Inflammation: What is it, Causes and How to Fight It

by Natalia Urdiales February 10, 2021

Inflammation, explained:

Combate la Inflamación

If you want long-term health, you will have to reduce inflammation in your body. Inflammation in the body causes or contributes to many debilitating, chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and even cancer.

Recent research has shown that eating this way not only helps protect against certain diseases, but also slows the aging process by stabilizing blood sugar and increasing metabolism. Also, while the goal is to optimize health, many people find that they also lose weight by following an anti-inflammatory eating pattern. If you're interested in finding out which general diet (Mediterranean, Paleo, etc.) is best for inflammation, this is a great article to review. However, in general, the following things are recommended:


  1. Consume 25 grams or more of fiber a day.

A high-fiber diet helps reduce inflammation by supplying natural anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. To get your fiber fill you have to try to consume whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The best sources of fiber include whole grains like barley and oatmeal; vegetables such as okra, aubergine and onion, such as bananas, which contain 3 grams of fiber.


  1. Eat a minimum of nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

A "serving" is half a cup of a generally cooked fruit or vegetable, or a cup of a vegetable if they are leafy greens (spinach, arugula, watercress, chard, kale. For more properties add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, such as turmeric and ginger to fruits or vegetables when you are cooking or eating them to have more antioxidants.


  1. Eat four servings of alliums and crucifers each week.

Alliums are like garlic, chives, onions, and leeks, while cruciferous are vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts. Due to its powerful antioxidant properties, consuming an average weekly of four servings of each can help reduce the risk of cancer. One garlic a day turns out to be a healthy habit even.


  1. Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of your daily calories.

By keeping saturated fat low (about 20 grams per 2,000 calories), you will help reduce your risk of heart disease. You should also try to limit red meat to once a week and marinate it with herbs, spices and unsweetened fruit juices to reduce the toxic compounds that are formed during cooking, using rosemary in the kitchen is incredibly healthy. Opt for a more plant-oriented lifestyle.


  1. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, conditions that often have an elevated inflammatory process at their root. Try to eat lots of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like flaxseed, walnuts, beans, and soybeans. Taking a good quality omega-3 supplement may also be recommended. Other great sources of omega-3s are cold-water fish such as salmon, oysters, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines, and anchovies.


  1. Use oils that contain healthy fats.

The body requires fat, but we must choose to choose the fats that give us real benefits. Virgin and extra virgin olive oil (organic if possible) and avocado oil are the best options for anti-inflammatory benefits. Other options include cold-pressed safflower and sunflower oil versions.


  1. Eat healthy snacks twice a day.

For snacks, go for fruit, plain yogurt or vegan coconut or almond yogurt, celery sticks, carrots, or nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts.


  1. Avoid processed foods and refined sugars.

This includes avoiding any food that contains high fructose corn syrup or is high in sodium, which contributes to inflammation throughout the body. Avoid refined sugars whenever possible and artificial sweeteners entirely. The dangers of excess fructose have been widely cited and include increased insulin resistance (which can lead to type 2 diabetes), elevated uric acid levels, elevated blood pressure, increased risk of fatty liver disease, and more.


  1. Eliminate trans fats from your diet.

In 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to identify trans fats on nutrition labels, and for good reason, studies show that people who eat foods high in trans fats have higher levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation in the body. A good rule of thumb is to always read labels and stay away from products that contain the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated oils."


  1. Sweeten foods with fruits rich in phytonutrients and season foods with spices.

Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with important phytonutrients. To naturally sweeten our meals, try adding apples, apricots, berries, and even carrots. And to spice up tasty meals, opt for spices that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, including cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, sage, and thyme.


When does inflammation become a problem?

Basically when the immune system gets out of control and causes excessive inflammation, or when it triggers the inflammatory response when it is not necessary.

We must take into account that one of the most important abilities of the immune system is its ability to differentiate between "oneself" and "not oneself". It does this by reading and interpreting substances on the surface of different cells. And so one of the cells in our body will show a signal (a protein called antigen) that the immune system can read, interpret and then know not to attack. If the cell is a potentially harmful bacteria or virus, the immune system will read the signal, know it is a foreign invader, and respond accordingly.

Immune system dysfunction occurs when the immune system loses some of its ability to distinguish between itself and the outside world. When the immune system is overactive and begins to attack the tissues of the body, it leads to an autoimmune disease.

And so while inflammation is normally how it protects itself, when the immune system is faulty or overactive, it can cause a lot of damage. In the case of an autoimmune disease, components of the inflammatory response intended to attack and destroy invaders activate the body's tissues and cells.


Acute inflammation and chronic inflammation

When studying the "good" and "bad" aspects of inflammation, understanding the difference between acute and chronic inflammation is critical. Acute inflammation occurs from a few minutes to a few hours and symptoms will be obvious, such as swelling and pain. Some simple examples are when we twist an extremity of the body or when we have a sore throat from shouting a lot or singing loudly. In this case, the redness, swelling, and pain that we generally experience is a contained response and will disappear as the tissue heals and recovers. In this case, inflammation is a sign that the body is repairing itself well.

