Burn­ing ques­tions

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Why is in­flam­ma­tion so im­por­tant? How does it af­fect me? In­flam­ma­tion is your body’s re­sponse to in­va­sions: bac­te­ria, viruses, for­eign sub­stances, chem­i­cals, and oth­ers. It is a nor­mal im­mune re­sponse. But when you are fre­quently ex­posed to large amounts of for­eign ma­te­ri­als—for ex­am­ple, chem­i­cals and other syn­thetic sub­stances—low-grade in­flam­ma­tion can be­come chronic.

What are the symp­toms of in­flam­ma­tion? The clas­sic symp­toms of in­flam­ma­tion are red­ness, swelling, and pain. For ex­am­ple, if you get a splin­ter in your fin­ger, you will have all th­ese symp­toms— plus, you will not want to use your fin­ger be­cause of pain. Once you take away the splin­ter, or the cause of in­flam­ma­tion, every­thing re­turns to nor­mal. When you are reg­u­larly ex­posed to chem­i­cals and other for­eign sub­stances, you de­velop low-grade chronic in­flam­ma­tion. Where do th­ese chem­i­cals come from? A large quan­tity of th­ese chem­i­cals is con­sumed in food. Pes­ti­cides, preser­va­tives, ar­ti­fi­cial col­or­ings and fla­vor­ings, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, and plas­tic con­tain­ers made with bisphe­nol A (BPA) are only some of the pol­lu­tants and ad­di­tives that we con­sume. Th­ese can cause in­flam­ma­tion that, in turn, can trig­ger what is known as “leaky gut syn­drome.” We also have 3 tril­lion pores on our bod­ies that can ab­sorb chem­i­cals in the air: small par­tic­u­late mat­ter from diesel en­gines, chem­i­cals from de­odor­iz­ers, formalde­hyde from syn­thetic car­pet­ing, or a va­ri­ety of air­borne sprays used in the home or work­place. We also take th­ese into our lungs with ev­ery breath.

What are the dan­gers of chronic low-grade in­flam­ma­tion? Chronic low-grade in­flam­ma­tion is known to cause di­a­betes; car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases, such as stroke and heart at­tacks; meta­bolic syn­drome; liver dis­ease; can­cer; and oth­ers.

What can I do to avoid chronic low-grade in­flam­ma­tion? You can start by fol­low­ing the Mediter­ranean diet and eat­ing whole foods. Ar­ti­fi­cial scents, although pleas­ant, are made with chem­i­cals; nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als are bet­ter than syn­thetic ones. Eat or­gan­i­cally as much as pos­si­ble, drink from glass con­tain­ers, use or­ganic clean­ing ma­te­ri­als, avoid ar­eas with heavy truck traf­fic, and take walks in state or fed­eral nat­u­ral parks, as pes­ti­cides are not used on those lands.

Your in­te­gra­tive doc­tor can best help you and give you per­son­al­ized ad­vice on what is the best course for you to fol­low.

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