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What Is Inflammation?

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

I often talk about inflammation and anti-inflammatory diets, foods, spices, etc. but none of that really makes sense unless you understand what inflammation is and why it is so often at the root of health issues and weight gain. SO, throughout this post, I am going to break it down and explain why inflammation is such an issue for so many and what to do about it!


Inflammation is a biological response triggered by the immune system.

When irritants or pathogens are damaging cells, the immune system signals the inflammatory response. Infections, wounds, and any damage to tissue would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response.

The Good

Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense against harm. It is the body's attempt at self-protection to begin the healing process. This process is called acute inflammation.

The Bad

Long-term inflammation lasting for prolonged periods of several months to years is called chronic inflammation.

The Ugly

Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.

We are going to take a deeper look into the ugly side of chronic inflammation... also known as the silent killer.


Chronic inflammation can result from the following:

1. When the body fails to eliminate the cause of acute inflammation, such as infectious organisms, fungi, and other parasites, the harmful agent remains in the affected tissue.

2. Exposure to a low level of a particular irritant or foreign material, including substances or industrial chemicals, that cannot be eliminated.

3. An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue.

4. Biochemical inducers leading to excess oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and increased production of free radical molecules.

Chronic inflammation is the most significant cause of death in the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. Years of research conclude that chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world.

Years of research have identified some common signs and symptoms that develop as a result of chronic inflammation:

  • Body pain

  • Constant fatigue and insomnia

  • Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders

  • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux

  • Weight gain

  • Frequent infections

Conditions related to chronic inflammation.

Many diseases have been attributed to chronic inflammation. Some examples include:

  • Asthma

  • Cancer

  • Heart disease

  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease

  • Obesity

  • Periodontitis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Sinusitis

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease

Risk factors:

Numerous risk factors have been identified that promote a low-level inflammatory response. These include:

  • Age

  • Obesity

  • Diet

  • Smoking

  • Low Sex Hormones

  • Stress and Sleep Disorders

Can you think of what most of these risk factors have in common?

There is GOOD NEWS -- The risk factors (besides age) are controllable through lifestyle changes!

Let's go over ways to prevent chronic inflammation.

1. To state the obvious, don't smoke - Smoking is a significant contributor to inflammation and is a lifestyle factor that is controllable. Cigarette smoking is associated with lowering the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and inducing inflammation.

2. An anti-inflammatory diet - One of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies in the refrigerator! It is extremely important to understand that different foods cause inflammation in different individuals and that the concepts and plans below apply to the general population. They will not work for everybody!

  • An anti-inflammatory diet should include foods such as:

    • Tomatoes

    • Olive oil

    • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

    • Nuts like almonds and walnuts

    • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines

    • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.

      • These foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which are protective compounds found in plants to reduce inflammation.

      • Mediterranean Diet - If you’re looking for a complete diet overhaul, a good general recommendation is the Mediterranean Diet. Numerous studies have now shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with weight loss and reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and premature death.

      • Here are some sample meals for the Mediterranean Diet:

Day 1

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries and oats.

Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with vegetables.

Dinner: A tuna salad dressed in olive oil. A piece of fruit for dessert.

Day 2

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins.

Lunch: Leftover tuna salad from the night before.

Dinner: Salad with tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese.

3. Avoid inflammatory foods. When it comes to reducing inflammation in the body, it’s not only about the foods you eat, but also the foods you don't eat.

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries

  • French fries and other fried foods

  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

  • Processed meat.

    • You do not need to completely avoid red meat. Meat has nutrients and protein that you cannot find in supplements or protein powder. Try to only eat 100% grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, and free-range chicken.

  • Margarine, shortening, and lard.

Another diet that can be used to keep inflammation in check is the Low-Glycemic Diet.

The low-glycemic (low-GI) diet:

The low-GI is based on the concept of the glycemic index (GI)—a measure that ranks foods according to their effect on your blood sugar levels.

The three GI ratings:

  • Low: 55 or less

  • Medium: 56–69

  • High: 70 or more

Studies have shown that the low-GI diet may result in weight loss, reduce blood sugar levels, and lower the risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

When following the Low-Glycemic Diet, incorporate the following low-GI foods:

  • Bread: Whole grain, multigrain, rye, and sourdough varieties

  • Breakfast cereals: Porridge made with rolled oats, bircher muesli, and All-Bran

  • Fruit: Such as apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, and kiwi

  • Vegetables: Such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes, and zucchini

  • Starchy vegetables: Carisma and Nicola potato varieties, sweet potatoes with orange flesh, corn, yams

  • Legumes: Examples include lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, butter beans, kidney beans

  • Pasta and noodles: Pasta, soba noodles, vermicelli noodles, rice noodles

  • Rice: Basmati, Doongara, long-grain and brown rice

  • Grains: Quinoa, barley, pearl couscous, buckwheat, freekeh, semolina

  • 100 % Grass-Fed Full Fat Dairy or nut milk / plant-based substitute: Milk, cheese, yogurt, custard, almond milk

AGAIN - different foods cause inflammation in different individuals and these diets only apply to the general population. They will not work for everybody! For example, because I have an autoimmune disease, inflammation is a big problem and something I try to manage. Through a lot of trial and error, I have found that a paleo diet works wonders. Moreover, some people have intolerances to " healthy" foods like fruits and vegetables.


Exercise is another essential step in reducing inflammation.

Try to participate in 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and 10 to 25 minutes of weight or resistance training at least four to five times per week.

Stress Less:

Stress signals the body to produce a hormonal response known as fight or flight. While stress serves as a protection mechanism to alert us to harm, many people today are living in a state of chronic stress.

Chronic stress causes stress-related hormones to be continuously present in the body, causing inflammation.

Manage Stress:

There are countless techniques for managing stress, and some can double as physical exercise! A few common methods include:

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Guided imagery

  • Gratitude journaling

  • Practice deep breathing

  • Walking

Sleep Well:

Getting restful sleep every night is essential in combating inflammation. While we sleep, our body performs key healing and restoration processes.

The average healthy adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Are you getting enough?

If you wake up feeling tired or feel sluggish during the day, you need more sleep.

Create a bedtime routine: If you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, try developing a nighttime routine to help signal your body when it’s time to rest.

  • Avoid eating or drinking caffeine in the hours before bedtime

  • Participate in calming activities such as going for a walk, meditation, or stretching

  • Try turning off electronics an hour before going to sleep

  • Take a warm bath

  • Journal

What you do as part of your routine is up to you. Just keep in mind a clutter-free, cool room is ideal for adequate sleep.

Regulate Your Hormone Levels:

If you suspect you may have a hormonal imbalance, your doctor can perform a simple blood analysis to determine which hormones may be off and how to correct imbalances.

More Links:

Understanding Chronic Inflammation

Foods that fight inflammation

Tips on reducing inflammation

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