But chronic inflammation is very different; The onset takes days and the signs are much less obvious. This type of inflammation will persist for a long time and is more likely to lead to serious, progressive tissue damage and inflammatory diseases. Some conditions that belong to be a type of chronic inflammation are like asthma or rheumatoid arthritis.


Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation:

We now know that chronic inflammation plays a role in many common diseases, so how do you know if you have chronic inflammation? There are some signs that chronic inflammation could be affecting your health:

  • Frequent headaches and brain fog.
  • Bloating problems and other digestive problems.
  • Joint pain
  • Erudition.
  • Weight gain.
  • Gum disease
  • Mood problems.


Allergies and inflammation

Allergies are another common sign of chronic inflammation. If you suffer from year-round or seasonal allergies, you've probably wondered why you suffer from them and other people don't. It is because people with allergies have an immune system that is launching an immune response to harmless substances (like pollen), as if they were a threat to the body. This triggers an immune response and causes that nagging and persistent sneezing, mucus, and inflammation. In contrast, the immune system of people without allergies of this type does not perceive these substances as harmful. The body is wise and will show subtle signs when we begin to develop chronic inflammation, it is therefore important to know how to identify and treat them in time.

This is something to worry about, because many studies have shown the connection between inflammation and common diseases like obesity and heart disease, but we still don't pay much attention to inflammation until it contributes to a more obvious problem and generally serious.


Inflammation and autoimmune disease

These two go hand in hand, the number one sign of autoimmune disease is some form of inflammation. Autoimmune diseases are widespread in developed countries such as the United States and can affect any area of the body. You can probably name a few out of your head, but just for your reference, here is a list of some common autoimmune diseases:

  • Alopecia areata is a disease that causes hair loss on the scalp and face.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis causes the body to attack the liver and cause further inflammation and damage.
  • Dermatomyositis is a rare condition characterized by rashes and muscle weakness.
  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas does not produce insulin.
  • Graves' disease is a disease that causes the overproduction of thyroid hormone.
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves.
  • Multiple sclerosis is characterized by the attack of the immune system on the central nervous system.
  • Pernicious anemia occurs when the body cannot absorb vitamin B12 and therefore cannot make enough red blood cells.
  • Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that causes cells to accumulate on the surface of the skin.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed when the body's immune system attacks the joints.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus is an inflammatory condition that manifests itself in a variety of symptoms on the skin, joints, and other organs.


How is chronic inflammation fought?

It presents itself through certain symptoms such as frequent headaches, joint pain or one of the many signs of underlying chronic inflammation. When symptoms of inflammation occur, you should start acting on time with the right diet, eating healthy, sleeping enough hours, reducing stress and also frequent physical activity should be part of your lifestyle. Unquestionably, there are certain foods that cause inflammation and certain foods that fight inflammation.


Some common foods that contribute to inflammation are:

  • Sugar: Sugar can activate inflammatory chemical signals that induce inflammatory pathways in the body.
  • Saturated fats: Several studies have shown that saturated fat creates inflammation of adipose tissue that can contribute to heart disease and exacerbate general inflammation.
  • Trans fat: Research has shown that consuming trans fats can cause systemic inflammation.
  • Refined carbohydrates: Consuming refined carbohydrates such as cake, pasta, and cookies can contribute to inflammatory disease.
  • Gluten: people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease interpret gluten proteins as a threat to the body. This launches an immune response that attacks the intestines, causes malabsorption of nutrients, and can lead to autoimmune disorders if left untreated.
  • Dairy products and casein: Consuming dairy if you are sensitive or allergic to lactose can contribute to inflammation in your body. Casein is also on the list of inflammatory foods, the casein proteins found in dairy products have a similar structure to gluten, and functional and integrative medicine doctors suspect that it could be causing problems for many people. Thinking dairy could be causing you distress? You can opt for the option of vegan cheeses and vegetable grouts.
  • Artificial ingredients: aspartame and MSG
  • Alcohol: se sabe que el alcohol contribuye a muchas enfermedades y trastornos, algunos de los cuales están relacionados con la inflamación.


AGEs and inflammation

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds that are present in most products of animal origin that increase in our intake when we consume grilled, fried and especially roasted foods. AGEs are known to contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress and are linked to diseases such as diabetes.

To reduce AGEs in our lives, we must try to cook food slowly and over a low heat. Stews are healthy in that regard, steaming is also quite healthy.


Stress and inflammation

We all know that stress is bad for our health, but stress can be particularly damaging when it comes to inflammation. One study found that exposure to chronic stress actually changes the activity of immune cell genes, making them more likely to attack the body's own tissue and trigger an autoimmune response. As with many other chronic diseases, stress seems to play a huge role when it comes to inflammation and autoimmune disease.


