Chronic Inflammation: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

In the media today, we hear a lot about various diseases and ailments that many people in our society suffer from: cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression. However, what is never discussed to the same extent (much less understood) is a condition that oftentimes is a precursor to the aforementioned diseases: chronic inflammation.

Inflammation vs. Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation happens naturally in the body, and is the body’s way of combatting anything that tries to invade it (bacteria, viruses, etc.). Ever notice after you cut yourself accidentally that the area around the wound turns red and swells up? Or when you have a cold and you get a fever and your nose runs like a leaky faucet?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response when something bad happens to it. The cells release chemicals to alert the immune system that something’s not right. The immune system then sends its first responders – inflammatory cells – to trap the offending substance or heal the tissue.
As this complex chain of events unfolds, blood vessels leak fluid into the site of the injury, causing the telltale swelling, redness and pain. This process may not feel that great, but it’s very important in helping the body to heal itself.
Things start to go sideways when this chain of events decides to go on autopilot and doesn’t shut off, hence the term chronic inflammation. When this happens, your body is basically on high alert at all times. When chronically inflamed cells hang around too long in blood vessels, they promote the buildup of dangerous plaque. The immune system sees this plaque as foreign and sends more of its first responders. As the plaque continues to build, the arteries can thicken, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.
This prolonged state of biological emergency can lead to a whole host of problems, which ultimately can culminate in dangerous (and oftentimes deadly) diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

You Might Be Inflamed if . . .

  • Telltale signs of chronic inflammation include:
  • A “spare tire” around the waist, as belly fat, according to medical experts, is a “hotbed” for inflammation
  • High blood glucose levels
  • Gas, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, or other digestive problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Red, blotchy skin or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Allergies
  • Puffy face or bags under the eyes
  • Gum disease
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Erectile dysfunction in men


My personal experience dealing with chronic inflammation

Looking back almost three years ago when I began my yoga journey, I see now that I had many symptoms of chronic inflammation. At 39 years old, I was 5’10” and weighed in at 285 lbs. My cholesterol and triglycerides were way too high. I was fat, out of shape and had low self-esteem. And, according to my doctor, I was borderline pre-diabetic.
How did I go from being 5’10”, 285-pound borderline pre-diabetic to a 5’11” (yes, I grew an inch!) guy with 250 pounds of lean muscle who looks and feels better than I ever have in my life?
I changed my lifestyle by incorporating two things: yoga and plant-based nutrition. By making these changes, I reversed my chronic inflammation!

I began practicing yoga at home with DVDs, and then took yoga classes at my local fitness center. I grew to become a full-fledged yogi, practicing between 3-5 times per week. I then took the plunge and became a certified yoga instructor. I made some major changes to my eating habits, and cut out soft drinks and fruit juices, which I discovered are over-laden sugar. Almost immediately, my wife noticed a difference, and my muffin-top belly actually shrunk!
After reading The China Study, I learned how toxic the traditional American diet is and the life-saving benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. To delve deeper into the benefits of plant-based nutrition, I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, which helped me realize that I could obtain all of my essential nutrients from whole, plant-based foods, without meat or processed foods!

The Results

For my 41st birthday last year, I got the best birthday present during my annual physical and blood work. For the first time in over 20 years, my cholesterol had finally dropped to under 200 mg/dL. That means I went from a high of 225 to just 192! The rest of my blood test results showed an increase in HDL (good cholesterol), and a decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.

Oh, and that whole chronic inflammation problem? Gone!

My yoga/plant-based nutritional journey has truly been amazing! I reversed my chronic inflammation not just by merely exercising and losing weight – I adopted a much healthier lifestyle that has put me on a path to better health, wellness and vitality.
If I can do it, anyone can.
Moral of the story: by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a clean diet, exercise and activities to relieve stress in your life, chronic inflammation can often be treated and alleviated without the need for pharmaceutical medications.
Everyone is different, so find out what works best for you, and then stick to it. Most of all, enjoy the journey. You’ll reach your goal before you know it!

Did you know yoga can help reduce inflammation?

Take this Yoga for Inflammation class on YA Classes.

Yoga Class
With Chelsea Ortega

This article and all included information is not intended as medical advice and does not treat or diagnose. Please consult your doctor for any health-related questions or concerns.

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Dutch Martin

Dutch is a yoga-loving, plant-based food-eating, blues harmonica-blowing, husband, father, avid reader, lifelong learner, and all-around good dude. He teaches yoga and power sculpt at Dancing Mind, a Baptist-affiliated yoga studio in Falls Church, Virginia.

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