In this in-depth discussion, Dr. Robert Martindale, MD, PhD, provides an overview of inflammatory processes, both acute and chronic, with a focus on inflammatory disease. Inflammatory states including obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease afflict many people and treatment for inflammatory diseases accounts for almost 90 percent of each health care dollar. However, inflammation is not the villain it is often portrayed to be. Inflammatory processes are essential in the body to help limit damage from invading pathogens, signal to cells throughout the body, and respond to stressors.
Inflammation is a two-phase process, with the initiation phase followed by a resolution phase. If inflammation does not resolve properly, it can lead to a chronic inflammatory state. While inflammation resolution was once considered a passive process, scientific studies have demonstrated that it is in fact a very active process that can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet. Therefore, instead of blocking inflammation altogether, it is more beneficial to implement strategies that promote healthy inflammation resolution. Resolving inflammation versus blocking it can greatly improve health and reduce the risk of developing chronic inflammation.
Diet and healthy lifestyle choices that support healthy inflammation are not commonly observed in modern times. The Standard American Diet contains high levels of unhealthy fats which tend to be pro-inflammatory, along with emulsifiers, additives, preservatives, and sweeteners. The Standard American Diet also is lower in foods that tend to be anti-inflammatory including fiber and antioxidant-rich foods, which contributes to a pro-inflammatory state.
Nutrients with potent anti-inflammatory effects include vitamin C, zinc, selenium, Vitamin E, glutamine, and leucine. Additionally, several medicinal herbs can also help resolve inflammation versus blocking it including willow bark, garlic, boswellia, turmeric, and ginger. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important to resolving inflammation through their role as precursors to molecules that help resolve inflammation including specialized pro-resolving mediators and other bioactive lipids. Including a variety of foods and nutrients that promote healthy resolution and oppose pro-inflammatory mediators can significantly impact health and disease risk.