What exactly is inflammation?

What exactly is inflammation?

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The four cardinal signs

When inflammation occurs, chemicals are released to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the area of injury. This results in four cardinal signs of inflammation, redness, heat, swelling and pain. This is the body’s natural way to encourage healing and to let you know something is wrong.

Inflammation: The good

When inflammation occurs, our immune system is alerted, and white blood cells are released into the blood or tissues, protecting our body from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is the natural protective mechanism our body initiates, and while inflammation is generally regarded as a bad thing, acute inflammation is localised, and helps to heal and restore tissue function.

Inflammation: The bad 

Inflammation that is unresolved, causes the immune system to constantly react and can eventually cause chronic inflammation. Prolonged, and often low-grade inflammation can cause long-lasting damage to the body leading to degenerative conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, depression and metabolic syndrome. This type of inflammation can be caused by viruses or bacteria, excess stress on weight bearing joints, poor diet or high stress. No longer acting just in its protective role, inflammation now becomes much more destructive in its action.

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How to naturally support inflammation long term

  • Set a morning routine that involved stretching, breathing and practicing mindfulness. In the evening, put away your phone and connect with your loved ones. These simple routines can lower stress-related inflammation in the body. 
  • Water flushes out toxins, so make sure you properly hydrate throughout the day. 
  • Sugar can increase inflammation within the body, however chocolate containing 70 per cent cocoa may have an anti-inflammatory effect due to the antioxidants found in cocoa.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory, so it is important to have more omega-3’s (think fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds) than omega-6’s (processed foods) in the diet.
  • Exercise can improve muscle strength and mass which can reduce excess weight on our joints, a common source of inflammation. Repetitive movements can cause strain, remember to stretch and be mindful of your exercise routine. 
  • A diet high in fibre, and green leafy vegetables, can give your body the support it needs to reduce inflammation naturally and detoxify any harmful inflammatory chemicals. 

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Inflammation is a natural immune response, which can either help or hinder our health. Chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly all disease, therefore it is important to remember that our body needs support to ensure that inflammation is only induced when necessary and only for healing. Being aware of what causes inflammation and reducing modifiable risk factors such as stress triggers and incorporating healthy diet and lifestyle interventions is critical to reducing inflammation, for better health and wellbeing.

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