When a friend becomes an enemy
Your immune system springs into action against a potential threat through an inflammatory response. That’s the weapon your immune system has. It may sound strange, but inflammation in your body is a phenomenon that is essential for your health! Think for a moment about a warm, red spot on your finger where a stubborn splinter has been hidden for several days. That’s inflammation. Without these inflammatory reactions, you would be at the mercy of the numerous threats from the outside world.
Short-term inflammation keeps you healthy: they are good friends of your body.
What happens with such an inflammation? Certain white blood cells release inflammatory substances that should make the pathogen, such as a bacteria or virus, harmless. This often damages the surrounding tissue. Other immune cells then provide other substances, including growth factors, which ensure the repair of the destroyed tissue and the production of new cells. So first make the intruder harmless, then repair the damage. So far, so good.
This reaction must be short-lived because the permanent presence of inflammatory cells quickly irritates the surrounding tissue. As a result, they become harmful instead of healing. When temporary inflammatory reactions become chronic, the immune system becomes disrupted. The inflammatory substances (cytokines) then keep the immune system constantly active, which eventually weakens it.
Chronic inflammatory reactions disrupt the immune system, which eventually weakens it.
A constantly active immune system is no longer an effective immune system. It does not work well when you need it (such as with a flu wave) and can eventually make mistakes, which can lead to allergies or autoimmune diseases.
A big problem with these silent, chronic inflammations is that they can spread to other parts of the body. They are, as it were, contagious because they provoke new infections in other places, and can therefore ultimately cause a wide range of complaints.
Often these silent inflammations are overlooked in the beginning. You don’t really feel sick, maybe a little extra tired, but you have no complaints. In the meantime, they are slowly but surely causing damage to your body.
Unfortunately, doctors also do not (yet) focus on these silent inflammations. This is a missed opportunity because at an early stage you can prevent the diseases of affluence that ultimately result from this with diet and lifestyle. At a later stage, only medicines and medical treatments are available. These will relieve symptoms, but they won’t cure you.
With a simple CRP test (C-reactive protein), a finger prick, it can be determined in the blood whether there is a latent inflammatory process. A healthy person will have a CRP level below 1 mg/l. Up there? Then you may not have any complaints yet, but there is definitely room for improvement. Especially when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy!
The main causes of silent inflammation
How do we all achieve this enormous increase in silent, chronic inflammation? The cause of this can be found in our Western diet and lifestyle, but toxic substances also play an important role. Important causes of the inflammation are:
1. Nutrient Deficiency
Most people in the Netherlands are malnourished, not in calories but in nutrients. A body that is continuously deficient in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, healthy fats and amino acids cannot adequately defend itself against silent inflammation.
2. Foods that cause a rapid rise in your blood glucose level
Think of all sweets, soft drinks, fast carbohydrates, starch, and alcohol, but also coffee, grains, milk sugars, and some of the light products. A continuously high blood glucose level leads to glycation, a type of sugaring, in the body, which contributes to silent inflammation.
3. Anything Can Cause a Leaky Gut
Anything that can be the cause of a leaky gut indirectly causes silent inflammation. Think of processed food, food that has been sprayed with pesticides (especially Monsanto’s pesticide glyphosate is notorious for this), food with allergens such as gluten, undiscovered food intolerances, and food allergies.
4. Eating all day long
All food, no matter how healthy, is foreign to your body and therefore always evokes a mild inflammatory reaction. That is why it is healthy to take regular ‘eating breaks’‘. This is also known as intermittent fasting.
5. Being Overweight
When overweight, a lot of fat is stored in the abdomen between the organs. This organ fat (visceral fat) is active tissue that not only produces substances such as fatty acids and hormones, but also inflammatory proteins, and cytokines, which cause inflammatory reactions.
Crash diets are the worst thing you can do to your body if you want to lose weight. Try to lose weight by switching to unprocessed food and above all be patient with your body. If you follow my advice in this book, you will gradually lose weight. Not by eating less, but by eating differently.
