11 Surprising Facts About Inflammation

natural anti-inflammatory foods

There is a lot of buzz around natural anti-inflammatory foods, with diets like the Mediterranean Diet, the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet, the Atkins Diet, and the Ketogenic Diet gaining popularity. Can these diets reduce the the body’s chronic underlying inflammation? What is inflammation all about anyway?  Here are 11 surprising facts about inflammation you may not know.

The Mainstreaming of Anti-Inflammatory Food Choices

Kale in smoothies, turmeric lattes, avocado chocolate brownies – whether we understand the reasons for it or not, the mainstreaming of such natural anti-inflammatory foods is real – and it’s a really good thing. But – why?

First, in case you don’t really know what inflammation is all about in the first place, I suggest you read our definitive guide first.

Inflammation is a HUGE health problem

What you may NOT realize is that increasingly, medical researchers believe that inflammation is the culprit underlying almost every single modern disease there is.

This marks a radical departure from conventional medical approaches which treat symptoms rather than look at the underlying causes. For this reason, “[Chronic inflammation] is an emerging field,” says Dr. David Heber, a UCLA professor of medicine and director of the university’s Center for Human Nutrition. “It’s a new concept for medicine.”

It may seem incredible, but inflammation is linked to everything from difficulty losing weight, to autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as to diabetes, heart disease, and the list goes on.

Here are some surprising facts about inflammation and how it is probably affecting you, even if you have no idea about it.

inflammation in the body

1.  Inflammation is your body’s first line of defence, and is meant to protect you and heal you. But there can be too much of a good thing!

Inflammation is good when it helps your body protect itself from viruses, bacteria, and damaged tissue. So if you bruise yourself, or cut yourself, or come down with some sort of illness, inflammation is a normal, helpful response.

You would know it well, for example, in redness and swelling around an injury. Your body is a master at protecting itself, and when you injure yourself or are fighting illness, there are processes in the body which release proteins which serve as emergency signals that bring your immune system in to fix the problem. This happens in the form of white blood cells which come into an injured area along with hormones and nutrients.

Your arteries dilate and your blood flow increases, so that these white blood cells, hormones, and nutrients can move into the spaces between cells and go to work healing you. This process might include creating blood clots, or triggering pain and fever, or even creating pus in an area that is swollen.

This type of inflammation is also known as acute inflammation. It is meant to be a short term fix. When inflammation overstays its welcome, or is triggered when it is NOT needed for self-healing, it then becomes chronic inflammation, which is, essentially, your immune system is turning against itself. Literally the white blood cells swarm around an area where there is a perception of needing some kind of healing, but there is actually nothing to fix, so eventually the inflammation can attack internal organs, tissues and cells.

stress inflammation

2. Even If you’re not injured, recurring emotional stress leads to chronic inflammation.

It has been found that stress disables the body’s ability to regulate its normal inflammatory response, which in turn promotes inflammation.

According to a research team led by Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control.”

sugar causes inflammation3. In addition to injury and illness creating inflammation, our modern Western diets also contribute to an internal state of chronic inflammation.

Contemporary Western diets are filled with processed foods which are high in refined grains, fatty meats, and chemical additives, as well as unhealthy oils which promote the proliferation of free radicals in the body. It’s a diet rich in sugar, salt, starch, AND it’s a diet which is generally, for the mainstream, lacking in vegetables, fruits, healthy sources of protein and healthy fats.

It is impossible to adequately convey the train wreck that is the modern Western diet in one article. Sugar consumption alone cannot account for the disastrous consequences of our diet. If you consider the combined effects of eating unhealthy foods, along with the lack of consumption of healthy foods, and you multiply that over time, you can begin to guesstimate the severity of the situation.

Modern diets create inflammation in several ways. Sugars from processed foods like bread and snacks (crackers, cookies, packaged foods) trigger changes in the natural bacterial levels in the guts and intestines. As well, the consumption of fatty meats causes an accumulation of fat in the tissues, which can lead to inflammatory defensive reactions as well as blood sugar dysregulation. Unfortunately, people generally consume too much salt and comparatively few natural anti-inflammatory foods (i.e. healthy foods!) like fresh vegetables and healthy fats (like olive oil or avocado). This means they don’t get the nutrients they need to fight off the detrimental effects of the unhealthy foods.

inflammatory disease

4. Inflammation is a major culprit in many common diseases, such as heart disease, gum disease, lung disease, osteoarthritis, and psoriasis, and bone diseases, just to name a few.

For example, inflammation is linked to heart disease, which manifests as inflammation on the insides of blood vessels. Indeed, it might be said that heart disease is inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Likewise, lung disease can be characterised accurately as inflammation in the lungs. Gum disease can accurately be described as a disease of inflammation in the gums, and likewise bone disease and skin problems like psoriasis, can accurately be described as diseases of inflammation which causes those outward symptoms. You get the picture. 

