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Chronic Inflammation:
The Cause of All Disease

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

Chronic inflammation is a classic example of too much of a good thing. While inflammation is meant to be a helpful process that protects the body from harm, when it gets out of control or lingers for too long, damage and illness results.

There is no single cause for chronic inflammation, but often a build-up of many different things – chronic stress, blood sugar imbalances, leaky gut, environmental imbalances, chronic infections, lack of sleep just to name a few!

Here, we’ll explore inflammation in depth to better understand what inflammation is, what causes chronic inflammation, and how you can prevent or heal disease by directly addressing the root causes of inflammation.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is an important aspect of our immune system. It is the body's attempt to protect itself against harmful stimuli, such as damaged cells, irritants, toxins, and pathogens. Inflammation brings with it healing blood flow and immune cells to resolve the issue at hand.

Inflammation can also be a warning sign, kind of like your car’s “check engine” light. When the light goes on, it means something is off and needs support. To fix the issue and make the light go off, we do not remove the bulb – we go to check the engine and make adjustments so the car will run normally again. Inflammation is your body’s built-in “check engine” light. It alerts you that something is off and needs attention to get back to balance.

But unlike that light on your car’s dashboard, unaddressed inflammation causes trouble of its own over time. Chronic inflammation that lingers after the problem has healed causes ongoing damage cells, tissues, and eventually whole organ systems.

As such, inflammation acts as a trigger for the development of most diseases. It is often the underlying issue in our unresolved pains, illnesses, and stubborn conditions that don’t seem to improve. In reality, this unchecked, damaging form of chronic inflammation is at the centre of all disease.

Types of Inflammation: Acute and Chronic

Inflammation can be one of two types: acute inflammation or chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation is your body’s natural defence against damaged cells, viruses, and other harmful invaders. This type of inflammation is quick, fast, and effective! It is what you may have experienced when your body was healing from a cut or helping you fight an infection. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is systemic, low grade, and can last for months or even years. Let’s take a deeper look at these two types of inflammation:

The Inflammatory Process

Whenever your body is exposed to harm, such as infectious organisms, injuries, or toxins, the body’s immune system rises to fight. It dilates the local blood vessels in the affected tissues which results in swelling, redness, heat, and sometimes pain.

Similarly, the immune system also releases immune cells and chemicals including macrophages, B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, cytokines, and interleukins to fight and eliminate the harmful agent.

Ideally, the immune system shuts off this immune response once the harmful agent is eliminated and the body can return to balance. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. An over-active immune system fails to fully stop this response and instead it continues a low, persistent level of pro-inflammatory enzymes, swelling, redness, and other signs of inflammation. With no pathogens to fight, this inflammation degrades healthy tissues and increases your risk for chronic disease.

Inflammation and Chronic Disease Connections

Chronic inflammation doesn’t just make your pain worse, your allergies unbearable, and your digestion difficult. It can cause severe damage to your body’s healthy tissues and set the foundation for chronic disease.

Chronic inflammation has been shown to increase the risk of certain disorders such as:

  • Neurodegenerative disorders like dementia and Parkinson’s
  • Allergic disorders such as asthma and dermatitis
  • Autoimmune disorders like SLE and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic oral health issues
  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Metabolic disorders like diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Leaky gut syndrome

Causes and Suggestions

The first step to reducing chronic inflammation and preventing disease is understanding why inflammation occurs and what we can do to manage it better. Let’s review some of the most common reasons we struggle with chronic inflammation:

Inflammatory Foods

We are what we eat. Diets rich in refined sugars, processed foods, and trans fats or saturated fats tend to increase the risk of chronic inflammation because they cause inflammatory processes in the digestive tract.

For those suffering from disorders caused due to chronic inflammation, a diet containing a high amount of carbohydrates and a low amount of proteins can also be detrimental.

Suggestions

Just as diet can increase inflammation, it can also be used to cool inflammation and set the foundation for health.

A balanced Mediterranean diet helps to inhibit chronic inflammation with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dietary fibre, and healthy fats.

Avoid food sensitivities. They are usually the greatest trigger for inflammation. 

Reduce sugar intake: Sugar feeds inflammation, increases bacteria overgrowth and increases insulin which is pro-inflammatory 

Increased Intestinal Permeability

One of the main causes of inflammation is increased intestinal permeability. This occurs when issues like leaky gut syndrome and ulcerative colitis weaken the intestinal barriers and allow toxins from food to enter the blood. The body responds to this “foreign invasion” with an immune response and widespread inflammation.

Suggestions

Allow your gut to heal. The key to preventing intestinal permeability is to avoid inflammatory and reactive foods and focus on eating nutritious foods. Adding in bone broth is an excellent way to help nourish the gut lining and promote gut healing. 

Reduce your intake of packaged and ready meals that contain chemical additives and preservatives.

Avoid any sprayed or GMO foods. These chemicals found on foods can disrupt the tight junction integrity further exacerbating the condition.

Supplementation is also beneficial, certain nutrients such as glutamine and EPA/DHA can be useful when tailored individually to you. 

