Two weeks ago, I discussed an essential lifestyle to decrease inflammation and lead to optimal health. It was exercise. While physical activity is strongly recommended for good health and inflammation reduction, it is important to prevent accidents to the head (concussions), bones and organs during training. Rough sports (boxing, rugby, all types of football) should be avoided. According to studies, they cause tremendous hazard to the health of professional athletes even later in life though the damage may not be apparent. Sport, head and bone injuries and all types of accidents should be addressed immediately with medical investigations, as they can provoke internal bleeding or inflammation that could become at the base of future diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, tumors and cancer).
An instant relief for contusions, sprains, fractures and other injuries is ice pack. Ice is an anti-inflammatory element that gives immediate results. It can be very effective when it is applied on muscle, tendon, or ligament injuries, bone fractures, bruises, swellings and external inflammation. Thirty-minute or more of cold compresses act on the blood vessels, reduces swelling and speeds healing when applied immediately after injury. Transplant organs are preserved in ice to last longer.
Other factors that raise the risk of internal and external inflammations are falls, multiple head or body traumas (rough sports, hazardous jobs, uncomfortable shoes), repetitive influenza and infections, acute allergies, arthritis, chronic pain, insect bites and body toxicity. Prolonged stress and frequent exposure to radiation and environmental pollution provoke internal inflammation and damage. According to studies, long-term silent inflammation is usually associated to degenerative and chronic diseases like heart and cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer and others.
The focus, today, is on stress, a major inflammation producer, which works silently for months and even years before symptoms appear in a destructive way.
Whether it is mental, emotional, or physical, stress alters and upsets the entire body chemistry, hormonal system and mood. At any signs of pressure or stressful thought, the adrenal glands unleash stress hormones, resulting in racing heartbeat, tense muscles, quick breathing, increased alertness and glucose and insulin flooding the bloodstream. The rush of adrenalin, cortisol, glucose and insulin gives temporary energy to fight or flee a threatening situation in order to prepare for the coming danger. If this chemical response continues for long periods of time, it can disrupt certain body functions such as the digestive and detoxification systems and cell repair and regeneration.
With prolonged or repeated pressures, our glands, the adrenals, pancreas, liver and pituitary gland in the brain continuously release hormones to deal with crises. Even tense muscles during sleep can become energy and nutrient consuming. Long-term stress depletes the adrenal glands. The hormones that keep us young and well sharply drop, leaving us feeling exhausted and unmotivated all the time, resulting in premature aging, low energy and immunity, depletion of nutrients, poor concentration, confusion, memory lapses, headaches, irritability and insomnia. However, the most devastating outcome of stress is the overflow of hormones (adrenaline, insulin, cortisol), which causes the release of inflammatory chemicals, slowly destroying organs and different systems and leading to the starvation of body cells from adequate amounts of nutrients.
Daily work stressors and chronic pressures need to be addressed in several ways. Through diet, herbs, moderate activity, meditation, massage and therapeutic exercises (yoga, tai chi), which correct imbalances; repair cells, neurons, tissue, organs and systems; release tension; relieve emotional blockages; and relax tense muscles. They also curb the secretion of inflammatory compounds, resulting from the surge of cortisol in the body caused by continuous mental, emotional, or physical pressure, which provoke harmful physiological changes in the systems (hormonal, neurological, vascular).
Emotional pressures (divorce, conflict, traumatic experiences, fear, death of a dear one, negative thoughts) can also disrupt the brain chemistry and hormones (neurotransmitters), interfering with sleep, mood and mental responses. The main hormones that become disturbed are serotonin and melatonin, which are responsible for good mood and restful sleep. What help to prevent such conditions, which deplete important neurotransmitters, are positive thinking, reasonable activity, nutrient-dense nutrition (vegetable, green and fruit juices), meditation, massages, therapeutic exercise and regular deep sleep. Such healthy lifestyles help regenerate the hormonal system and neurotransmitters and detoxify and repair cells and body from inflammation.
Processed foods and others, which include artificial sugar (aspartame, saccharine…), additives (preservatives, colorings, taste-enhancers) and trans fats also cause silent inflammation, chronic disorders and disease. A diet abundant in refined sugar and carbohydrates and saturated and trans fats leads to obesity, which is a supplier of inflammation. Nothing helps much in the presence of obesity, a condition that should be seriously addressed as abdominal fat cells secrete inflammatory compounds.
Caffeine and stimulants (coffee, chocolate, tea, colas, tobacco, sugar, alcohol and drugs) over-stimulate the body, cause stress, exhaust the hormonal system, deplete the adrenalin glands, mask disorders and worsen them and give false temporary energy. Unhealthy lifestyle practices like smoking, alcohol and lack of exercise can fuel inflammatory conditions by increasing the number of free radicals and their damage.
On the other hand, sleep is an important healer to inflammation. During deep sleep, the body repairs cells, neurons, tissue, organs, systems and muscles. Sleep deprivation causes the continuous secretion of cortisol and insulin, which produce inflammatory chemicals in the body, resulting in disorders and major illnesses. The main victim of sleep loss is the brain and its supporting neurotransmitters, which get severely disrupted, causing depression, slow responses, bad judgment and other symptoms of mental declines.
Prayer and spirituality are good sources of stress relief. During these practises, the brain releases endorphins that act like morphine, which quiet the mind, calm the body and give feeling of serenity and transcendence by changing the brain chemistry. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) used to suggest prayer to his disciples to relieve stress and worries, “Relieve us with it [prayer], Bilal.”
Social interaction and especially close friendships relieve stress. Apparently women are good at that. According to recent studies, women, chitchatting among girlfriends, tend to relieve their stress and thus its “harmful” effects on the body.
Now that I have displayed to you all the miracle foods (found in any healthful pantry) and suggested healthy practises to reduce inflammation, make sure you make them your way of life. You will enjoy their special tastes and their wonderful anti-inflammatory effects. By adding essential fats and nature’s healthy fresh whole foods to your meals and being active, you will also help reduce your dependence on medical drugs. But, this should be done with your physician’s instructions only!
The subject of inflammation is worthy of a whole book, but I have simplified information from different sources to give you the scoop only. I hope the ten articles on inflammation prevention and the five previous ones published in May 2012 about inflammation, its causes and subsequent disorders can become for you a good source of reference to heal and prevent internal inflammation and maintain good health, energy and wellness. Become your own healer!
P.S. Most of the information in my previous and last articles on inflammation come from the below books and more, the Internet and other sources.
- “The Inflammation Syndrome,” Jack Challem, publisher and editor of the newsletter, The Nutrition Reporter
- Dr. Sears, The Anti-inflammation Zone Diet
- David Agus, MD, The End of Illness
- Dr. Benson, The Relaxation Response
N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
To read previous Health Solutions articles, visit: www.arabnews.com/life.style