If you have read anything about the effects of inflammation, you know that it can heal sickness and injuries. After all, anyone who has taken health class in high school knows that inflammation is your body’s first line of defense against injury, toxins, pathogens, or other irritants.
But what you might not have learned in high school health class is that the effects of inflammation can also destroy health. Not even researchers knew that much about chronic inflammation until recently. It has only been in the past decade or two that researchers discovered the prevalence of chronic systemic inflammation in the population. It took them a bit longer to realize this inflammation is the root cause of most diseases, but when they did…it shook the medical community to its core.
The fact that all the many varieties of diseases they treated…
- Celiac Disease
- Heart Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
… all stemmed from the same cause, astounded doctors. That these diseases could all be the effects of inflammation…well, nothing doctors had learned in all their years of medical school and training had prepared them for this.
In retrospect, it is surprising that they were so surprised by this. After all, they already knew about the effects of inflammation in some diseases.
The Effects of Inflammation: Known Inflammatory Diseases
Doctors knew, for instance, that many diseases were inflammatory in nature. Here are just a few of them.
Asthma: A condition in which the airways swell (inflammation), causing difficulty in breathing.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This erroneous immune response causes inflammation of the tissue lining the inside of the joints.
Crohn’s Disease: A disease characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Diverticulitis: A disease characterized by inflammation of abnormal pouches that develop in the wall of the large intestine.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Chronic condition of the large intestine. Though the exact cause isn’t known, one of the factors that may play a role is inflammation in the intestines.
Lupus: An autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout the body.
The list of inflammatory diseases is now going to grow long — very long.
The Effects of Inflammation on the Body
As previously mentioned, the effects of inflammation are supposed to be all good. They are supposed to cure your infection, heal your wounds, save your life. That certainly still is the role of inflammation, but there is a darker side to the inflammatory response. There are two types of inflammation, one good, and one bad.
Acute inflammation is your body’s first response to injury or disease, and it appears within moments to hours after the injury occurs or after the pathogen, bacteria, or toxin enter the body.
When tissues are in trouble, they release chemicals to alert the immune system. The immune system sends immune cells ( a type of white blood cell) to trap the dangerous substance or heal the tissues. The increased blood flow causes redness and warmth at the site of the injury or infection. Meanwhile, blood vessels leak fluid, causing inflammation.
If you’ve ever had an injury or an infection, you’ve probably experienced at least a few of these 5 signs of inflammation:
- Loss of Function
You’ll typically notice the effects of inflammation within a few minutes of an injury, such as a cut finger. A bacterial or viral invasion may take a few hours or days, and you may not experience all five symptoms of inflammation because it is internal. You also may not be aware of experiencing any symptoms of inflammation if it is chronic or internal.
Once the foreign invader has been removed, the inflammation will recede.
Chronic inflammation is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly sends inflammatory cells to fight a substance that isn’t a threat. When the inflammatory cells arrive and find there is nothing to do, sometimes they start attacking healthy tissue.
For instance, if the immune system sends inflammatory cells to the coronary arteries in which they do not find an enemy, the inflammatory cells may decide to do their jobs anyway. They’ll attack healthy tissue, causing inflammation in the arteries, which can trap cholesterol deposits. This causes plaque buildup that can lead to a heart attack.
Chronic inflammation can happen anywhere in which the immune system mistakenly sends inflammatory cells. Joints. Stomach. Bowels. Even the brain.
The Effects of Inflammation on the Brain
The effects of inflammation — acute OR chronic — in the brain was something not even considered a few years ago. That’s because inflammation was not supposed to happen in the brain. The blood-brain barrier was supposed to protect the brain from pathogens, toxins, bacteria, and other foreign invaders.
But groundbreaking research is showing that neurological inflammation not only exists but that it is pervasive in our society. How can this happen with such a protective blood-brain barrier?
You see, if this blood-brain barrier becomes damaged, it becomes “leaky” and allows toxins, pathogens, and bacteria into the brain’s environment. These toxins activate the microglia cells, causing neurological inflammation. This issue is so common, doctors even have a nickname for it, “Leaky Brain Syndrome.” Doctors are calling it a “hidden epidemic,” and one of the most overlooked health crises of our generation.
They’re calling leaky brain syndrome and the resulting neurological inflammation a public health crisis because of the sheer number of mental, physical, and even emotional health problems it may cause.
Studies show neurological inflammation may be responsible for anxiety, depression, low energy, mood swings, brain fog, trouble concentrating, memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s. It may also cause or worsen slowed metabolism, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, heart disease.
The Effects of Inflammation on the Brain and Setpoint Weight
Studies show neurological inflammation even raises setpoint weight. Here’s how it works:
The hypothalamus is a small area of the brain that maintains the body’s internal balance (homeostasis.) It produces hormones that stop and start the production of other hormones throughout the body.