Long story short: at the root of most symptoms, and regardless of the variety of body parts affected, chronic inflammation is present!

This is huge, because if inflammation is present in most diseases, then by treating inflammation, we can not only treat the symptoms, and reverse the disease, but we can also use anti-inflammatory measures as prevention.

inflammation cancer

5. It has been found that inflammation both contributes to, and can worsen cancer, because of the way that it feeds the cancer cells.

One of the hottest topics of late is the link between inflammation and cancer. Research on this is still ongoing, but what is clear is that when immune cells produce inflammation, immune regulation deteriorates and becomes a environment in which cancer cells can grow.

It’s already known that a chronic inflammatory condition weakens the immune system and enables cancer to have an optimum environment in which to proliferate. Now researchers are looking at how tumours hijack the body’s natural inflammatory response and use it in order to produce more cancer cells and grow rapidly.

6. Inflammation is also now highly linked to depression.

According to a 2015 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, inflammation could be responsible for depression as it has been found that people suffering from mood disorders have higher levels of inflammation in their blood and in their brain – 30% more brain inflammation than non-sufferers. 

7. Inflammation also contributes to anger disorders, and aggression.

It has also been found that people with anger disorders have higher levels of chronic inflammation, as measured by c-reactive proteins in their blood. C-reactive proteins are considered markers of underlying inflammation, and their presence is always a red flag.

8. Inflammation can harm the gut, leading to many diseases of the gut, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

These diseases cause inflammation in the stomach, the colon and the rectum.

9. If you’re having trouble losing body fat, inflammation could be the reason.

Chronic inflammation inhibits normal hunger signals and slows down metabolism, so you eat more and burn fewer calories. Inflammation can also effect how you metabolize sugar from your diet, including carbohydrates, so that you are more prone to store your food as fat rather than to burn it off or gain muscle. This process is closely related to how inflammation affects the gut, another point of metabolism that is slowed down.

10. Insomnia and difficulty sleeping are both linked to chronic inflammation.

While there is not yet a clear cause and effect link, it has been shown that people with sleep problems have markers in their blood for chronic inflammation. One researcher writes that inflammation is at the core of sleep regulation.

11. Diabetes and chronic inflammation go hand-in-hand. When you reduce the inflammation in the body, blood glucose levels normalise.

According to WebMD, for some time, researchers have known about higher levels of inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes. As type 2 diabetes starts to develop, the body becomes disregulated in its blood glucose levels, which creeps higher and higher, and this also leads to inflammation.

This study on blood sugar, inflammation and obesity shows how the process works at a chemical level.

Are you wondering how you can naturally reduce your bodies inflammation, boosting your overall health?

Having a healthy diet free of refined sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods, and consuming natural anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds/nuts, and healthy fats  is the first line of defence.

Of course, there are many recommendations as to what exactly constitutes a healthy diet, and there are many so-called “anti-inflammatory diets” out there that are being touted as a cure-alls.

Here are some tips regarding healthy eating and supplementation that will help your body reduce its inflammation.

Dietary Changes

Recommended natural anti-inflammatory foods are typical of the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasises eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats; consuming fatty seafood like tuna, mackerel, and salmon; eating moderate portions of nuts; eating very little red meat; and drinking moderate amounts red wine.

It is also thought that consuming omega-3 fatty acids is important as these fats protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation – by inhibiting an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation.

how to reduce inflammation

Some specific natural anti-inflammatory foods to consider:

Cold Water Fish, which contain Omega-3s, a known anti-inflammatory, and this includes salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel, two or three servings (about 12 ounces or 340 grams) per week.

Avocados, which also contain omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols both of which can help reduce inflammation.

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale and cauliflower and other green leafy veggies contain sulforaphane, which is associated with blocking enzymes that are linked to inflammation.

Olive Oil Not only does it have Omega-3s, but it contains tons of anti-oxidants. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-olive-oil

Walnuts They have the most Omega-3 of all nuts, and are also thought to inhibit the production of neurotransmitters such as substance P and bradykinins, which increase pain and inflammation 

Onions They contain quercetin (which is where Emulin® gets this powerful ingredient), a known anti-inflammatory.

Whole grains: like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat rather than white rice or potatoes. The fibre in whole grains mediates inflammatory processes during metabolism and is good for healthy gut bacteria.

Spices & Herbs: Specifically ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass.


Get moving! A recent study has shown that just 20 minutes of exercise lowers inflammation in the body. 

Some Resources:

Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid


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