Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, infection, or harmful stimuli. Dr. John Heary notes that while acute inflammation can be beneficial for healing, chronic or low-grade inflammation, which can persist unnoticed for years, has garnered attention due to its association with various chronic diseases. In this article, Dr. John Heary delves into the causes, effects on the body, and evidence-based interventions to combat low-grade inflammation.
1. What is Low-Grade Inflammation?
Unlike acute inflammation, which is characterized by redness, heat, swelling, and pain at a localized site, low-grade inflammation is subtle and systemic. It involves a persistent but low-level activation of the immune system, often without any apparent external cause. This type of inflammation can be measured by the presence of specific biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), in the blood.
2. Causes of Low-Grade Inflammation:
Several factors contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation notes Dr. John Heary:
- Diet: Diets high in refined sugars, trans fats, and processed foods can provoke inflammatory responses.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of regular physical activity is associated with increased inflammatory markers.
- Chronic Stress: Prolonged stress can lead to an overactive immune response, triggering persistent inflammation.
- Obesity: Fat tissue, especially around the abdomen, releases pro-inflammatory chemicals.
- Gut Health: An imbalance in the gut microbiota can result in inflammation and increased intestinal permeability, sometimes referred to as “leaky gut.”
- Environmental Factors: Pollution, exposure to toxins, and even prolonged use of certain medications can contribute to chronic inflammation.
3. Effects on the Body:
Dr. John Heary notes low-grade inflammation has far-reaching consequences on the body:
- Heart Disease: It contributes to the buildup of plaques in arteries, a process called atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes: Inflammation impairs insulin’s ability to function, leading to increased blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.
- Neurodegenerative Diseases: Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have been linked to inflammation.
- Mood Disorders: Research suggests a connection between inflammation and depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
- Joint Problems: Chronic inflammation can lead to conditions like osteoarthritis.
- Impaired Immune Function: Over time, persistent inflammation can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and even autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
4. Evidence-Based Interventions According to Dr. John Heary:
Combating low-grade inflammation involves lifestyle and dietary changes:
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Prioritize foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. This includes fatty fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Regular Exercise: Engaging in moderate exercise reduces inflammatory markers. This doesn’t have to be intense—brisk walking is effective.
- Stress Management: Mindfulness practices, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help manage and reduce stress.
- Healthy Weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory substances released by fat cells.
- Probiotics and Prebiotics: To support gut health, consider foods or supplements that contain beneficial bacteria and the fibers that nourish them.
- Limit Alcohol and Tobacco: Both can induce inflammation, so moderation or avoidance is recommended.
- Specific dietary supplements might be prescribed to address inflammation.
Low-grade inflammation is a silent but significant factor that underlies many chronic health issues. Recognizing its causes and understanding its impact on the body can inform better lifestyle and dietary choices. By taking proactive steps to reduce inflammation, we can pave the way for improved overall health and a decreased risk of many chronic diseases. As always, individualized medical advice from a healthcare professional like Dr. John Heary is essential.
In Good Health,
Dr. John Heary, CFMP, CCWFN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Certified Clinician Whole Food Nutrition
Functional Nutrition & Integrative Health Center
266 Buffalo St.
Hamburg, NY 14075