Your body’s immune system is quite the working wonder with the way it responds instantaneously to any external threat entering your body, and quickly neutralizes it the majority of the time. There’s really no such thing as a perceived ‘false alarm’ when it comes to your immune system. Your central nervous system accords the same level of severity to each stimuli, and instructs the immune system to provide a standardized response.
Inflammation is an integral part of the immune system response process, as infectious organisms or debris are dealt with and tissue repair begins. When inflammation occurs sporadically and explicitly in response to a physiological threat, you’ll be no worse for wear as regards your long-term health and wellness. When it begins to occur chronically, however, it’s a whole different story and one that’s decidedly negative.
Chronic inflammation disrupts the body’s protective mechanisms and causes low-grade systemic reactions, and these reactions tend to persist in older individuals.
Thus the term, inflammation + aging = ‘inflammaging.’
The unfortunate reality is that chronic inflammation promotes the development of age-related chronic diseases, and a generally advanced aging process for the body as a whole with the way it augments the effects of oxidative stresses. Similarly, reduced levels of inflammation are conducive to healthy aging and longevity along with the maintenance of all the body’s natural protective mechanisms that guard against premature aging. An effective anti-inflammatory can go a long way in helping those mechanisms.
Cause or Effect?
Is inflammation a cause of chronic disease, or is it more of an effect that accompanies the onset of chronic disease?
It would appear that it is both, and as such it sets up what can become quite a vicious cycle in the way the one plays off the other in being very damaging to your health and promoting more rapid aging of the body and the onset of disease. Look no further than the correlation between inflammation and obesity and diabetes / insulin resistance. Inflammation promotes insulin resistance, and that resistance then creates a greater likelihood of the person becoming obese. The obesity then compounds the level of insulin resistance, which in turn leads to even greater levels of obesity most of the time.
It’s not difficult to see how this is a vicious cycle indeed, and that’s just one example (albeit one of the more common ones). It applies to a whole host of diseases and chronic physical ailments.
In more scientific terms, here’s briefly how this works. The cumulative effect of your lifetime exposure to antigens via infections and non-infective antigens (molecules capable of inducing an immune response on the part of the host organism) leads to increasing oxidative damage, which in turn promotes the release of increasing numbers of cytokines (cell signaling molecules that aid cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma) that – over time – prompt the body’s central nervous system to prefer a chronic preemptive pro-inflammatory state where cellular and degenerative molecular ‘remodelling’ occurs as part of the healing process.
Increased levels of these pro-inflammatory cytokines have detrimental effects on metabolism, bone density, strength, exercise tolerance, the body’s vascular system (with a direct correlation to skin health and appearance), cognitive function (brain health), and mood (synthesis and regulation of major neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, among others).
Long story short, you’re often chronically inflamed:
- Through no real fault of your own
- Without your necessarily being aware of it, and
- Increasingly susceptible to having a physiology that doesn’t match your age, and at a higher risk of disease
Ways to Prevent Inflammaging
- Choose a heart-healthy diet. Healthful foods, especially fatty fish, fruits, and vegetables have anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is known to reduce inflammation. Conversely, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, and other refined carbohydrates promote harmful inflammation, and often in quite a pronounced way. Supplementing wisely with products like curcumin and goutrin, or – even better – a Boswellia-Curcumin hybrid supplement that combines boswellia extract, turmeric, serratiopeptidase and piperie for far-reaching anti-inflammatory effects. Bromelain is also helpful.
- Regular (and moderate depending on your age – be smart about it) aerobic exercise is very effective in reducing chronic inflammation via a variety of complex mechanism, while being sedentary (or training very intensely) both increase inflammation.
- Carrying a large amount of excess body weight (and particularly if the extra pounds are in your abdomen) promotes chronic inflammation. It’s recommended that you lose weight via a healthy diet and exercise, but to do so gradually with a low-intensity exercise program. Inflammation and the risk of chronic disease will be reduced.
- Smoking is a major source of inflammation, among other health risks. Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
- If you have had a heart attack or are at elevated risk for one, you have likely already suffered from the detrimental effects of inflammaging. One suggestion is to talk to your doctor about low-dose aspirin. The same goes if you are at high risk for colon cancer because of polyps or family history.
- Statins – drugs that lower cholesterol levels in the blood – can also serve to limit inflammation.
- Consume alcohol in moderation.
- Ensure that you enjoy adequate sleep and find sufficiently effective ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Another lesser consideration is social isolation, or loneliness as it will be more generally referred to. It can also increase chronic inflammation. If you feel the need to have more social activities and interaction, pursue them!
What makes inflammation – and inflammaging – even more of a threat is the fact that it is a physically degenerative condition that is hidden from immediate view. You won’t necessarily know you’re inflamed with any visual indicators. Obviously it’s no less of a threat to your health and a more natural and linear aging process, and accordingly it’s something you want to be cautious of. Be proactive in monitoring your health, and make lifestyle, diet, and supplementation choices accordingly.