Inflamm-aging: The Connection Between Inflammation and Aging In Your Body
Ouch! You stub your toe on your bedpost for the hundredth time. Almost instantly, the redness, pain, swelling and heat wash over your toe. These four symptoms are the classic and predictable signs of acute inflammation, and they serve a very important purpose. This type of inflammation is a healthy, normal part of the healing process; it is how the body heals itself and it is essential to maintain your health. But when there is a decline in the part of the immune system that fights infections and an aggravation of overreactions in your body – dubbed “inflamm-aging” – you need to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you.
Inflammation that occurs after stubbing your toe, for example, is acute and is normal. Chronic inflammation has a significantly negative impact on our vitality and long-term health. It impacts our immune system, tissue function, biochemical reactions and much more. It can be caused by our food choices, medications and lifestyle factors like stress and alcohol use.
Why does aging cause inflammation?
According to integrative medicine physical Pooja Amy Shah, MD, “As we age, our bodies tend to have more consistently elevated levels of inflammatory biochemicals. While these chemicals are good to help our immune systems fight off infections and keep us healthy, if they are chronically elevated, they can lead to problematic things such as cancer and muscle wasting.”
Three Ways to Manage ‘Inflamm-aging’
1. Focus on the health of your gut
Gut microbial diversity generally decreases when people age, which is likely due to changes in diet, medication and other lifestyle behaviors. Decreased diversity has been linked to an imbalanced state and correlates with frailty, inflammation and disorders like Alzheimer’s, according to a January 2019 study published in the journal Aging (Albany, NY).
Dr. Shah explains, “The gut microbiota of elderly people generally has decreased diversity which may weaken the barrier of the gut mucosa against bacterial invasion, this can lead to increased and more chronic inflammation.” To help optimize your gut health, many healthcare professionals recommend Probiotics. A superior probiotic contains non-GMO bacterial strains, is vegetarian and is supplied in colony-forming units in order to survive stomach acids and intestinal enzymes.
2. Speak with your doctor about thyroid testing
According to the American Thyroid Association, ‘thyroiditis‘ is a general term that refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland. This can be brought on by numerous factors including infection. The thyroid’s job is to create hormones that the body uses for energy, to stay warm and to keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working as best as possible. When inflammation occurs in the thyroid, fatigue, weight gain, constipation and dry skin may occur. Speak with your doctor about thyroid testing.
3. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
Certain foods can add to the inflammatory response in our bodies, including highly processed foods and sugar. Following an anti-inflammatory diet that is full of vegetables, fruit, unprocessed foods, getting enough sleep and ridding yourself of stress are important in minimizing inflammation.