Can meditation reduce inflammation?

Of course it does, a recent study showed that meditation has been shown to reduce inflammatory biomarkers in high-stress adults. Brain scans revealed that this type of meditation can alter the brain's connective pathways related to executive function and resistance to stress.


Smoking causes inflammation

It is well known that smoking is detrimental to our health and contributes to the development and exacerbation of a large number of diseases. But researchers have recently developed a theory as to why smoking is so closely linked to so many inflammatory diseases. Nicotine is apparently capable of activating a specific type of white blood cell called a neutrophil, and although neutrophils normally work to protect the body, they are also responsible for tissue damage due to excessive inflammation.


Pharmacological treatments with non-steroidal analgesics (NSAIDs)

The most common nonprescription treatment for inflammation is a drug called ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These can be surprising pain medications or occasional pain, but they are not designed to be taken regularly and they do not treat the underlying cause of the inflammation.

Side effects of overusing NSAIDs include; stomach ulcers, hypertension, and skin rashes. Taken long-term or too often, they can be dangerous in their own right, and are even linked to heart attacks, strokes, and stomach bleeding.



Another common type of anti-inflammatory drug is corticosteroids, these drugs work by suppressing genes that cause inflammation. They often come in the form of cortisone injections, and they can be very effective in reducing inflammation. But they also come with many side effects, and the body can start to develop a tolerance as well.

Immunosuppressive medications are another common treatment for autoimmune diseases. These medications suppress the immune system so that it does not trigger the inflammatory response, but leaves you with a weakened immune system and at risk for other diseases.

And so while these drugs can save lives and are amazing tools, I think we can all agree that it would be best to avoid them, if possible, mainly because of the side effects. The good news is that there are natural substances and all-natural foods that have strong anti-inflammatory properties.


Anti-inflammatory superfoods

Although it is useful to know what foods to avoid, do not feel that you should avoid many things, you have to remember to always keep a balance. Fortunately, there are some natural products known for their inflammation-fighting abilities that can help you focus on the positive. If you are trying to reduce inflammation in your body, incorporating these ingredients into your day can be powerful:


Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric is an Indian spice with a long history as a remedy for inflammation, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. One of the main active constituents in this golden spice is curcumin, and it is responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to turmeric. Curcumin was first isolated centuries ago, and according to more recent research, curcumin is capable of interacting with many of the mechanisms that cause inflammation in the body.

Some studies have shown that curcumin supplementation can help significantly improve inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, suggested that curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer activities and therefore has potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, disease of Alzheimer's, and other chronic diseases.

It cannot be argued that turmeric has a lot of power and can be a powerful tool for fighting inflammation. And as an added bonus, turmeric has been shown to support healthy memory and ligaments.


Omega 3 and inflammation

Omega-3 fatty acids are also a great natural remedy for inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and could be helpful when it comes to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. If you have a vegan lifestyle and want to get your daily dose of Omega-3, you can try integrating flaxseed oil into your diet.


Vitamin D and inflammation

Some studies have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers and may play a role in cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Some experts also suggest that having low vitamin D can aggravate inflammatory conditions, which is why vitamin D therapy is now considered an important part of treating these conditions.


Green tea and inflammation

Green tea has many significant health benefits, but one of the most notable is its ability to fight inflammation. A study examining the risks of frequent NSAIDs proposed green tea as a possible alternative remedy to conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. The researchers explained that green tea contains a high concentration of polyphenolic compounds that can interfere with inflammatory pathways, reducing inflammation and can also help protect cartilage.


The Pepper

Chili peppers and pepper happen to be another natural ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties. The most important active chemical compound in pepper and chili is capsaicin. Capsaicin makes up about 12 percent of pepper and is capable of intercepting inflammatory pathways and producing a numbing effect. You can include them in your dishes in moderate quantities.


Start fighting inflammation today

It's good to stay informed and the more you know the more tools you will have to limit the amount of inflammation in your body.

The anti-inflammatory diet isn't just for people with autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions, or chronic inflammation. It can be an excellent dietary guide to promoting general well-being and a healthy, thriving immune system that works only when it's really needed. I hope this article has been helpful.


Anti-inflammatory smoothie recipe

Here we will share a powerful smoothie to fight inflammation and detoxify our blood and liver. These herbs are powerful body purifiers, together they help cleanse and detoxify the blood, liver, and gallbladder.



  • 3 parts kale
  • 2 part cucumber
  • 3 parts raw coconut water
  • 1 part dandelion greens (Dandelion greens)
  • 1 part parsley
  • 1/2 part of lemon
  • 1/2 part ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon moringa
  • 1/2 teaspoon spirulina
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Chancapiedra (Optional)

    Blend the first seven ingredients together. Then mix the dry ingredients until well dissolved and enjoy.

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    Natalia Urdiales
    Natalia Urdiales


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