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Inflammation: the Good, the Bad & What They Mean for Your Health

Acute and Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation and its causes (as well as its consequences) are common wellness topics these days. But not all inflammation is the same. Some types are good and some are bad. To clear up any confusion, I will break down the different types of inflammation for you. That way, you can better understand the importance of “good” inflammation and how to treat the “bad” kind.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your immune system’s protective response to foreign organisms (think bacteria and viruses) that are attempting to infect you and cause damage to your body. This process?removes the harmful stimuli in your body and jump start tissue repair. Inflammation is a complex biological process. Without it, wounds would putrefy and viruses would become deadly. But sometimes, inflammation can lead to other diseases.

The “Good” Inflammation

Acute inflammation (the “good” kind) is your body’s initial response to an invader or injury to the tissue. When something triggers an inflammatory response (a cut, burn, virus, etc.) your body sends out proteins that seek to address and repair the issue. It normally only takes a couple of days for the inflammatory response to subside. You see this with a:

Fever. A fever is your body’s way of fighting off a cold or flu, etc. A fever can also be indicative of some other bacterial or viral issues your body is trying to fight. Some people advise you to not take a fever reducer such as Tylenol unless your fever gets over 100. This is so your body can gather all the troops in your body and put up a good fight. You should definitely ask your doctor for direction when dealing with fevers.

Swollen Ankle. When you twist your ankle, the body’s immune system sends tons of fighter cells to the area to protect and heal, causing swelling. Since this also hurts, to decrease the swelling and the pain, we usually apply ice to the swollen area.

The “Bad” Inflammation

The “bad” inflammation that you hear a lot about right now is inflammation that does more harm than good, leading to a host of diseases. Otherwise known as chronic (long-term) inflammation, this occurs when your body continues to produce– and can no longer control– the inflammatory response, eventually damaging healthy tissue in your body. This can lead to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other diseases like heart disease. Chronic inflammation can negatively affect your quality of life and make all the difference in life vs. death.

How to Treat Chronic Inflammation

Many different things cause chronic inflammation, but they are some of the most common offenders of a healthy lifestyle: lack of exercise, lack of sleep, poor diet, and stress. Smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and lack of proper oral hygiene are all contributors to chronic inflammation, too. Putting it bluntly, by failing to combat “bad” inflammation, you severely risk your health. So how to fight it?

Eat An Anti-Inflammatory Diet. You are what you eat! Refined carbohydrates, sugars, soda, red meat, processed foods, and trans fats all exacerbate chronic inflammation, so cut those out of your diet and replace them with anti-inflammatory foods like leafy green veggies, monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, and nuts), salmon, and herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cilantro, garlic, and rosemary.

Quit Smoking & Drinking. Easier said than done, right? And of course there’s nothing wrong with a glass or two of red wine once a week. But by quitting smoking and cutting back on how much you drink, you’ll greatly reduce the inflammatory response?in your body, and significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, in particular.

Get Regular Massages. Stress is a major cause of heart attack, stroke, and general dissatisfaction with life. What better way to reduce stress?and?promote restful sleep?than with a massage? By getting a regular monthly massage, you’ll find yourself in a better position to deal with your stress, sleep better, and watch your health and energy levels improve.

Fighting chronic inflammation may require more than a few changes to your lifestyle. Even making small changes like flossing every night, going to bed half an hour earlier, eating salmon once a week, and cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink, can make a huge difference in your health. Contact me today to learn more about how a regular massage session will also help you combat chronic inflammation.

Suzanne Schaper is a Board Certified Massage Therapist serving Lenexa and Overland Park, KS. She loves sharing her knowledge for health and wellness with her customers. "A life free of pain and disease is a more full life." Suzanne enjoys assisting her customers in their pursuit of health and happiness.

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