Where does inflammation come from? Have you ever asked yourself that question? The answer is: it depends. In fact, inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process, helping to heal injuries and fight infection. In this case, the inflammation occurs acutely and subsides as soon as the healing process is completed. Acute inflammations include, for example, appendicitis, cystitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, inflammation due to injuries (e.g. splinters in the skin) and many others.
However, an inflammatory response can also occur when the immune system becomes active in the absence of injury or infection. Since there is nothing to heal in such a case, the cells of the immune system that normally protect us begin to attack and, in the worst case, destroy healthy tissue like arteries, organs or joints – this is referred to as an autoimmune process. If these types of inflammations become chronic, they can have very harmful long-term consequences for our health, cause constant pain, and even trigger autoimmune diseases or cancer.
But under what circumstances does inflammation occur in the absence of injury or infection? Can inflammation be caused by stress? How can you eat an anti-inflammatory diet and what else can you do to protect your body from chronic inflammation? We address these questions in this article.
What is chronic inflammation and what are its causes?
Chronic inflammation is differentiated as primary and secondary chronic inflammation.
An initially only acute inflammation can become chronic. This circumstance is called secondary chronic inflammation. It can occur when the immune system is weakened, often due to an unhealthy lifestyle and diet, ongoing stressful situations, accumulation of toxins in the body, acidification of the organism or existing diseases. A weakened immune system can no longer properly fulfill its tasks, so that foci of inflammation can no longer completely subside and smolder permanently.
Primary chronic inflammation is the term used when referring to autoimmune diseases such as the inflammatory bowel illness Crohn’s disease, inflammation of the central nervous system called multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis which is an inflammation of the joints, the inflammatory back disease ankylosing spondylitis (Bechterew’s disease) or the metabolic disease type 1 diabetes (destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas by the body’s own antibodies). The so-called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is also based on chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland; and psoriasis refers to inflammatory, scaly skin changes. 70 to 80 chronic inflammatory diseases have been identified by modern medicine and are summarised under the term autoimmune diseases. Recent research provides evidence that even conditions like migraines and Alzheimer’s may have to do with autoimmune activity. What all these diseases have in common is that the immune system classifies its own body tissue as harmful – the body attacks itself. Autoimmune diseases usually appear in flares. Inflammation keeps coming back.
Autoimmune diseases and cancer can be mutually dependent. During tumor therapy, the immune system occasionally gets out of control – auto-antibodies are often found in the blood of cancer patients, which can trigger autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, a rheumatic connective tissue disease. And vice versa, there is an increased rate of tumors in people with autoimmune diseases.
What triggers autoimmune diseases has so far not been adequately understood by conventional medicine. Above all lifestyle, especially diet and nutrition, as well as environmental factors such as toxins are suspected of overstraining the immune system and triggering autoimmune diseases. But more and more light is also shed on the role of stress, psychological burden, and trauma.
The problem with steroids
Chronic inflammation and especially autoimmune diseases often persist for life and are treated with anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive steroids such as cortisone (a hormone precursor that is converted by the liver into the active stress hormone cortisol after ingestion) to relieve the symptoms or delay destruction of the affected organs. This is because cortisol temporarily reduces inflammatory reactions in the body by suppressing the immune system. In the short term, this type of medication does alleviate the symptoms. But usually only for a few weeks. The reason being: Cortisol does not eliminate the causes of the inflammatory disease.
As already mentioned, cortisol is a stress hormone. Your body produces it when you wake up in the morning. We also need it to keep our brains and hearts working when we get sick or injured. Cortisol also helps our body make sugars for energy when we’re under stress, as well as reducing inflammation and balancing electrolytes. So we need a certain amount of cortisol to live.
However, many people today have an excess of cortisol in the body. On the one hand due to our modern lifestyle, which often causes stress, and on the other hand because cortisone (and comparable corticosteroids) is one of the most prescribed drugs today! In the case of acute, life-threatening inflammation, swelling and allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, cortisone can save lives. A problem arises, however, with continuous use due to chronic inflammation. Because what happens when the cortisol level is permanently elevated, i.e. when we have too much stress hormone in our body for a long time? A number of serious side effects are associated with excess cortisol. Some of these are:
- Increased susceptibility to infections / weakened immune system (the immune system reacts less strongly to germs under stress)
- High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
- Sleep disorders / fatigue
- Anxiety, mood swings and depression (due to inhibited serotonin formation)
- Concentration problems and memory loss
- Decreased libido / impotence
- Rising blood sugar level and risk of developing diabetes
- Excessive hunger and tendency to be overweight, especially around the abdomen
- Muscle loss / difficulty building muscle
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms or heartburn
As already mentioned, long-term stress is suspected of promoting or even triggering autoimmune diseases. Paradoxically, the associated inflammation is then treated with steroids such as cortisone which act like the endogenous stress hormone cortisol in the body, i.e. the stress hormone level is kept elevated and thus further contributes to the promotion of the autoimmune disease that is to be treated. A seemingly spiralling cycle.
