The term inflammation can be confusing. Sometimes, inflammation is described as a good friend that aids the healing process in our body. Other times, it is described as the enemy that invades and destroys the body. The truth is that both are correct. Inflammation is a chemical process that occurs in response to cellular injury; at least initially.
Good inflammation helps our bodies fight infections and illness. For example, when we fall onto a knee while roller blading and a scab forms at the wound site, the inflammatory process is working appropriately. Ultimately, new and healthy tissue will replace the scab until only a small remnant of the injury remains. Inflammation becomes the enemy when its presence remains longer than needed and the immune system goes into overdrive.
This is considered chronic or excessive inflammation and can eventually cause or contribute to diseases and conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation can become present in the body due to several factors such as poor diet and lifestyle, exercise (too much or too little), medications, environmental exposures, emotional stress, physical trauma, virus or bacteria.
Sometimes inflammation is self-evident. Osteoarthritis of the knee is a classic example. This is a degenerative process that frequently begins with sports trauma in the teens or 20s. As time goes on there are visible changes involving the joint that are apparent to the untrained eye. Chronic, widespread inflammation may become more challenging to identify. Symptoms can vary and may include unexplained weight loss or weight gain, muscle or joint pain, digestive problems, allergies, high blood pressure, digestive issues or malaise—a general feeling of discomfort that may be difficult to describe with symptoms such as poor concentration.
To reduce inflammation in the body, start by choosing a healthier diet, exercising moderately and reducing stress in daily life. Try an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, eggs and fish, and eliminate sugars, processed foods, refined grains, alcohol, and conventional grain-fed meats and dairy. Use natural cleaning and personal care products to eliminate toxins in the home and most importantly, get a good night’s sleep.
If inflammation is suspected, its best to avoid the Internet self-diagnosis and see your healthcare provider for testing and evaluation. Chronic inflammation should be evaluated in a methodical manner, starting with comprehensive blood work and a physical examination.
Dr. Johnny East, is an Osteopathic physician and founder of Addison Pain and Regenerative Management, located at 16633 Dallas Pkwy., in Addison. For more information, visit AddisonPain.com.
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