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1st Apr

2019

Why Decreasing Inflammation is a Key to Better Health and Less Pain

Today we know, that increased low grade inflammation, is a precursor to all chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. Large studies have shown that the level of inflammatory markers in the blood predict physical function, as well as mortality, in old age, including in centenarians.

Other large studies have found that people with musculoskeletal pain, including chronic neck and low back pain, have higher markers of inflammation, as compared to controls without such pain.

Increased inflammatory markers and increased cardiovascular mortality, have also been shown in people whose dietary intake of animal proteins is high- especially if derived from processed red meat. On the other hand, high plant protein intake was found to be inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Plant based polyunsaturated fats were also found to significantly decrease inflammatory markers, whereas saturated animal fats increased such markers of inflammation. However, we also know that fats from cold water fish have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Other dietary studies have revealed significantly raised hs-CRP- one of the inflammatory markers, after eating foods with high glycemic index, i.e. foods which raise the blood sugar level the most.

Recent studies have furthermore indicated, that 75-90% of chronic conditions causing morbidity and mortality are associated with increased chronic stress (or “negative stress”, as opposed to acute or “positive stress”), also shown to increase inflammatory markers and suppress immune function ( whereas acute stressors tend to enhance immune function). Such inflammation has been found to occur both peripherally and centrally in our nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. This is also seen in many with chronic pain conditions.

Furthermore, chronic stress has been shown to increase blood glucose, and contribute to insulin resistance and type II diabetes.

Exercise, both aerobic and resistance exercise, are known to decrease inflammatory markers (unless such exercise is excessive or overly intense, causing tissue irritation and pain). In general, most studies have shown that high intensity exercise lowers inflammatory markers the most, at least in healthy populations.

Recent studies showed that 6 months of exercise 4-6 times per week, alternating days with aerobic, and resistance exercise, had lower markers of inflammation, than those who combined the same exercises in one session, for a total of 2-3 workouts per week. The researchers concluded, that more frequent exercise is the most effective in lowering inflammation.

The same studies also found a correlation between the reduced inflammation, and decrease in abdominal fat mass. It has been known, that a significant proportion of the inflammatory factors are upregulated by obesity.

Besides regular exercise, a multitude of studies have shown that an “anti-inflammatory diet”, in particular consisting of plant based foods, including legumes, which have low glycemic index, effectively lower inflammatory markers in the blood.

Based on today’s scientific evidence, we also ought to control chronic stress, through life style changes, meditation, breathing and relaxation exercise etc., and get sufficient sleep, which can all reduce the level of systemic chronic inflammation.

For the same reason, it is a good idea, to manage our musculoskeletal system, to decrease pain and inflammation which go along especially with chronic conditions.

There are, of course, other potential sources of inflammation, such as stemming from dental, gastrointestinal or other conditions or diseases, which we must manage with regular check-ups, preventive measures, and appropriate treatment.

The bottom line is, that if we can lower the level of (low grade) inflammation in our bodies, it increases our chances of living longer, with less pain, and having improved physical and cognitive function, and quality of life. I think most of us would like that.

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