Inflammation a natural process, but can be symptom of problems

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, March 5, 2015

You wouldn’t think that one of your body’s life saving mechanisms could actually turn against you and increase your chance for disease, but that’s exactly what happens with inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or illness. It’s a process by which the body’s white blood cells and other chemicals protect us from infection, bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is triggered by your body’s immune system, and is designed to repair injured tissue, and promote healing.

There’s a problem though. When the immune system’s battle against an injury or illness is over, inflammation is supposed to cease, but sometimes doesn’t. When inflammation no longer has a foreign enemy to fight off, it causes damage to otherwise healthy tissues. This is referred to as “autoimmune disease.”

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Low-grade inflammation can set in motion a series of developments that underlie a variety of diseases and conditions such as heart disease and stroke. It also appears that inflammation is the driving force behind atherosclerosis, or plaque build up in the walls of arteries reducing blood flow.

Other conditions thought to be facilitated by inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, gouty arthritis, polymyalgia rhuematica, headaches, muscle stiffness, and loss of energy.

Now that we know what inflammation is, and what is does to our bodies, how do we deal with it? First, lose weight. Excess weight can accentuate the risk of low-grade inflammation. There is a well-founded association between hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and diabetes with regard to the integral role of fat cells.

In addition to losing weight, quitting smoking, and regular exercise play a huge role in diminishing inflammation. Avoiding saturated fats, and consuming more fruits, whole grains, richly colored vegetables, beans, seeds, and fish, is also associated with a reduction in low-grade inflammation. Also, consuming omega 3 fatty acids reduces inflammation. Omega 3s are found in fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut, as well as in nut oils and flax.

There are medications like statins, ACE inhibitors, and some diabetic drugs that are anti-inflammatories. There are also non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, but don’t take any medication without first consulting with your doctor.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He has also been a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and a teacher for four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.