Most people associate inflammation with healing and some type of wound. In the basic form, inflammation is a good thing, it is the body’s first line of defense against toxins, infections and injuries. It is a mechanism that allows our body to respond to injury and heal itself. When your cells are in distress, they release chemicals to alert the immune system. The immune system then sends inflammatory cells to heal the tissue. As this complex chain of events unfolds, blood vessels leak fluid into the site of the injury, causing swelling, redness and pain. These symptoms might be uncomfortable, but they are essential for the healing process. This kind of inflammation is good and the kind that we all need in certain situations.
The problem with inflammation is that over time, you can end up with too much of a good thing. With chronic inflammation, your body is on high alert all the time.
We get into trouble when our bodies have chronic inflammation, or repeated inflammation at the same site in the absence of a wound. Chronic inflammation is problematic because it causes an immune reaction, even when there is no injury. It is chronic because if it is not diagnosed and reduced, the inflammation will persist in your body. This prolonged state of emergency can cause lasting damage to your heart, brain and other organs.
Over time this can slowly begin to erode or destroy the tissues in that area, potentially damaging arteries, organs, and contributing to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. For example, when inflammatory cells hang around too long in blood vessels, they promote the buildup of dangerous plaque. The body sees this plaque as foreign and sends more inflammatory cells, which in turn causes more plaque. As the plaque continues to build, the arteries can thicken, creating the possibility or even probability of heart attack or stroke. Chronic inflammation may lead to a host of issues, including hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.
Symptoms & Causes of Chronic Inflammation
We are still learning about inflammation, but what we do know so far is that chronic inflammation can be caused by several factors including:
-improperly healed infections
-abnormal immune reactions
Autoimmune disease such as Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis and MS can also trigger inflammation. It can also be caused by other conditions that continually wear on your body, like inflammatory bowel disease.
Some of the symptoms of chronic inflammation are obesity, fatigue, indigestion, acne, allergies, and persistent aches and pains. If you have any or most of these symptoms, a visit to your doctor to discuss chronic inflammation should be in order.
What can I do?
Researchers are learning more about the missing links between inflammation and disease every day. But until we have more answers, your best defense against inflammation is to control the factors that you can change. You can help by focusing on the lifestyle choices that have been shown to reduce your risk of chronic inflammation. Some of the lifestyle factors that have been shown to play a part in inflammation are smoking, chronic stress drinking alcohol excessively and in particular, obesity. In the case of obesity, studies have shown that having excess abdominal fat is one of the greatest contributors to chronic low-level inflammation.
The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Keto Foods
The ketogenic diet had its start way back in the ‘20’s, where it started out as a tool to reduce symptoms in epileptic children. Current day research is revealing benefits that would apply to the general population as well. There is promising research happening right now studying the positive effects of the ketogenic diet on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, T2 Diabetes, Autism, Cancer, and Mental Illnesses, such as Depression. The research on the anti-inflammatory effects of a keto diet are becoming especially compelling, because the keto diet can be anti-inflammatory due to the foods that it eliminates, as well as those foods it includes.
As processed sugar is a known major contributor to inflammation, it is high on the list of foods to avoid, but it is one of many. The first thing that gets eliminated on a keto diet are carbohydrates (sugars) with a high glycemic index. However the high fiber carbohydrates like leafy greens, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts which are moderately included in a ketogenic diet are believed to be anti-inflammatory. The keto diet also emphasizes eating healthy fats and oils, which include anti inflammatory olive, avocado, coconut oils and omega 3’s and steering clear of inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and inflammatory vegetable oils.
Other Ways to Reduce Chronic Inflammation
The ketogenic diet can have some significant benefits in helping reduce inflammation, but it is only a part of what you can do to help. Here are some other ways to reduce chronic inflammation.
- Get more exercise
- Consume more omega-3 fatty acids, while reducing omega-6
- Eat antioxidant rich foods
- Reduce nightshade vegetables (such as tomatoes and peppers)
- Reduce stress
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Stop smoking, if you do
Many of you reading this are already on a ketogenic diet and some possibly assume that Keto is only about dropping the sugar. As you can see from the list of common foods to avoid, its about more than that. Yes, it’s about controlling your glucose and insulin responses, but it’s also about eating foods that reduce inflammation. It’s about eliminating food which can inflame your system. It’s about eating food that will decrease fluctuations in hormones. It’s about clean eating and getting chemicals out of our bodies.
One of the single best piece of keto advice I’ve heard since being on the ketogenic way of eating, is to try and choose foods that don’t have a list of ingredients. Instead, choose real foods, like vegetables and fresh meat and fish. Choose foods just like the ones your grandparents would have eaten. Turns out, Grandpa really did know best.