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Does alcohol consumption cause inflammation?

by Meenakshi Arora
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Foods with anti-inflammatory properties
You are susceptible to develop chronic inflammation if you drink alcohol in excess, smoke, have a high BMI, and suffer from chronic stress. But you can prevent and reverse inflammation, even with certain foods.

These are stressful times for millions, especially those struggling to make ends meet in super-busy city lives, leaving permanent scars on vital organs in the form of inflammation. With time, inflammation becomes chronic and may result in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, even heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or Alzheimer’s.

Inflammation is the No 1 pandemic of our times, Deepak Chopra, a world leader in holistic medicine and meditation, has warned recently. It is slowly impacting everyone, thus becoming the most pressing health problem globally.

What is alcohol inflammation?

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism. It is the process by which the immune system recognizes and removes harmful and foreign stimuli and begins the healing process.

However, this natural bodily process gets muddled when generational trauma, isolation, or the stress of the news cycle starts playing with our minds. On the other hand, lack of sleep, a feeling of loneliness, negative emotions, and, above all, inflammatory foods trigger chronic inflammation which needs medical attention. 

Chronic inflammation is also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting several months to years. Generally, the extent and effects of chronic inflammation vary with the cause of the injury and the ability of the body to repair and overcome the damage.

Chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world. WHO ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently in the next 30 years in the United States.

Signs that you may have alcohol inflammation

Some lifestyle factors contribute to inflammation in the body. You may be more likely to develop chronic inflammation if you drink alcohol in excess, have a high body mass index (BMI) that falls within the ranges for obesity, exercise at your maximum intensity too frequently, or you don’t exercise enough, experience chronic stress and smoke.

Constant stress can put the body in a state of chronic inflammation, which increases the risk for mental health problems like anxiety and depression along with heart disease and Alzheimer’s, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 

Signs of chronic inflammation can include abdominal pain, chest pain, fatigue, fever, joint pain or stiffness, mouth sores, and skin rash.

Dr Dhiren Gupta, senior consultant, department of pediatrics at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, India, tells A Lotus In The Mud that stress, sedentary lifestyle, insomnia, fatty and high carbohydrate diet lead to inflammation in the body. 

“Chronic inflammation can lead to diseases like atherosclerosis (heart disease), fatty liver, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Stress leads to disturbance in hypothalamic pituitary adrenal, i.e., hormone disturbances. It also leads to exaggerated asthma and allergies,” Dr Gupta adds.

Does alcohol consumption cause inflammation?

The foods you eat, particularly those with Omega-3 fats, the quality of sleep you get, and exercise, all help reduce inflammation.

Foods with anti-inflammatory properties

You may choose to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Some research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies. You may choose to eat more foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, like oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, or sardines, leafy greens like spinach and kale, olive oil, and tomatoes.

Dr Ravindra Gupta, Head of Department (Internal Medicine) at the C.K. Birla Hospital in Gurugram, India, says that when one doesn’t eat healthily and does not get enough exercise or has too much stress, the body responds by triggering inflammation. 

“Chronic inflammation damages our vital organs and, therefore, their normal function gets affected. Besides reducing stress and doing regular exercise, a healthy diet which includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, helps reduce inflammation,” he tells A Lotus In The Mud.

The food you eat, the quality of sleep you get and how much you exercise, all help reduce inflammation. Inflammation also happens when the immune system in the body goes into action without an injury or infection to heal so instead of protecting us, they start to destroy our vital organs, arteries, or joints. 

Omega-3 fats that reduce inflammation are found in flaxseed, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon. They are also found in olive and canola oils, which make healthy substitutes for cooking oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils. 

“Vitamin C and vitamin E are important nutrients that also fight inflammation. Get vitamin C in citrus fruits and vegetables. To get more vitamin E, try seeds, nuts, and leafy greens. Prebiotic foods promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut (supplementing probiotics). Prebiotic foods include artichokes, onions, whole grains, asparagus, leeks, garlic, sweet potatoes, and legumes,” Divya Mohindroo, a counseling psychologist and lifestyle coach, tells A Lotus In The Mud. 

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of a healthy diet. But refined carbs that are low in fiber and high in sugar can cause weight gain and promote inflammation. So, choose whole-grain products, and skip cake and soda. Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb. Processed meat includes hot dogs, lunch meats and sausage. Both are linked to inflammation and increased cancer risk.

How to prevent inflammation

There’s so much we can’t control, but Deepak Chopra suggests looking inward at what you can change. “It’s a very daunting task but understanding the biology of inflammation and how it can be exacerbated by lifestyle habits is a good place to start.”
Ginger supplements can play an important role in controlling inflammation for people living with autoimmune diseases, a new study published in the journal JCI Insight has found.
You may decrease your risk of chronic inflammation by developing healthy lifestyle habits.
Here are easy ways to prevent and cure inflammation:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid or preferably quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Manage stress by regular deep breathing exercises, meditation
  • Prioritize sleep and regulate your sleep cycle
  • Practice simple forms of self-care
  • Cook with certain spices like turmeric, oregano, ginger, garlic, rosemary, cinnamon, and cumin
  • Drink green tea

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