Cortisone and corticosteroids can save lives and reduce severe pain associated with inflammation. But they are anything but harmless in the long run. Therefore, the environmental factors suspected of causing autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory processes should be addressed in any treatment plan.
Sustainable remedies for chronic inflammation in the body
As mentioned above, nutrition and environmental factors such as toxins in particular, but also stress, psychological burden and trauma, are suspected of overtaxing the immune system and not only promoting chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases but even triggering them.
We would therefore like to show ways that can naturally and sustainably relieve chronic inflammatory symptoms.
Nutrition and inflammation
Everything you eat affects the cells in your body. Your diet can affect inflammation positively or negatively. The be-all and end-all is therefore an anti-inflammatory diet and the avoidance of pro-inflammatory substances.
Avoid inflammatory substances
Much of our food today is highly processed and contains artificial additives and a lot of sugar, but little natural plant compounds such as antioxidants. Conventional fruits and vegetables are contaminated with toxic pesticides. And what many people don’t know: When eating animal foods, harmful metabolic waste material is released in the body.
Such foreign substances and toxins can damage your cells. This causes inflammation. High sugar consumption also promotes inflammatory processes in the body, just like alcohol. Also, did you know that body fat not only stores fat cells, but can also produce and release pro-inflammatory substances like cytokines? In addition, synthetic substances contained in conventional cleaning products and cosmetics but also medication put an additional strain on your body.
Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and avoiding or reducing highly processed foods, sugar, additives as well as animal foods will help reduce or prevent chronic inflammation. When it comes to cleaning products and cosmetics, look out for products with natural ingredients. Consume alcohol and other stimulants in moderation or avoid them altogether.
If you have chronic inflammation, change your diet consistently. Anti-inflammatory foods help your body heal. Make sure that you provide your body with sufficient antioxidants, healthy unsaturated fatty acids, alkaline minerals and plant-based micronutrients. Here are a few tips and clues as to which substances are particularly important:
- Antioxidants and phytochemicals from organically grown vegetables and fruit protect your cells from inflammation because they intercept cell-damaging free radicals and render them harmless.
- Unsaturated fatty acids from plants, seeds and nuts such as omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Plant and dietary fibres promote intestinal health. A healthy intestinal mucosa protects against harmful substances entering the bloodstream and can thus help to contain or prevent inflammation.
- Promote daily detoxing of your body. The algae chlorella vulgaris and drinking plenty of still water support your body’s detox process.
- Ensure a healthy acid-base balance in the body by consuming base-rich minerals, e.g. from green vegetables or potatoes.
Our dietary supplement Synergo basis is developed with anti-inflammatory support in mind. It supports you in your anti-inflammatory diet because it contains over 55 carefully selected, optimally combined superfoods and wholesome micronutrients from power houses such as chlorella, spirulina, olive leaves, pomegranates, lemons, acerola, cocoa and more. Synergo basis is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants like oleuropein, natural vitamin C, phycocyanin, ellagtannins, astaxanthin, and more. It helps with daily detox, supports your intestinal health and strengthens your immune system. Base-rich minerals and trace elements as well as plant-based ingredients also promote the acid-base balance in the body.
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→ to Synergo basis
The mind-body connection
With all this, however, the influence of the mental, emotional level must not be ignored. The unity of body, mind and soul has long been known to indigenous cultures and spiritually inspired people. In recent years, however, Western medicine has also been concerned with the connection between mind and body and the role it plays in the development of diseases.
Why autoimmune diseases develop has long been a mystery to medicine. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) now considers the inseparable connection between body and feelings to be proven. Accordingly, feelings play a key role in the immune system. PNI is also investigating the role of stress in the development of autoimmune diseases. Recent research has found links between periods of prolonged stress or emotional trauma and the development of autoimmune diseases. For many people, the development of an autoimmune disease occurs within a few years after an emotionally very draining period, the stressor.
Prolonged periods of stress and traumatic events are thought to alter the neurochemical signals in our bodies, creating an environment in which the body begins to attack itself. The way our brain responds and changes to trauma appears to trigger a cascade in our body that leads to disease.
This knowledge opens up completely new possibilities in the therapy of autoimmune diseases! Those affected can work on reducing fears and understanding and processing trauma. By practicing acceptance and learning to be gentle with ourselves, we bring the body back to a state of calm, a place where healing can take place. Meditation, mindfulness, and new therapeutic approaches based on psychosensory techniques or psychedelic therapies show promising results in processing deep-seated traumatic experiences and can be effective tools to improve our health.
Photo Ryanniel Masucol