What is Inflammation.

If I told you to close your eyes, and think of inflammation – do it as we speak – what comes to your mind? This is what my mind will conjure: redness, swelling, rawness, pain and infection. Even if you thought of two of the aspects I listed, then we are on the same page. Inflammation is the body’s coping mechanism to outside elements that it cannot assimilate or recognize. Now imagine all that I had told you happening to someone’s body over time. It turns into systemic inflammation. Modern medicine has not started recognizing the correlation between systemic inflammation and disease. You could have varying degrees of inflammation, and in many ways, the macrobiotic diet by controlling certain factors i.e., bringing in the balance of yin and yang helps keep the body’s inflammatory response under check. 

Everyone remembers studying about white blood cells in school. I remember my teacher saying they were our soldiers, who are supposed to ward off external elements in the body. Our body is constantly protecting us, and for this our white blood cells need to be fortified well. When white blood cells lose the ability to realise what needs to be done to protect the body, the body’s response is to go into an autoimmune condition. This phrase is used often these days, especially with reference to your thyroid disorders. Therefore, inflammation and immunity are interlinked. Chronic inflammation will eventually lead to a weakened immunity. Like the lady who walks the rope in a circus, and does a perfect balancing act, our body attempts to achieve that perfect balance between inflammation and strong immunity. A key factor in this whole act (think of the stick that this lady holds to balance herself) are the microbes in your gut. If you were exposed to the right ones and have ones with the right characteristics – the balancing act is easy. But if your gut houses more of the bad variety, then you are definitely a prime candidate for inflammation.

How does systemic inflammation happen?

Before I move on to how inflammation impacts you on several fronts, I’d like to get into what happens to you once you are the candidate for systemic inflammation. I keep bringing up the word ecosystem – defined as a community of microorganisms interacting with each other. So, when we are going down the ski slope of our lives, we are gathering momentum and taking in everything that our environment is throwing at us food-wise. We are no longer mindful of what we put into our bodies. We are responsible for destroying this intricate balance of our ecosystem. A happy ecosystem of the gut achieves a delicate balance between the friendly and unfriendly bacteria. However, chemicals that we ingest if we eat food that is not washed properly (that’s why the stress on organic), junk food, sugar, dairy, white refined flour (maida), popping medication and stress strip us of everything on the immune system front, leading to systemic inflammation. It pre-disposes you to an autoimmune condition. (From The Detox Diet by Shonali Sabherwal) 

Classic signs of inflammation 

How do we get ourselves to stay away from inflammation?

We stop eating foods and lessen our exposure to environmental factors that will cause inflammation. These are- 

  • Sugar and sugary foods (includes honey [over-use], jaggery colas, beverages with sugar)
  • Refined flour (maida)
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain Medication
  • Dairy and dairy products
  • Minimize meat in-take
  • Excessive fruit
  • Processed foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods with additives
  • Stay away from refined oils, trans fats, hydrogenated fats
  • Over eating poultry and eggs
  • Radiation/Chemotherapy
  • Minimize exposure to household solvents, plastics (Bisephenol A or BPA)’ these are in styrofoam products, detergents, flame retardents, toys, pesticides and any other environmental toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis unknowingly. These are compounds that are referred to as Endocrine Disruptors (EDCs). They are consumed, inhaled or taken in through the skin.

What can I do?

  • Manage stress
  • Workout and exercise
  • Get your 8 hours of sleep
  • Load up on anti-inflammatory foods (focus on whole grains, vegetables (add leafy greens and coloured vegetables), lentils/legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, fermented foods: Make vegetables half of your plate when eating)
  • Control insulin response
  • Include healthy fats: Coconut, Flax, chia seeds, olive, avocados, omega-3 fatty acids
  • Control food habits like: skipping breakfast, eating late at night, cooking on high heat, late-night snacking, skipping meals, pushing yourself with coffee and Indian teas) 

In conclusion, inflammation is one of the biggest health conditions we are facing today, all disease stems from this condition. It is in our best interest to control inflammation.

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