The classic form of inflammation we are most familiar with is acute inflammation, which forms as a result of an injury like a sprain or a bump. But there is another type of inflammation known as silent or chronic inflammation that can cause a lot of damage in the body over time and increase the risk of developing certain serious diseases. Anyone suffering from gluten intolerance symptoms should understand the connection between gluten intolerance and inflammation to avoid the ongoing damage it can cause.
What Is Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response triggered to protect or heal the body; without inflammation wounds wouldn’t heal. But there is another side to this response that can be damaging.
When the immune system is triggered to respond to a perceived threat, but it fails to shut off (or stop the immune response), it will keep sending inflammatory compounds. These compounds can spread through the body and cause damage. This constant release of immune cells over time interferes with healthy tissue, which can lead to cell and tissue damage, mutations or the rupture of plaque deposits in the arteries causing a stroke or heart attack.
What makes this scary and even deadly is that this hidden inflammation can occur undetected in the body for years until it causes a serious problem like a heart attack. While there are many tests to help diagnose specific conditions, for example a gluten intolerance test, there is no specific test for inflammation. But high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood plasma can be an indicator of inflammation in the body.
The more the medical community learns about chronic inflammation the more it is linked to serious conditions like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.
The Connection Between Gluten Intolerance And Inflammation
Because gluten intolerance is a condition that triggers an immune system response it isn’t too surprising that there is a connection between gluten intolerance and chronic inflammation. When people who are gluten intolerant eat gluten the immune system reacts to deal with what it sees as a harmful substance, or “invader”, and as a result it triggers an inflammatory response. Ignoring a gluten intolerance can exacerbate chronic inflammation and amplify your problems, resulting in potentially serious consequences.
If you know you have an intolerance to gluten or suffer from celiac disease symptoms it is important to follow a gluten-free diet if you want to reduce your risk of chronic inflammation. The same is true for any type of food intolerance or sensitivity, including lactose intolerance.
Keep in mind people who don’t have a gluten intolerance may not have the same inflammatory reaction when they eat gluten. But people who are sensitive to gluten need to understand more about what gluten is and how to follow a gluten free diet.
What You Can Do To Reduce Chronic Inflammation
In cases of chronic inflammation there may be an imbalance where there are too many pro-inflammatory compounds but not enough anti-inflammatory compounds. Normally when the body reacts to a trigger by sending out pro-inflammatory compounds, hours later it will send out anti-inflammatory compounds to restore the equilibrium. Keeping a balance of these may be able to help.
Studies have shown that taking medications with anti-inflammatory properties like statins or aspirin have lowered risks in patients with excess inflammation, but most medical professionals agree this isn’t the best treatment as all medications come with side-effects and the possible risks of taking them regularly for decades isn’t known. The best and safest thing you can to is to take steps to reduce the inflammation triggers.
Besides adhering to an appropriate diet for any food sensitivities, for example keeping a well stocked gluten free pantry if you are gluten intolerant, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the occurrence chronic inflammation.
Chronic Inflammation Diet
What you eat and what you don’t eat can have a big impact on the inflammation in your body. Studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet can help lower levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. A Mediterranean diet is rich in legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and olive oil.
It’s also important to balance your fats. Eating too many trans fats or saturated fats can promote inflammation, as can a diet too high in omega-6 fats and too low in omega-3 fats. Reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fats, like high fat animal products (especially red meat and high fat dairy), and foods high in omega-6 fatty acids like vegetable oils (including corn, soybean or sunflower oils). Increase your intake of foods high in omega-3 fats, like fish, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and flaxseeds or flax oil. I also recommend an algal oil based DHA/EPA supplement, as most people don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid refined foods that can spike your blood sugar; this includes sugar, refined grains and starches. Replace them with whole grains, for example quinoa or brown rice in place of white rice. Eating higher carbohydrate foods with meals that are high in fiber and with healthy fats (like olive oil) can slow digestion and reduce those blood sugar spikes that can trigger inflammation.
This type of diet can also help with celiac disease constipation.
Exercise to Relieve Chronic Inflammation
People who get regular exercise produce less inflammation than people who don’t because exercise can protect against metabolic syndrome. Too much of a good thing isn’t good either though. Endurance athletes may need to supplement with things like quercetin, green tea extract and DHA/EPA to avoid raising levels of inflammation. Exercising between 30 to 60 minutes a day will provide all the health benefits without causing inflammation.
Losing Weight Reduces Inflammation
Being overweight increases your risk of chronic inflammation. The type of weight gain that is particularly unhealthy in this respect is the excess weight around the belly or abdomen. Having a combination of high glucose levels, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure leads to an inflammatory condition known as metabolic syndrome. Following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise should help you maintain a healthier weight and overall better health.
Following a healthy, gluten-free diet can also help reduce your risk of struggling with gluten intolerance and weight gain if you have a gluten sensitivity.
Stress can trigger both inflammation and weight gain. Try to take steps to reduce stress in your life and make sure you get enough sleep.
Foods That Can Cause Inflammation
Certain foods may trigger the inflammatory process. It is best to limit these foods as much as possible:
- Trans fats including hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
- High fat animal products
- Refined grains
- Sugary foods and drinks
- High sodium foods
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
While some foods may trigger inflammation, other foods can help reduce it. Add plenty of these foods in your regular diet:
- Vegetables, especially dark, leafy vegetables
- Gluten-free whole grains
- Unsalted or low sodium nuts
- Olive oil
- Flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground)
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
While chronic inflammation can cause health problems in anyone, people with gluten intolerance may be particularly susceptible to the damage it can cause if they are trying to heal a body already damaged by celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Understanding how gluten intolerance and inflammation can make a bad situation worse is important. Following a strict gluten-free diet is critical as is following a low inflammation diet and lifestyle.
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