Ozone is very effective to reduce inflammation and help to restore mucus membranes in the gut. 

Allergies, Intolerances, and Sensitivities

Allergies and sensitivities are a clear sign of inflammation. When these issues are improperly treated and linger for months or years, they can lead to recurrent attacks and chronic inflammation.

During each attack, the organs are exposed to cytokines, interleukins, and other pro-inflammatory substances released by the immune cells. This can lead to chronic inflammation and increase your risk of respiratory, skin, and gut health issues.

Suggestions 

Stop the inflammatory cycle by avoiding allergens.

Avoiding the allergens and irritants to which your body is sensitive is the most effective way to prevent chronic inflammation caused due to these factors. If you struggle with chronic allergies or skin or food sensitivities, take on a holistic treatment plan to rebuild your body’s resilience and balance the immune system.

Obesity

Research studies have shown a clear link between obesity and inflammation.
The studies found that excess fat deposited in the body (such as around the belly, thighs, and buttocks) can cause long-term damage to the organs – even those located far away from these areas including the brain, heart, and pancreas.

Suggestions 

Obesity and inflammation are a complex cycle – with increased weight there is more inflammation and more inflammation feeds weight gain. 

The more causes of inflammation are solved, the easier it will be to address excess weight. 

Sedentary Lifestyle

Those who live a sedentary lifestyle and don’t participate in regular physical activity are more likely to develop disorders linked to chronic inflammation. Sedentary lifestyles are correlated with weight gain and obesity, which we know is linked to inflammation. Additionally, without a healthy exercise routine the body has fewer chances to detox and clear inflammation.

Suggestions 

Regular exercise is required to live a healthy life. Whether you love to walk, hike, swim, dance, or something else, staying active will help you reduce systemic inflammation and boost your body’s resilience to illness and stress.

Breathing exercises are another great tool. There are countless studies that show how deep breathing calms the nervous system, increases the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen and helps to reduce inflammation. Download a breathing app onto your phone and add regular breathing into your routine.  

Inflammatory Habits

Along with a standard diet and lack of exercise, other unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and the use of recreational drugs can contribute to inflammation. These habits increase cellular damage and cause inflammation in the lungs, liver, stomach, and throughout the body. Needless to say, these activities are closely connected to heart disease, liver disease, respiratory disorders, skin conditions, and cancers.

Suggestions

Many of our “bad habits” can be replaced by better ones. Take the first step to a healthier life by quitting or reducing these inflammatory habits and replacing them with interesting hobbies or more restorative stress-relief techniques.

Stop smoking. Smoking is a habit which increases the risk of developing (and worsens the symptoms of) asthma, allergies, and chronic upper respiratory tract issues. Smoking not only increases your exposure to toxins but also feeds the chronic inflammatory pathway. 

Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol can induce intestinal inflammation through a cascade of mechanisms that subsequently lead to inflammation and organ dysfunction throughout the body, in particular in the liver and brain.

Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation
Faraz Bishehsari, M.D., Ph.D.; Emmeline Magno, M.D.; Garth Swanson, M.D.; Vishal Desai, M.D.; Robin M. Voigt, Ph.D.; Christopher B. Forsyth, Ph.D.; and Ali Keshavarzian, M.D.

Poor Sleep

Lack of sleep disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm and lead to increased inflammatory processes. The body needs sleep to rest and repair. Without adequate time to restore and heal, inflammation continues to affect the body’s tissues and can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions.

Suggestions

Make getting great sleep your priority. Creating a healthy sleep routine is essential to reduce inflammation. 

Along with a lower risk of inflammatory disorders, you’ll also feel more clear-headed, energized, have a stronger immunity, and enjoy better moods.

  • Create a habit of going to bed at the same time each night. The human body naturally operates according to a clock, and when it’s time for bed, your body lets you know by making you tired
  • Stay away from computer screens, cell phones, TV, etc. at least two hours before your bedtime
  • Wake up at the same time each day. Keeping a sleeping and waking pattern keeps your body in tune with its natural clock. Eventually, your body will adjust to your sleeping patterns and will wake up naturally, at the same time every morning, without an alarm
  • Exercise daily. Incorporating regular exercise into your schedule is proven to increase sleep quality
  • Spend some time outdoors, in natural sunlight, each day. Receiving natural light from the sun produces melatonin, which is integral for getting quality sleep
  • Keep your bedroom clean, uncluttered, and well-ventilated
  • Turn off all electrical devices, WIFI, phones, etc.
  • Using organic bedding like sheets, pillowcases, and mattresses can help improve sleep quality as well

Chronic Stress

Stress is a highly inflammatory process. Cortisol, which is released when we’re stressed, is actually an anti-inflammatory hormone. In times of acute stress, cortisol helps the body function optimally and survive the situation. However, chronic stress or exaggerated stress responses lead to cortisol dysfunction, which then results in widespread inflammation and range of related inflammatory health issues (like pain, digestive upset, and chronic disease).