6. Too little (or too much) exercise
Even if you are slim, you may have a lot of unhealthy organ fat. This seems to be especially the case with slim people who move little. During intensive exercise, this organ fat is used first to provide energy. So the message is brisk walking for at least half an hour every day, cycling briskly, or going to the gym. But don’t overdo it with exercise, because then it can work against you.
7. Toxic Substances
More than ever, we live in a world full of toxic substances. They are unavoidable. But we can reduce them by choosing as much unprocessed, organic food and 100% natural cosmetics, personal care, and household products as possible at home. Also, consider a good filter system for your drinking water.
8. Chronic Stress
Nothing disrupts your body more dramatically than chronic stress. The stress hormone cortisol promotes inflammation if it is produced in excess. You can hardly compete with a healthy diet and plenty of exercises. Are your health and vitality important to you? Take chronic stress seriously and ask friends or a professional for help if you can’t do it alone.
Other factors that promote silent inflammation are sleep deprivation, smoking, poor dental health (such as periodontitis), breast implants, radiation, and use of certain medications such as antacids.
Fighting silent inflammation with antioxidants
I hope you have drawn the conclusion from the above list that you can do a lot yourself to prevent silent inflammation. You can make healthy choices every day. Or not.
Antioxidants are nutrients known for protecting us from too many free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that cause damage to tissues and cells, ultimately leading to chronic inflammation.
If you want to grow old healthy, vital and with few wrinkles, antioxidants are the substances you want to get plenty of.
The best way to get enough antioxidants is through a wide variety of fresh, healthy foods. Antioxidants are now also available as supplements and sometimes they are added artificially to foods.
The latter, in my opinion, has turned the world upside down. In a factory, healthy products are first processed in such a way that they hardly contain any healthy antioxidants and other valuable nutrients and then they are artificially added again. Nature never intended it that way!
My advice is therefore to get antioxidants through a healthy diet. You can supplement this with supplements as needed. It is preferable to hire a good orthomolecular doctor or therapist who can give you tailor-made advice.
You can only fight chronic inflammation by eating a chronically healthier diet
Top four favorites
Fortunately, there are plenty of antioxidants in delicious foods. Below you will find my favorite top 7. Choose the unsprayed, organic variant as much as possible. Firstly, toxic substances from pesticides cause precisely those free radicals that we do not want. Second, the protective compounds we look for are mainly found in unsprayed foods.
Vegetables are the number one superfood. If half of our daily diet consisted of fresh vegetables, we would be amazed worldwide at the energy and health that would reappear in everyone, including chronically ill people. I hope to experience this again someday.
All fresh vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, especially green and dark-colored ones. Therefore, eat them fully, in a wide variety, and especially eat all the colors of the rainbow.
All fruits contain antioxidants, although some are much more than others. Toppers are all forest fruits, so all small red fruits. But also think of citrus fruits, avocados, raw figs, pineapple, and mangoes. And let’s not forget our local apples, pears, and cherries. Eat fresh fruit preferably organic with skin. Aim for about 200 grams per day.
Dried fruit also contains a decent dose of antioxidants, but the downside is that it often has high sugar content. So eat it sparingly.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are the absolute top when it comes to antioxidants. Therefore, use them extensively in the kitchen. Both fresh and dried are fine. Toppers include basil, savory, chili powder, tarragon, ginger, curry, garlic, cumin seed, turmeric, oregano, parsley, mint, and thyme. But also think of green tea.
As far as I’m concerned, raw cocoa belongs on the list of essential foods. In addition to being extremely tasty, raw cacao is considered one of the most nutritious foods in the world. Raw cocoa is a powerful antioxidant and source of important magnesium.
Unprocessed kernels and seeds contain plenty of antioxidants. Toppers are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and hemp seeds. Just like nuts, you can briefly roast the seeds in a frying pan. You do not need to roast hemp seed. I sprinkle it on salads and soups and mix it with spreads like hummus or pesto. Sometimes I add a spoon to a smoothie.
Finally: with all those antioxidants, don’t forget to drink enough. I mean filtered water, herbal tea, green tea, or a homemade vegetable smoothie. Limit coffee and alcohol and cut down on all soft drinks, ready-to-drink juices, and smoothies. I promise you, if you just change this, you can feel like a completely different person within a week!