Managing Inflammation

A comprehensive guide on inflammation, a key determinant of health and longevity, and what you can do to manage it.

As modern humans, we're constantly surrounded by a wide range of stimuli on a daily basis — some good, some bad.

Because of that, in order to maintain the health and functions of our body, we often like to return our focus to the foundational tenets of health.

In fact, if you're reading this, you might be very familiar with many of these tenets, which include movement, sleep, diet and stress.

However, there's yet another very important tenet known as inflammation which affects virtually every aspect of your health. Because of that, it makes sense for us to take a look at what it is, and what you can do to best manage it.

What is Inflammation?

In a nutshell, inflammation is the body's natural immune response to an irritant — so that it can repair and heal itself. Much like a typical inflammation on the skin (which you can readily observe yourself), it generally proceeds in five stages:

  • The inflamed spot starts by getting red.
  • It then becomes hot (i.e., increased blood flow to the area).
  • It then begins to swell (i.e., increased fluid to the area).
  • It then begins to feel uncomfortable or painful.
  • If severe, it might even cause the surrounding organs to dysfunction.

On one hand, inflammation is a good thing, because it means that your body is equipped with some sort of built-in immunity. But then, because your body is dedicating a lot of resources to fighting the irritants, you can also feel a bit uncomfortable, tired or ill.

In essence, inflammation can make you feel like your body is "on fire from within" (hence the term), and it doesn't feel good.

But if you're thinking that this has more to do with red eyes or skin injuries, then you'll be sorely amiss, because the most important inflammations you need to know about are actually the "invisible ones" happening inside your body.

Effects of Inflammation on Health

Obviously, inflammations are not all equal and can come in different shapes and forms. For exampler:

  • Some inflammations are acute, while others are chronic.
  • Some inflammations are mild, while others are severe.
  • Some inflammations are local, while others are systemic.

In particular, acute inflammations are usually the ones that dissipate after a few hours, days or weeks. As such, the effects of an acute inflammation are often temporary — even though it can also cause trauma to the body if the inflammation is severe.

On the other hand, chronic inflammations are the ones which linger more or less on a permanent basis. They put your body in a state of constant vigilance — churning out endless resources to fight against irritants yet still unable to heal itself.

As a result, the more time it drags on, the more likely it will collaterally damage both the irritants and your body, potentially degrading the cells and tissues in its immediate surrounding.

In fact, even though the term "chronic inflammation" might not sound particularly fancy or popular, it's often identified as a root cause of a myriad of major diseases such as:

With so many diseases tied to inflammation, it's hence no wonder why for many, health and longevity essentially boil down to minimalizing the total amount of inflammations within their lifespan (which cuts down the amount of entropy within their body).

However, the way to do it is actually not by avoiding inflammations altogether, since doing so can also gradually weaken your immune system — making irritants potentially more inflammatory to you as they come up.

Instead, the key is to focus on the inflammations that can create short-term micro-injuries to your body (e.g., running, shouting). By embracing these and allowing your body to heal, you can actually end up with less long-term inflammations in your body.

But even if mild acute inflammations can heal, that still doesn't change the fact that chronic inflammations can kill. In fact, the most insidious ones are actually the ones you're experiencing every single day (which you might or might not be aware of).

Because of that, you should do your best to eliminate all chronic inflammations from your daily experience. This is especially true if those inflammations are systemic or severe, as they have the potential of disproportionately harming your body.

In fact, for longevity purposes, you might even have to set your bar a little bit higher — by avoiding inflammations that last 30 minutes or longer.

How to Detect and Defuse Chronic Inflammations

Identifying Chronic Inflammations

In order to prevent chronic inflammation from damaging your body, you need to be first keenly aware of its different shapes and forms. In fact, the more sensitive you are to its symptoms, the more likely you're going to remain in health as you age.

If anything, it would be best if you can cultivate the ability to detect inflammations in real-time as they occur. To do so, consider running an "inflammation check" on your whole body as follows:

  • Close your eyes and focus on your body, starting with your head.
  • Move your head slightly in a circular fashion, and try to identify if there's some spot within it that feels hot and uncomfortable.
  • When you're finished, move your focus down to your ears and repeat the same two steps.
  • After you're done with your ears, continue moving your focus down to your nose, your mouth, your neck, your arms etc., until you finally reach your toes.

Here, the goal is to obviously shut down all external distractions and focus on the inside of your body. And by moving your body a bit, you should be able to detect even the permanent inflammations that might have otherwise escaped your reach.

