During our life, we are always in constant struggles with microbes and injuries. Our body’s innate immune system and inflammatory reactions allow us to coexist with these determents while still maintaining a state of wellness. Inflammation appears in two distinct forms. The first type is classic inflammation, which results in pain and swelling while the second type is known as chronic low-level inflammation (silent inflammation). Both types of inflammation are primarily driven by the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids from arachidonic acid which is affected by diet and body fat.

Obesity occurs when there is an accumulation of excess body fat. Fat cells used to be considered inert storage sites for excess fat. Unfortunately, they are actually very powerful generators of pro-inflammatory fatty acid and can trigger silent inflammation. If left untreated, chronic silent inflammation can cause insulin resistance and immune activation leading to type II diabetes, liver disease, and coronary artery disease.

Our immune system is a highly complex defense network. It protects our bodies from harmful invaders such infectious microorganisms and even cancer. Autoimmune diseases are the result of this system going astray and mistaking our own tissue for a foreign invader. It then attacks our joint tissue (seen in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis) and other organs (seen in lupus and multiple sclerosis) by powerful inflammatory mediators.

Following a 4 decade period of decline, the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis has been on the rise since 1995. Because genetic factors do not change so quickly, the increase is likely attributed to environmental risk factors. Researchers from Mayo clinic tried to find the answer in their record study lasting from 1985 to 2007 involving 813 patients and 813 controls. The study revealed more than 50% of the increase in rheumatoid arthritis in women can be attributed to obesity and a history of obesity increased the likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, other studies even found overweight and obese patients with rheumatoid arthritis are less likely to achieve remission, even after receiving aggressive treatment. Although the exact reasons for obesity’s association with rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, chronic silent inflammation from obesity would be a triggering factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

We cannot change our genes, but we can modify what environmental factors, such as smoking and diets to reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases or the severity of a current autoimmune disease. If you have rheumatoid arthritis or family history of autoimmune disease, consider the following to better your health; control calorie intake, consume healthy anti-inflammatory foods such as non-starchy vegetables and those rich in omega-3 fatty acid (fatty fishes, olive oil), lean meat, and avoid trans fats (cakes, pastries and margarine), processed food, and refine grain product.