairy are all major contributors of inflammation in the body, which leads to clogged arteries and veins. Excessive over-consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils must be in correct balance with omega-3’s – without this balance, the cell membrane produces chemicals called cytokines that directly cause inflammation.
Today, the mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats, so much so that the imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favour of omega-6 (whereas the optimal healthy ratio would be around 3:1).
In addition, carrying excess weight on the body creates overloaded fat cells which pour out large amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar. Eliminating inflammatory foods and eating a largely plant-based diet will help you reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body.
A body that manifests a high state of inflammation can seriously affect the functioning of the lungs.
In asthma, for example, inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against the linings of the airways. This is also the case for different allergy types that affect the lungs, specifically Hay Fever and other plant and animal-related allergies.
Build-up of excess mucus in the lungs as a result of poor diet, and resulting inflammatory response is also the cause for bronchitis and cystic fibrosis.
Inflammation has a profound effect on all aspects of thyroid metabolism and physiology. Autoimmunity, resulting in inflammation, can reduce the rate of T4 to T3 conversion, reduce receptor function and also disrupt the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis.
Studies have shown that even a single injection of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha reduced blood levels of TSH, T3, free T4, free T3 and TRH for 5 days, demonstrating how inflammation disrupts the production and regulatory mechanisms of thyroid hormones.
In addition, the number and sensitivity of thyroid hormone receptors are reduced when there is a high level of inflammation in the body. It won’t matter how much thyroid medication you take – the cells simply won’t be able to use it!
Lastly, inflammation reduces the conversion of T4 to T3 (T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and the body needs to convert it to the active T3 form before it can be used).
If you are suffering from hypo- or hyper- thyroidism, you may want to re-think your medication, and instead get a move on modifying your diet and lifestyle choices.
Inflammation interferes with the body’s natural ability to repair bone mass, resulting in a greater number of fractures, breaks and conditions like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis (chronic synovial inflammation is often accompanied by bone erosion, one of the main reasons for disability in RA patients).
In fact, one of the most overlooked methods of preventing osteoporosis is reducing chronic inflammation. Nurturing your gastrointestinal system to improve nutrient absorption from the foods you take in, as well as focusing on a high-alkaline, anti-inflammatory diet devoid of gluten, meat and dairy, are great ways to start improving bone quality and function.
Chronic inflammation can cause muscle pain and weakness. It can also manifest as carpal tunnel syndrome, where excessive muscle tension causes shortened tendons in the forearm and wrist, compressing the nerves and creating pain and stiffness. It is also important to remember that our heart is a muscle too, and chronic inflammation can contribute to heart muscle wasting, resulting in congestive heart failure.
Autoimmune reactions against muscles and connective tissue induced by inflammatory cytokines are also responsible for polymyalgia rheumatica, a condition characterized by widespread aching and stiffness in older adults.
The number one enemy to our skin is systemic or chronic inflammation. This is usually a result of chronic inflammation of the gut and liver, our main detoxifying organs, which when compromised, results in an expelling of toxic substances from our skin (how else is our body going to rid itself of toxins?). Poor detoxification as a result of inflammation can manifest as eczema, acne, unexplained skin rashes, psoriasis, wrinkles, fine lines and a variety of other dermatitis types.
If you want beautiful, clear skin, you must eat a diet that is rich in plant-based foods and devoid of dead animal products, processed greasy foods and refined sugary sweets like donuts, muffins, candies, and pastries. Remember – your skin is a direct reflection of how well your gut and liver are functioning. Detox these organs, eliminate inflammation, and your skin will be clean and clear!
How To Get Rid of Chronic Inflammation
If you truly wish to be healed of any health problem you may be experiencing, you must consider inflammation’s role in your issue, and dealing with it as the root cause. Inflammation is the result of an autoimmune reaction in the gut, which then spreads to other areas of the body.
Removing autoimmune triggers from your life, such as:
– Food (animal-based products (meat, eggs, dairy), refined sugary products, highly processed foods, wheat)
– Lifestyle factors (stress, poor sleep, over-exercising, not enough exercising – these are all huge things to consider as well…the stress response triggers the immune marker IL6 which switches on the TH17 immune pathway, fast-tracking the body into autoimmunity)
Replacing these with beneficial ways of living, such as:
– Food (plant-based foods like all fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, mineral supplementation to make up for lack of mineral deposits in the soil that our food grows in)
– Lifestyle factors (create conditions of love, appreciation and gratitude, exercise properly, maintaining a positive attitude, getting enough sleep, and maintaining healthy social interactions. These will all help release natural systemic opioids which helps push the immune pathway TH3, helping to reduce autoimmunity)
Amy Eroh says
Thank you for explaining this. I have inflammation everywhere. I keep getting fatter even though I am not eating too bad. Going to a plant based diet.
Carly Fraser says
Awesome Amy! Stay tuned for my anti-inflammatory plant-based recipe ebook coming out this January! If you sign up to my newsletter, you’ll be the first to hear about it 🙂
Louise Godbold says
Would you allow us to use your infographic in our trauma and resilience online training? We are a small nonprofit dedicated to helping trauma survivors. http://www.echotraining.org
Carly Fraser says