How chronic inflammation contributes to aging
The same thing that causes swollen, aching joints on the outside of your body can also cause disease and dysfunction on the inside. Inflammation has been linked to numerous chronic health conditions, including many commonly associated with biological aging, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and more.
What is internal inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s response to threats such as infection or toxins. When the immune system senses any of these threats, it activates proteins designed to protect cells and tissues. In a healthy environment, inflammation can have a protective effect, but chronic, low-level inflammation can lead to a number of serious health consequences.
Doctors are seeing an increase in age-related diseases, but some researchers say they’re treating them wrong by tackling each condition separately. Addressing the underlying inflammation instead could offer protective benefits from many health conditions commonly experienced in later years.
Health conditions associated with inflammation
- Heart disease. When plaque in the blood vessels trigger inflammation, it can lead to blood clots, and eventually, heart attacks. These blood clots can also obstruct blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke.
- Bone loss. Inflammation throughout the body can interfere with bone growth and even lead to bone loss. Researchers believe that inflammatory markers in the blood interrupt bone remodeling, in which older bone tissue is removed and new bone tissue is formed.
- Digestive problems. Many of the body’s immune cells are in the gut. When intestinal bacteria becomes out of balance, it can contribute to chronic inflammation, leading to issues such as diarrhea and cramps. In extreme cases, the immune cells can attack the intestines themselves, leading to a condition known as inflammatory bowel disease. Gut inflammation also contributes further to bone degradation, since it can impede your ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D, which your bones need to remain strong.
- Joint damage. Inflammation in the joints can cause serious pain, swelling, and damage. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder, can affect many joints throughout the body, including the hands and feet. RA appears to have a genetic component, but is also linked to smoking and a lack of vitamin D. People with RA also have an increased risk of eye problems and other issues throughout the body.
- Cancer. Inflammation has been linked to cancers of the cervix, lung, esophagus, and digestive tract. A 2015 study led by Harvard Researchers discovered that obese teenagers with high levels of systemic inflammation had a 63% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer as adults. When cells begin to produce inflammation, the immune system is weakened, which creates an environment for cancer cells to grow.
- Periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation in the mouth, known as periodontal disease, causes gums to recede and teeth to become weakened or damaged. An infection in the mouth can also trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body, contributing to heart disease and dementia.
- Difficulty losing weight. Obesity is a major contributing factor of inflammation, and losing weight can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, but weight loss can be difficult when inflammation is present. Chronic inflammation can slow down your metabolism and increase insulin resistance, which also increases your risk of diabetes.
- Aging skin. Chronic inflammation has been linked to skin damage and contributes to faster cell aging, which may play a role in the formation of wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
How to fight inflammation
Poor diet is one of the biggest causes of inflammation, so eating a healthy, plant-based diet is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation in the body. Foods that contribute to inflammation include sugar, fried foods, soda, refined grains, and processed meats. Undiagnosed food sensitivities can further contribute to inflammation; many people are sensitive to foods such as wheat, dairy, and eggs.
Include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, such as olives and olive oil, berries, leafy greens, salmon, chia seeds, green tea, and nuts. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can also help.
Stress hormones are also a major contributing factor to inflammation. Take steps to reduce and manage stress in order to keep corticosteroids, glucagon, and growth hormones at healthy levels, which will also help protect against heart disease.
Periodic fasting has also been shown to reduce inflammation and risk factors associated with age-related diseases. The five-day ProLon fasting mimicking diet has been clinically proven to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with heart disease. Learn more about ProLon and find out how it can promote greater metabolic health, healthy aging, and cellular regeneration.