Thursday, August 2, 2012

Inflammation

Inflammation is the biochemical process by which a body responds to injury or attack.  Inflammation is one of the many ways a body heals and protects itself.  Inflammation is also an example of something where too much of a good thing turns sinister.  Too much inflammation creates as much or more damage than it fixes.  How do you know if you  have too much inflammation?  These are some of the overt signs: redness, pain, swelling, feeling stiff and achy.  Many conditions involve inflammation including morning stiffness, arthritis, infections, autoimmune diseases, and even just strenuous exercise.  The body does have compensatory biochemicals to counteract the inflammation.  These biochemicals are called anti-inflammatories.

The building blocks for the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body come from fatty acids.  Fatty acids are the individual components that make up fats.  These fatty acids go by different chemical names.  In general Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the anti-inflammatory pathways, while the Omega-6's contribute to the inflammatory pathways.  A balance that maintains a healthy inflammatory regulation is the aim.


One of the best tests for seeing your inflammation level is called the CRP test.  CRP stands for C-Reactive Protein.  It is a simple blood test.  Numbers in excess of 3.0 are associated with a 3-fold increase in heart attack risk and a 4-fold increase in risk of dying from a heart attack.  A lot can be achieved in lowering your inflammation levels through diet.


Since the building blocks for inflammation pathways involve essential fatty acids, altering the balance of fat intake can create a substantial shift in the inflammation balance.  If your CRP is high and/or you have inflammatory symptoms, you will want to shift your biochemistry in the anti-inflammatory direction.  So, more Omega-3 fats like oils from flax, fish, and krill.  Another diet approach is to shift away from protein and grain foods toward predominantly vegetables and fruits and eliminating all sweeteners.  Finally, increasing your intake of fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, etc.) can fire up detoxification pathways, improve digestion, and balance immunity -- all helping to quench smoldering inflammation in the body.

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