Suggestions 

To keep stress under control, it’s important to engage in activities that balance cortisol levels, calm the mind, and relax the body.

Practices like yoga and meditation as well as vagus nerve stimulation techniques are widely accessible and can help relieve stress and anxiety. When practiced regularly, these habits help you stay fit, both physically and mentally.

Supplementation In addition to this you can support your nervous system by using adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, or Ginseng can help the body restore homeostasis. Other important nutrients include magnesium, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids.  

Hidden Infections, Toxins, and Chemicals

Factors such as hidden infections, toxins, and the chemicals your body is exposed to can lead to long-term, low grade inflammation. These may come from the air, water, food, environment, and home or personal products. Over time, this results in serious damage to healthy tissues. It may increase your risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's disease.

Suggestions 

Liver Support Our liver is the organ most important to the processing and breakdown of toxins and metabolic wastes in the body. Drinking liver supportive teas and eating plenty of cruciferous veggies like cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc. Supplementation is another important factor here.

Dietary Support Ensure that you include soluble and insoluble fibre, and resistant starch in your daily diet. These are important for the health of the gut generally and for promoting daily elimination of wastes via the bowels. One to three bowel movements a day is ideal.

Drink Drink Drink Consume at least 1.5-2 L of filtered water as part of your daily routine. Optimal fluid intake is essential as kidneys are responsible for the elimination of metabolic and ingested wastes and toxins.

Pulse electromagnetic field frequency (PEMF) therapy can also help facilitate heavy metal detoxification.  https://pemftraining.com/detoxify-with-high-intensity-pemf/

Ozone Therapy Infections are contributing to your heath state and therefore reducing the pathogenic load is extremely important, this can be achieved through Ozone Therapy. Ozone is well known to reduce inflammation, up regulate Nrf2 which in turn up regulates antioxidant production and helps with elimination of infections and reduced oxidative stress. 

Sauna therapy to detox and reduce inflammation. One of the leading markers of systemic inflammation is C-reactive protein. An acute phase reactant generated by the liver as it works to detoxify the blood, levels of CRP increase rapidly in response to infection, inflammation, and trauma.

Methylation Abnormalities

Exposure to certain toxins and other factors can cause abnormal DNA methylation. This triggers chronic inflammatory processes and puts you at a higher risk of chronic inflammatory diseases like cancer.

Suggestions

Avoid environmental toxins and choose clean products.

You can avoid methylation abnormalities by minimizing your exposure to toxins and chemicals in foods, air, and even radiation. Reduce your exposure to these harmful factors by eliminating any toxic household or selfcare products. Read more here 

Clear Away Chronic Inflammation 

With so much health advice out there, knowing what steps to take can be overwhelming and confusing. But, in almost all cases, addressing chronic inflammation with a functional approach is a great place to start.

Contact us to learn more about using functional medicine to step into a healthier life today!

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    5 Responses

    1. This a truly brilliant article on chronic inflammation! Thank you, Deborah! If people just followed your guidance here alone, their lives would change. Sadly, only a small percentage will take action. Hence, why functional medicine practitioners are so desperately needed.

      1. HARUN it's been for ever. What a joy. I hope you are well. How are all your adventures and endeavours going? We need to catch up.

        You are definitely right. Many need to be forced into change. The cool thing is that no one can escape and COVID is helping a lot. Never before in history has mankind become so aware of co-morbidities and vulnerability based on lifestyle. We are experiencing the greatest wake up of all times and expansion of consciousness.

        Our coaching program has never been as popular as now. People from all walks of life find interest in health and learn to PREVENT. How cool is that. Can you imagine that Ozone has become one of the top therapies even with conventional doctors and practitioners because they see results. This would have never happened without the pressure. So all good and something to be grateful for.

      2. Deborah Freudenmann says:

        Thank you Harun for your beautiful words!

    2. Rosemary Jennell says:

      Nothing has helped my Erythromaliligia . I lose sleep constantly. The burning in my feet is very hard to reduce. I use ozone bag on my feet but it doesn't stop it. I have read every study for my disease and they say there is no cure.

      1. You have more or less 3 options to find out what causes the problem or makes it worse.

        No 1 as always are food sensitivities. You go for 2 weeks onto a super boring and bland diet with steamed vegetables and a bit of rice. No nightshades, no dairy, no gluten no spices and most importantly no preservatives MSG or GMO. Every trigger has to be stopped. If your body is not triggered anymore you will find out very fast when your symptoms disappear.

        No2 Find out if you have a viral or bacterial infection. If Erythromaliligia is related to bacterial or viral infection then get Ozone and UBI in high concentrations in a clinic. Do a hyperbaric ozone therapy as a 10 pass in a clinic and if they can add UBI therapy you should see very fast results if it is caused by pathogens. If this is the case you need to do rectal insufflations and not bag your feet. That won't help.

        No 3. If your problem is caused by toxicity then it may be triggered on command by household chemicals or hair spray or perfume of anything the likes. If you see a worsening even 2 days later you know that you have a massive detox job ahead of you.

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