Where your metabolism is concerned, the hypothalamus is responsible for balancing calories in and calories out so that ideally you never become too fat or too thin. It is regulated largely by the hormones leptin and insulin. When the brain is healthy, these signals are received correctly so that when calorie intake increases your body simply burns more calories. This means your weight is correctly being balanced at your setpoint weight.
However, neurological inflammation causes these signals to stop working. The hypothalamus cannot read them correctly, if at all. The result? Instead of doing the job they were designed to do — keep you naturally slim — they now do the opposite. Your hypothalamus and hormones work to hold onto extra fat, no matter how hard you try to lose weight.
This cutting-edge research proves neurological inflammation raises setpoint weight and makes it nearly impossible to lose extra weight until this inflammation is healed.
3 Main Causes of Inflammation
One of the biggest causes of inflammation is diet, and there are a few type and categories of foods that are the main culprits. Here are the biggest offenders.
There are two main types of refined carbohydrates, also known as processed carbs or simple carbs:
Sugars: This includes both refined and processed sugars, such as sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, and agave syrup.
Refined Grains: These are grains that have had their fiber and nutrients removed, ie, white flour made from refined wheat.
Refined carbohydrates contain no fiber to slow their absorption into the bloodstream. Consequently, they cause spikes and surges in blood sugar levels. This contributes to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.
Studies also show that overconsumption of refined carbs may contribute to inflammation leading to weight gain, and may even be the main cause of leptin resistance.
Ultra-processed foods fall into this category. This is important to know because a recent study showed that more than 60% of the typical American’s diet consists of ultra-processed foods. These foods are manufactured concoctions made to look, taste, and smell like real foods. They contain preservatives, emulsifiers, sugars, additives, and other chemicals.
Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pop tarts, sodas, candy bars, microwave dinners.
Examples of other refined carbs include white rice, white flour, white bread.
Whole grains have been marketed as a healthy food when, in fact, that’s just not true. Though whole grain bread, for instance, has more fiber than refined bread, the milling process breaks the fiber down. This makes it much easier for your body to digest it, meaning that your bloodstream absorbs it more quickly. It may be a little slower than refined carbs, but not by much.
This causes a spike in blood sugar levels, eventually leading to inflammation, then on to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.
Examples of whole grains include oatmeal, popcorn, barley, brown rice, whole-wheat bread.
Chronic stress has been linked to many health conditions, including depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Nobody knew exactly how or why chronic stress increased the risk of illness — until now.
A 2013 study shows chronic stress changes the genetic code of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream, priming them to fight infection and trauma even if there is nothing there for them to fight! This eventually leads to inflammation.
3. Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Several years ago, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that people had, on average, more than 91 toxic chemicals in their bodies. Toxic chemicals are present in pesticides, air pollution, herbicides, household cleaning products, processed and refined foods, and many more.
Toxic means poisonous, so it’s not surprising that many of these chemicals are ones known to have negative effects on the body. Toxic chemicals can cause birth defects, cancers, neurological problems, and other illness. These diseases, however, could well be the effects of inflammation.
After all, when a toxin enters your body, your immune system immediately sends inflammation cells to deal with it. Once they rid your body of the toxin, the inflammation goes away, and everything goes back to normal. But if you are continually exposed to toxins, the inflammation cells are always being called to duty. Your body is always on high alert. Chronic inflammation is the inevitable result.
Avoiding the Effects of Inflammation
Here are some easy tips that will help you avoid the effects of inflammation:
- Reduce consumption of processed foods.
- Increase consumption of whole foods, such as fresh or frozen vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean cuts of meats.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. (This is where you’ll find meats and produce.)
- Prepare more meals at home.
- Eliminate foods with added sugar.
- Use natural sweeteners, such as Stevia or Erythritol, as these do not affect blood sugar levels, and they have no known negative effects on health.
- De-stress daily. You can do this through meditation, yoga, going out with friends, taking a walk, or participating in an enjoyable pastime.
- Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. You can do this by eating organic meats and produce, using natural cleaning products, vacuum your carpet regularly, etc.
The Best Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The effects of inflammation are serious, but they can be prevented or cured with diet. The best anti-inflammatory diet is one that does not cause surges in your blood sugar levels. It also contains plenty of nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods. The diet I recommend fits this description perfectly.
These healthy foods have been scientifically proven to heal hormones, lower setpoint weight, and stabilize blood sugar levels. There is no hunger and no deprivation. No counting calories or
worrying about dieting. Your body handles everything for you.
The object of healthy eating is to be so full of the healthy foods that you’re too full for unhealthy starchy carbs, sugars, and grains. And it really works. The foods fill you up fast and keep you full for a long time. They also zap your sugar cravings. All the while, it’s protecting your body from inflammation or helping reduce whatever inflammation you might have.
The 4 food groups I lay out are non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits. Simply fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a third of your plate with nutrient-dense proteins, and the remainder of your plate with whole-food fats — at each main meal. You may also have 0-3 servings of low fructose fruit per day.
It’s easy to modify this diet to your particular needs, and there’s no better time than the present to start.