Our body’s immune system forms a protective shield and within its armoury, one of its most powerful weapons is inflammation. This is a complex and carefully orchestrated biological response designed to eliminate harmful stimuli such as bacteria, pathogens, injured cells and chemical irritants and to initiate the body’s healing processes, and without it we probably wouldn’t survive beyond childhood. But inflammation also has dark side and this can be a powerful force in aiding cancer to develop where it can encourage tumour growth and help it spread around the body.
There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is the normal process which benefits the body and is a rapid response to trauma (an injury or infection). Signs and symptoms of acute inflammation are only present for a few days, but in some cases may persist for a few weeks. These usually occur in the body as swelling, heat, redness and pain at the site of injury, and it may also result in loss of functional capacity of the tissues involved. If the stimulus persists and the body is unable to repair tissue damage and the inflammatory cascade continues, the inflammation becomes chronic. This type of inflammation can last months or even years. Chronic inflammation is abnormal and does not benefit the body – in fact chronic inflammation is a long term medical condition which is involved in a number of disease states such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis and it has also been long associated with the development of cancer.
While there are a number of drugs being developed to help fight cancer-related inflammation, we as individuals can greatly help support our bodies by something as simple as modifying our diet. There are a number of dietary interventions which may be useful to decrease inflammation within the body. Studies have shown that diets rich in saturated fats and foods with a high glycemic index can stimulate inflammation, whereas a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, beans and whole grains have been shown to reduce inflammation. Also increasing the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and fish oils generally decreases several markers of inflammation.
In The Cancer Journey, Positive Steps to Help Yourself Heal – Chapter 10, Eating Consciously we give much more information about how inflammation affects cancer, and how you can adapt your diet and lifestyle to give yourself the best possible chance of supporting your body to mobilize against cancer. And in her interview with Dr Josh Axe, Polly talks about the important things you need to understand about inflammation to help you improve your health;