But once you're done with the check, you should have a good idea on the parts of your body which are inflamed. And if you're like most people, your key inflammation spots might include, among others:

  • Brain (e.g., "flashy vision", headaches, dizziness, unpleasant feeling when shaking your head)
  • Gum (e.g., tender gum, gum pain)
  • Chest (e.g., chest discomfort, heart palpitation, heartburn)
  • Abdomen (e.g., butterflies in the stomach, foul gas)
  • Skin (e.g., skin rashes)

Identifying Irritants

Of course, just having an awareness of your inflammation spots alone is not enough. If anything, you also need to be able to identify the irritants that lead to those responses.

To do so, you can start by focusing on one of your inflammation spots, and ask yourself the following question:

"What are the things such as if removed, will make this inflammation go away?"

Of course, whether you can answer this accurately will depend on your experience, which takes time, knowledge and observations. This is why you want to take the first step right away, so that you can begin to defuse your inflammations as soon as possible.

To aid you in the process, here's a chart of some of the most common inflammation spots, along with the irritants that might have caused them:

Brain

  • Sudden exposure to cold and wind
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Overtaxed cognition (e.g., cramming too much information, thinking too fast)
  • Sensory overload
  • Artificial light (e.g., LED light, fluorescent light)
  • Monitor screen (e.g., TV, computer, tablet, smartphone, digital billboard)
  • Noises (e.g., loud noises, loud voices, high-pitch noises from appliances)

Gum

  • Faulty diet
  • Chewing food with too much force
  • Surrounding dental plaques
  • Teeth grinding (e.g., bruxism)
  • Jaw clenching

Chest

  • Overeating
  • Swallowing food without chewing
  • Consumption of refined carbohydrates (e.g., industrial bread, pasta, potato chips)
  • Consumption of alcohol

Abdomen

  • Large-scale social interaction
  • Chronic stress/anxiety
  • Consumption of stimulants (e.g., caffeine, nicotine)

Skin

  • Consumption of highly oily food (e.g., fried food, dairy)
  • Exposure to chemicals

General inflammation

  • Static pressure from prolonged sitting
  • Lack of movement and circulation
  • Physical overexertion

As you can see, the causes of chronic inflammations are often rather subtle and a big subject all by themselves, and some of them might even lead you to findings which you might not have suspected before.

The good news is, as you continue to observe your inflammations every day, you should start to develop a strong intuition of where they are in real-time — and where they might have originated from in the first place.

Suppressing Chronic Inflammations

Now that you've identified both your inflammations and the irritants that might have caused them, it's time to act upon them by turning your focus to plans and actions.

More specifically, you want to passivize your inflammations on both ends: by eliminating the irritants that have caused them, and by defusing your symptoms significantly so that they no longer pose a danger to your body.

Obviously, the actions you take to passivize these inflammations will very much depend on the nature of the inflammations themselves. To aid you in the process, here's a chart of the key inflammations and the things you can do to defuse them.

Brain

  • Minimize overstimulations (e.g., monitor screens, noises)
  • Slow down your activities and movement
  • Practice deliberate relaxation (e.g., meditation, introspection)
  • Close your eyes and freeze your thoughts
  • Move your head in circular fashion
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Optimize your sleep

Gum

  • Reduce consumption of industrial red meat and refined carbohydrate
  • Eliminate acidic drinks (e.g., fruit juices, soda)
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Sip warm water regularly
  • Brush teeth more frequently
  • Maintain slow jaw movement
  • Savor meals at a more relaxing pace

Chest

Abdomen

  • Minimize hurrying
  • Stop drinking coffee at night
  • Minimize use of chemically-extracted vegetable oil
  • Minimize contact with toxic people

As with before, individual mileage may vary, and you might find some of the tips more useful than others. This is why you want to run through this process multiple times a day — so as to get a better sense of how your body would respond to changes in real-time.

Above all else, you want to continue to observe your inflammations and make lifestyle changes to de-escalate them. Until you take the right actions in the right quantities to address them, there's a good chance that little will happen.

Change Your Inflammations, Change Your Life

As you can see, the inflammations you experience on a day-to-day basis are often a reflection of your own habits and routines. Because of that, changing your inflammation profile essentially boils down to knowing your body and changing your habits.

For the most part, this is often done by:

  • Replacing sedentarity with movement
  • Replacing inflammatory food with cleansing food
  • Replacing overstimulation with relaxation
  • Replacing inadequate sleep with quality sleep
  • Replacing negativity with positivity

As you make a U-turn on your habits, you might soon discover that your chronic inflammations are slowly beginning to disappear. And as the "fire" within your body dissipates, you might also start to feel better and more peaceful.

More importantly, you'll begin to be able to free yourself from the torment of chronic inflammations and their related diseases. And by further reintroducing micro-injuries into your life, you'll begin to become stronger and fitter as a human being as well.

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