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Inflammation Is Associated With Many Diseases

One of the most common problems modern Americans suffer due to our lifestyles and eating habits is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has always been on the watch list of healthcare professionals as a source of all kinds of problems. Recent research can now add one more item to the list: cancer.

Inflammation has long been a suspect as at least one cause of cancer. In 1863, the German scientist Rudolf Virchow noticed that cancer would often develop from wound sites and other areas that had been inflamed. Now studies suggest that Virchow was right.

What Is Chronic Inflammation?

Inflammation itself is the body’s natural response to injury and fighting off infection. Without inflammation, we likely would not survive for very long. It results from the body sending white blood cells and other cells to a site of infection or injury. This flooding of the body produces the familiar swelling and warm feeling that are the signs of inflammation.

White bloods cells fight off foreign agents and clear out dead cells from the body. They are supposed to quickly dissipate, because inflammation can damage the healthy cells in the body if it lasts for too long. That is the problem with chronic inflammation.

When inflammation happens for other reasons, it can hurt rather than heal us. Many different conditions and agents can cause the body to inflame where there is no infection or injury. Now the beneficial aspects of inflammation suddenly turn injurious and can even provoke the appearance and spread of cancer.

How Does Chronic Inflammation Cause Cancer?

How Does Chronic Inflammation Cause CancerSince inflammation, when it is beneficial, relates to the healing processes, it causes an increase in cellular production. Many different proteins and substances speed up the normal process of cellular growth. Cells grow by splitting into two. Each time they split, the DNA of the cell unzips and reproduces itself.

This is not a problem in and of itself, but if allowed to continue for extended periods of time, this constant rapid cellular growth allows more opportunities for mutations which can be cancerous. Occasionally, the DNA does not split apart and come back together correctly, leaving an error in the sequence. This is how mutations develop.

A new study published in Science Transitional Medicine points toward a protein called APOBEC. This protein usually helps to add diversity to cellular proteins and also defends against viruses. However, chronic tissue inflammation can make it overactive. It then starts to spread mutations across the genome, some of which might lead to the signs of cancer.

Inflammation produces molecules called cytokines. They stimulate the growth of blood vessels to carry oxygen and nutrients to the area. However, if a tumor has formed, these nutrients will also feed the cancer.

What Causes Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation has a number of possible causes. Exposure to certain chemicals leads to inflammation, and if the exposure is consistent over time the inflammation will be chronic.

Infections that don’t resolve can also spur chronic inflammation. For instance, H. pylori can cause chronic inflammation in the stomach, and for this reason it is associated with stomach cancer. Doctors link hepatitis B and C to liver cancer for similar reasons.

Sometimes the body’s own immune system attacks its tissue. Some forms of arthritis are the result of this process; Lupus is another auto-immune disorder. When the body attacks itself, it will become inflamed. Experts have found obesity to be another cause of chronic inflammation.

Can Food Cause Chronic Inflammation?

One final possible cause of chronic inflammation is the food we eat. Healthy foods like broccoli and bananas are not a problem, but other foods, especially less natural foods, do not sit well in our bodies. They can set off inflammatory reactions which, if they persist because we continue to eat unhealthy foods, become chronic inflammation and put us at risk of getting cancer.

These are the foods we should avoid for optimal health and chronic inflammation treatment:

  • Sugar and corn syrup. Sugar, also known as sucrose, is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. High fructose corn syrup is 45% glucose and 55% fructose. Studies show that sugar and corn syrup increase inflammatory markers. Fructose causes inflammation in the endothelial cells which line blood vessels. This increases the risk of heart disease as well as cancer.
  • Artificial trans fats. Also called partially hydrogenated oils, artificial trans fats are designed to have a longer shelf life. Consumption of these fats increases markers for inflammation.
  • Vegetable and seed oils. These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-6 fatty acids are important for the body, they need to remain in balance with the omega-3 fatty acids. If they surpass omega-3 levels, they cause inflammation in many parts of the body.
  • Refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs have lost most of their fiber in the refinement process. Bereft of the healthy effects of fiber, refined carbs cause a lot of inflammation. They can also promote the growth of gut bacteria which inflames the digestive tract and increases the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Excessive alcohol. Moderate alcohol intake can have salutary effects, but too much alcohol increases inflammation markers. Also, too much alcohol can cause bacterial toxins to leave the colon and enter the rest of the body in a condition known as leaky gut. This can lead to wide-spread inflammation and organ damage.
  • Processed meat. Meat eaters should limit or remove bacon, sausage, ham, beef jerky, and smoked meat from their diets. Processed meats and overcooked meats have more advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are well known to cause inflammation.
  • Gluten and casein. Gluten is in most grains like wheat and barley, while casein is in dairy products. Both can cause joint pain due to inflammation. Those with celiac disease are especially sensitive to gluten, which causes their immune system to damage their small intestine and their joints.

For foods that help to fight inflammation, have a look at our infographic – ‘Foods for Fighting Inflammation’

What Is Food’s Role In Spreading Cancer?

There are many unhealthy foods, and some healthy ones consumed in excessive amounts, which link to cancer. However, there is one food that fuels cancer: sugar. Sugar is the petroleum that makes cancer grow and spread.

Refined sugar was never good for the body, but now there is yet another reason to cut down on it or stop eating it altogether. Not only can sugar cause inflammation which leads to cancer, but it feeds the cancer when it appears.

Remember that white flour has no nutritional value and is pure carbohydrates, which the body turns into sugar. Many beverages like soda pop and even juices are high in sugar and best consumed only in small quantities, if at all.

All of these foods can exasperate signs of chronic inflammation, and in turn, cancer symptoms.

The Verdict Is In

Chronic inflammation does indeed cause some cancers, in a way that Virchow himself could never have imagined. Scientists and doctors will need to research ways to prevent the spread of cancer due to inflammation in their fight against cancer.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for medicine to find a cure. You can start your own fight against cancer right now, by eating healthy and avoiding the foods known to cause inflammation and even feed cancer’s growth.

The age-old wisdom with respect to healthy eating still applies. Eat fruits and vegetables, some healthy meat for protein, and try to avoid eating refined carbs. If you can manage that, you stand a good chance of avoiding chronic inflammation. You’ll reduce your cancer risk at the same time.

For more information on inflammatory foods, have a look at our infographic – ‘Foods for Fighting Inflammation’

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