Anti-aging and inflammation are more closely connected than you’d think. There are many factors involved in the aging process, from the length of your telomeres to the unavoidable passage of time. One of those factors is the often-discussed inflammation. It’s easy to think of inflammation as just an irritation or a side effect, something that happens when you eat an item that doesn’t agree with you or come into contact with something abrasive. In reality, inflammation is much more important and influential than that.
When we say “aging” or “anti-aging” in the first place, what we’re really talking about is managing the many symptoms/discomforts that often comes with aging and how to do it better. The better you understand anti-aging and inflammation’s link to age-related diseases, the better you can begin to combat its effects. Read on for more information on what exactly inflammation is, what it does to our bodies, and how to protect yourself from the aging effects that come with it.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the health and wellness community these days. It seems as though it’s become a blanket term to encompass the cause of all our discomfort. Medically speaking, inflammation is very specific. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system to stimulus. Acute inflammation can appear in the form of redness, swelling, heat, pain, or loss of function. In more severe cases, it can cause exhaustion, fever, and generalized symptoms of feeling ill. It can be detected by changes in the number of defensive cells in the blood or, in very extreme cases, sepsis.
Despite all of these side effects, inflammation is completely necessary and even good for our bodies. Without inflammation, our bodies would be overrun by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Inflammation is part of our natural defense against intruders. When a foreign body, like a virus or bacteria, enters the body, your white blood cells kick into combat mode. This healthy inflammation lasts a few hours or days and then backs off when the threat has been eliminated. This is not the case for people with autoimmune diseases in which the inflammation persists.
Chronic inflammation is of long duration and can wreak havoc on your body. Cytokines, part of the body’s potent virus-killing chemical arsenal AKA inflammation, can move throughout your bloodstream, potentially damaging healthy tissue. The damage can build up, inciting the formation of plaque in your arteries and may even promote tumor growth.
How Does Inflammation Contribute To The Body’s Aging Process?
Chronic inflammation is what can contribute to the aging process. It’s been indicated as the common denominator is many age-related diseases, such as arthritis, psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation can seriously impair functions independent of disease as well. Excessive weight can spark an inflammatory response within fat cells; it doesn’t just slow us down. With weight gain, fat cells grow larger and begin to churn out cytokines. In one study, the cytokine IL-6, usually produced by the immune system when the body is fighting an infection or healing a burn, was elevated by as much as 10 times the normal level in the body fat of overweight people. IL-6 and other inflammatory factors can block insulin’s ability to communicate within a cell, which can lead to the development of insulin resistance.
Chronic stress can incite inflammation as well. The hormone cortisol has a role in regulating the inflammatory response. When stress is severe and ongoing, it can interrupt the hormone’s ability to do its job. This allows inflammation to continue unchecked. Stress has also been linked to an increase in the production of certain inflammatory white blood cells, which can increase the risk of inflammation-related diseases.
How Can You Measure Inflammation in Your Body?
As we mentioned above, there is both acute and chronic inflammation, and it can be hard to categorize or even identify in the first place. By speaking with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing, they should be able to identify specific biomarkers as a signifier of inflammation. These are called C-reactive protein (CRP).
How Can You Fight Inflammation?
Now that you know the link between anti-aging and inflammation, it’s time to get busy! One way to fight inflammation is with smart food choices. Doctors have a special interest in using probiotics to influence the inflammatory response originating in your gut. Your intestines are home to 70 percent of your immune cells. Both good and bad bacteria that live in your gut, known as microbiota, influence the health of your immune system. Eating well supports a healthy bacterial balance.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes olive oil, high fiber foods, leafy greens, fatty fish, and lots of fruits and vegetables. It excludes highly processed, oily foods and foods high in processed sugars. A healthy diet can keep excess weight at bay as well, which can eliminate the inflammation caused by being overweight.
Inflammation doesn’t have to dictate how you age. Before it gets out of hand, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to avoid it altogether. For more information on the link between anti-aging and inflammation and how to fight it, follow our series of blogs and join the many strong and resilient women joining in on our Facebook discussions and Instagram posts. Check out my book, the Ultimate Anti-Aging Guide: Younger In 8 Weeks, for in-depth information on how to survive and thrive in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond!