What is Inflammation?
Ever had a bug bite? A twisted ankle? Then you already know what inflammation feels like. The pain, heat, redness, and swelling are the classic signs that inflammation is happening. Under the surface, your body is ramping up its immune response and releasing a whole menagerie of cells and cell signals.
Whether it’s the surface of your skin, the gut, or blood vessels, whenever cells get damaged they send out a distress call. The first responders on-site are usually the neutrophils, immune cells that clean up debris, dead tissue, and microbes from whatever triggered the damage. The second line of immune cells, the macrophages, and phagocytes, then arrive to catch anything else that escaped the first wave. Blood vessels will dilate to speed up the process, bringing more fluids to the area and with it the redness, heat, swelling, and pain that is so common with inflammation. If all goes well, the trigger is dealt with and the acute inflammation response shuts down. The real damage occurs when the body can’t shut it down, leading to chronic inflammation.
What Causes It?
Our body is pretty much always dealing with acute inflammation as we stumble through the world and deal with everyday issues like sick coworkers or pulling a muscle at the gym. Chronic inflammation is a bit more insidious, simmering below the surface until it becomes problematic. Triggers of chronic inflammation can include stress, external pathogens (e.g., Lyme, Candida) that the body can’t remove, an autoimmune response due to a food sensitivity in which the body gets confused and starts attacking its own tissue or when areas of the body (e.g., arteries, gut lining) can’t fully repair due to damage. This last cause of chronic inflammation one is why so many have sworn off gluten to ease bloating, sluggishness, and stomach pain.
How Can I Tell if I Have Inflammation?
While the acute response may have the whole red, heat, and swelling thing going on, chronic inflammation can be a bit harder to pinpoint. Often the inflammatory markers that are overloading and attacking the body lead to pain, fatigue, and lack of focus. For example, many who are affected by fibromyalgia (thought to be caused by inflammation in the brain) also experience “fibro fog,” which can cause headaches and a feeling of mental slowness. Skin rashes and outbreaks are fairly common with inflammation and often linked to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients. Not to mention that the hyper response of the immune cells can also lead to anxiety and insomnia, making you feel worse. It is also thought that stress can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which can in turn heighten the effect each of the signs of inflammation we just outlined.
The key is to support the body’s acute inflammatory response, which is ultimately healing, and prevent the chronic response from getting out of control by making smart lifestyle choices.
What Can You Do About It?
Research shows that the best approach for dealing with chronic inflammation includes lifestyle, dietary and supplement strategies. Eliminating common inflammatory foods like dairy and gluten is a great place to start (though you should always consult with your doctor before doing so). If that doesn’t seem to help, add soy, corn, and eggs to the list (again, talk to your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes). At the same time, you can increase anti-inflammatory foods like berries, green leafy veggies such as kale and spinach, and healthy Omega 3-rich fats like fish, nuts, olive oil, and avocado. Decreasing stress and adding regular movement (e.g. yoga, walking) into your day certainly won’t hurt either.
Throwing supplements into the mix is also key. The research on CBD is extremely promising, not only in its effectiveness to reduce stress and support mental health, but to literally reduce the inflammatory markers that are wreaking havoc in the body. Prevention is the name of the game. Regular use of CBD has been shown to be supportive when taken internally daily, as well as supporting your body when used topically.
So whether you choose to take a daily CBD capsule, oil, or topically prevent acute flare-ups, do yourself a favor and stay ahead of the inflammation game.