Acute, short-term inflammation is important to fight infections and to heal from injuries. But smoldering, chronic inflammation will eventually kill you.
Slow, chronic inflammation is linked to several diseases of ageing including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint diseases, COPD, and inflammatory brain diseases that lead to senility. Chronic inflammation is also associated with cancer. Beyond such diseases, the “process of ageing” itself is linked with chronic inflammation.
Human aging is characterized by a chronic, low-grade inflammation, and this phenomenon has been termed as “inflammaging.” Inflammaging is a highly significant risk factor for both morbidity and mortality in the elderly people, as most if not all age-related diseases share an inflammatory pathogenesis. __ https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/Suppl_1/S4/587037
If you are always tired and achy, have trouble sleeping, are commonly depressed or anxious, and have frequent viral infections, you may suffer from low level chronic inflammation which could lead to you getting old before your time.
What are Some Causes of Chronic Inflammation?
Some of the things that can lead to chronic inflammatory processes in tissues include the following:
- Failure of eliminating the agent causing an acute inflammation such as infectious organisms including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, protozoa, fungi, and other parasites that can resist host defenses and remain in the tissue for an extended period.
- Exposure to a low level of a particular irritant or foreign materials that cannot be eliminated by enzymatic breakdown or phagocytosis in the body including substances or industrial chemical that can be inhaled over a long period, for example, silica dust.
- An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system is sensitized to the normal component of the body and attacks healthy tissue giving rise to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation. However, in some cases, chronic inflammation is an independent response and not a sequel to acute inflammation for example diseases such as tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Inflammatory and biochemical inducers are causing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction such as increased production of free radical molecules, advanced glycation end products (AGEs), uric acid (urate) crystals, oxidized lipoproteins, homocysteine, and others.
Senescent cells are also a cause of chronic inflammation:
… senescent cells likely fuel age-related disease because they secrete numerous proinflammatory cytokines (termed the senescence-associated secretory phenotype or SASP) that modify the tissue microenvironment and alter the function of nearby normal or transformed cells (12,13). Senescent cells accumulate with age in many tissues and are prominent at sites of many age-related pathologies. __ https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/Suppl_1/S4/587037
We can control some of the risk factors for chronic inflammation, but not all. Simply by growing older, we are at higher risk for chronic simmering inflammation — due to our falling hormone levels with age and also increasing numbers of senescent cells. What we eat plays a strong role in our risks from chronic inflammation. Gaining too much weight puts us at higher risk, as does smoking. Not getting enough sleep is a significant risk factor for chronic inflammation, along with excessive stress levels.
Physical exercise is associated with the normal acute inflammation of healing, but regular moderate exercise helps the body to reduce chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s way of healing itself after an injury and protecting itself from infection; but chronic inflammation is linked with all kinds of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease. When you start exercising and moving your muscles, your muscle cells release a small protein called Interleukin 6, or IL-6, which appears to play an important role in fighting inflammation. __ Source
There are a number of tests that your doctor can order to determine whether you have abnormal levels of inflammatory markers in your blood. A serum protein electrophoresis and tests for inflammatory proteins such as C-reactive protein, serum Amyloid A, and cytokines can provide a small window into your cellular processes of inflammation.
What Can You Do About It?
Many dietary and lifestyle changes may be helpful in removing inflammation triggers and reducing chronic inflammation as listed below. The most effective is weight loss.
Low-glycemic diet: Diet with a high glycemic index is related to high risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is beneficial to limit consumption of inflammation-promoting foods like sodas, refined carbohydrates, fructose corn syrup in a diet.
Reduce intake of total, saturated fat and trans fats: Some dietary saturated and synthetic trans-fats aggravate inflammation, while omega-3 polyunsaturated fats appear to be anti-inflammatory. Processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats such as processed seed and vegetable oils, baked goods (like soybean and corn oil) should be reduced from the diet.
Fruits and vegetables: Blueberries, apples, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation.
Fiber: High intake of dietary soluble and insoluble fiber is associated with lowering levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha.
Nuts: such as almonds is associated with lowering risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Green and black tea polyphenols: Tea polyphenols are associated with a reduction in CRP in human clinical studies.
Curcumin: a constituent of turmeric causes significant patient improvements in several inflammatory diseases especially in animal models.
Fish Oil: The richest source of the omega-3 fatty acids. Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with lowering levels of TNF-alpha, CRP, and IL-6.
Mung bean: Rich in flavonoids (particularly vitexin and isovitexin). It is traditional food and herbal medicine known for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Micronutrients: Magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc and selenium). Magnesium is listed as one of the most anti-inflammatory dietary factors, and its intake is associated with lowering of hsCRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha activity. Vitamin D exerts its anti-inflammatory activity by suppressing inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells. Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium act as antioxidants in the body.
Sesame Lignans: Sesame oil consumption reduces the synthesis of prostaglandin, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes and is known for its potential hypotensive activity.
In human clinical trials, it is shown that energy expenditure through exercise lowers multiple pro-inflammatory molecules and cytokines independently of weight loss. __ Chronic Inflammation
Some treatments for the chronic inflammation of ageing include the prescription drugs metformin and rapamycin. Over the counter aspirin can help in low doses, as long as not contraindicated by other health issues or drug interactions. A wide range of foods, herbal supplements and vitamin-like supplements are available that provide some anti-inflammatory protection — including curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q, N-acetyl cysteine, and a large number of extracts from various seeds, barks, fruit, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.
General Recommendations as a Starting Point
It is easy to become obsessive about this kind of thing, given the importance of chronic inflammation to the ageing process. But it is best to begin any changes you plan to make with basic lifestyle choices: Regular moderate exercise, a healthier diet, no smoking, moderate drinking, adequate sleep, learning to deal with stress, avoid overmedicating.
Increase uptake of anti-inflammatory foods: It is important to avoid eating simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, high-glycemic foods, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils. Consuming whole grains, natural foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits such as avocados, cherries, kale, and fatty fish like salmon is helpful in defeating inflammation.
Minimize intake of antibiotics and NSAIDs: Use of antibiotics, antacids, and NSAIDs should be avoided as it could harm the microbiome in the gut causing inflammation in intestinal walls known as leaky gut which in turn releases toxins and triggers chronic, body-wide inflammation.
Exercise regularly to maintain an optimum weight: It is largely known that adipose tissue in obese or overweight individuals induces low-grade systemic inflammation. Regular exercise is helpful not only in controlling weight but also decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strengthening the heart, muscles, and bones.
Sleep longer: Overnight sleep (ideally at least 7 to 8 hours) helps stimulating human growth hormones and testosterone in the body to rebuild itself.
Stress Less: Chronic psychological stress is linked to greater risk for depression, heart disease and body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response and normal defense. Yoga and meditation are helpful in alleviating stress-induced inflammation and its harmful effects on the body. __ Chronic Inflammation
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