The four fundamental signs of inflammation: pain, swelling, redness, and heat
Sound familiar? At some point or another you've probably experienced all of these symptoms. A sprained ankle, a bug bite, some poison ivy. Inflammation is the body's protective mechanism, it is our natural defense system.
When it senses foreign invaders, like a splinter or indigestible food, it sets off a cascade of events in attempt to protect you. It is one of our main mechanisms for removing metabolic wastes, debris, damaged cells and foreign agents. It allows our system to ward off bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Acute inflammation is necessary. It is a means for survival. It is the chronic inflammation that starts to get annoying. When the body becomes chronically inflamed, it starts damaging healthy tissue.
The fire the body kicked on to fight against foreign agents never gets put out. The immune system shifts, starts working in overdrive and the inflammation runs rampant. Chronic inflammation contributes to a range of problems, none of which are enjoyable. Pain, achy joints, weight gain, lethargy, acne. The list goes on.
So let's say you hear me loud and clear. You feel the symptoms; you are gaining weight and you don't know why, you feel tired all the time, you have a ruddy complexion, your digestion is off and you can't get through the day without your fix; candy, cookie, chocolate, caffeine, whatever your guilty pleasure. The causes of inflammation are all around you. And they find their root in your daily choices; in your grocery basket, in your relationships, in your sleep and work habits. I'm afraid it's true, you are the cause. But, you are also the cure! So now what?
Ayurveda teaches, when diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.
Make a point to invest in your immune system. Learn to increase the efficiency of your inflammation response when deemed necessary, and avoid the triggers causing chronic conditions. Chronic inflammation is triggered by numerous factors, and most of us don't even realize because many times it begins in our gut. We think, hey, in the grand scheme of things, what is a little constipation, bloating or gas? How bad can it really be?
Or, more commonly, how easily can we ignore or suppress it? The good news is most inflammation triggers are within your control. Because many of us have inflammation in the gut and don't even realize it, in order to reverse the cascade of events, we need to first heal the gut. Pay attention to the discomforts and unravel them.
Observe. Learn. Listen. Become aware. Let me provide you with some launching points. Common food triggers include hydrogenated oils, processed sugar, alcohol, food additives, fried foods, animal fats and fast foods. Now I'm not saying never eat baked goods and cheeseburgers. I'm just saying eat (maybe eat less and less often), enjoy (because, why else?) and listen. You may find that the cheeseburger with fries isn't as enjoyable when you see it planting seeds for inflammation.