Did you know that inflammation is the root of all disease? And that it can age you faster? Inflammation makes your skin wrinkle, causes your cells to become sluggish and your body to slowly lose its vitality.
What causes the fires of inflammation to smolder within your body? The most common causes include: hidden infections, allergens, environmental toxins (heavy metals such as mercury and lead or cigarette smoke), lack of or excessive exercise, mental stress, animal fat and too much sugar, a.k.a. “The Standard American Diet.”
Potential sources of inflammation
The two most common hidden infections are either in the mouth or in the stomach. In the mouth, Gingivitis can occur from inadequate flossing and brushing. You may have a pocket of infection in a cavity-ridden tooth. Don’t neglect your mouth, as tooth inflammation has been shown to lead to heart disease.1 In your belly, you may harbor hidden parasites, not enough beneficial bacteria, yeast overgrowth or an H. pylori infection.
Sure, environmental allergens may be making you sneeze, but it’s the secret reactions to foods that can lead to significant body inflammation. In fact, finding your food triggers will often magically resolve your environmental allergies and other maladies. I have seen allergies, asthma and migraines disappear simply by removing foods like wheat or gluten from the diet.
If you are a smoker, now is the time to re-evaluate. Those cigarettes are making your skin age faster and will have you looking older than your age in no time. If that’s not motivation enough, think about what it’s doing to you’re the inside of your body. Other often missed toxins include mercury from dental amalgams,2 eating too much high-mercury fish or from childhood exposures when lead paint and leaded gasoline were common. Most recently, there have been reports of toxicity from lead pipes carrying water into homes.3
We think of exercise as a good thing, however too much exercise can also cause inflammation as well. Keep it moderate and do the things that you enjoy.
Research has shown measurable increases in inflammatory markers due to social stress.4 Yoga, meditation and tai chi are powerful ways to lower your stress response and increase your ability to adapt to different situations.
Animal Fat and Excess Sugar
Studies have shown that eating animal fat increases your risk of dementia5. The sugar epidemic has led to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes across the world. Cut animal fat and sugar from your diet and you will have made great strides toward reducing the incidence of inflammation in your body.
How do you test for inflammation?
There is a simple blood test for C-reactive protein that can reveal your level of inflammation, which should be less than 1.0. Moderate levels are considered to be between 1.0 and 3.0. Levels greater than 3.0 are deemed to be high, however all levels above 1.0 suggest a progressive increase in your risk for chronic disease.
If you follow The Food and Heath Alternative blogs here on ecomii, you have hopefully adopted a healthier lifestyle incorporating a diet high in vegetables, fruits and nuts. A vegan diet that emphasizes whole foods can have strong anti-inflammatory benefits.
Avoid animal fat and polyunsaturated vegetable oils as much as possible, cook with anti-inflammatory spices, such as ginger and turmeric, exercise in moderation and find ways to experience deep relaxation. By doing this, you will lower your risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer and diabetes, slowing the aging process, as well.
Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an Integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City. Follow Dr. Pedre on Facebook.
More from ecomii:
1. De Oliveira C, Watt R, Hammer M. Toothbrushing, inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular disease: results from Scottish Health Survey. BMJ. 2010 May 27;340:c2451
2. Willingham V. “FDA revisits mercury fillings,” from CNN Blog, The Chart, accessed on December 19, 2010, at http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/12/14/fda-revisits-the-dangers-of-mercury-fillings/
3. Frandsen M. “CDC: 15,000 Washington D.C. homes may have dangerous levels of lead in water,” from Examiner.com, accessed on December 19, 2010, at http://www.examiner.com/dc-in-national/cdc-15-000-washington-d-c-homes-may-have-dangerous-levels-of-lead-water?render=print
4. Slavich, George M, et al. Neural sensitivity to social rejection is associated with inflammatory responses to social stress, from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online on August 2, 2010, at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/26/1009164107.abstract
5. Takechi R, et al. Dietary fats, cerebrovasculature integrity and Alzheimer’s disease risk. Progress in Lipid Research 2010 April;49(2):159-70.