Is inflammation having an impact on your health?

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal physiological attempt to defend itself against foreign invasions and repair itself from injury. But just like everything else in life, too much of a good thing is not always beneficial. There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Let’s examine some ways to minimize chronic inflammation. 

Acute inflammation is actually important, especially if we experience an injury or infection, because it promotes healing. It occurs as a short-term response to a harmful external stimulus such as a cut, sprain, or burn. When you experience heat (and sometimes itching), pain, redness and swelling after an injury, it’s just your body’s standard inflammatory response, its way of protecting the area as it begins to heal.

As a result, the body seals off the area to prevent the spread of damage. It concentrates white blood cells and antibodies to the area to fight the infection or injury and decreases mobility of the injured part to prevent further injury. So as long as it’s not chronic, inflammation is essentially protective and beneficial. 

Minimize Chronic Inflammation

However, when inflammation persists over time, it becomes chronic, and this is what we want to avoid. Chronic inflammation is the body’s response to ongoing lifestyle stressors like poor diet such as a high intake of sugar, trans fats, processed foods, alcohol, chemicals in our beauty or cleaning products.

Lack of sleep and lack of exercise, as well as over-the-counter drugs are also contributing factors to the body’s chronic inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation occurs when the injury is ongoing or a predisposed immune system fails at counter-regulation, in other words, a malfunctioning “off switch.”  

The dangers of inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be dangerous. It can promote cellular damage which could lead to the development of many illnesses like cancer, heart or kidney disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia and depression, just to name a few. It can even throw off the balance of hormones like estrogen, progesterone, insulin, leptin (a hormone that signals to the brain that you are full). 

Sore ankle on icepack

Some of the common symptoms of inflammation are low energy or chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, allergies, food sensitivities, brain fog, digestive issues, high blood pressure, muscle and joint pains, weight gain, autoimmune disorders. 

If any of these sounds familiar, you may want to be checked for inflammation. When dealing with chronic inflammation, it’s important to get to the root cause of what is causing it and not just treat the symptoms. Simply treating the symptoms can actually fuel the inflammation and aggravate the problem even further. Inflammation may be monitored through blood tests, tests for environmental or food allergens, and tests for food or chemical intolerances.

However, there are many simple lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce and even eliminate inflammation altogether. You heard me right, there is a lot that YOU can do to help control your inflammation. Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. It starts with one small change, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, and the next thing you know, you’re introducing another new habit. 

Here are 8 tips to fight chronic inflammation

Diet plays an essential role in modulating inflammation and there’s no better way to start than with the food you eat.

1. Eat more organic or locally grown vegetables.

Whenever possible, eat them while they are in season, and consider eating a fair amount of them raw, unless avoiding lectins. High-lectin foods like red kidney beans, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, need proper soaking and cooking, fermenting or sprouting to ensure they are safe for people with autoimmune disorders or significant inflammation. Be sure to include a variety of dark leafy greens and exotic mushrooms for added phytonutrients and antioxidants. Plant based-foods may even help you lose weight, stabilize your blood sugar and reduce acidity in your body by restoring balance. 

2. Avoid or eliminate all processed foods and vegetable oils.

So stay away from most restaurants as much as you can. This includes margarine, shortening, lard, (also found in commercially baked goods). Similarly, smoking, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and synthetic sweeteners are a known no-no, and for many, dairy products, red meat, pork, wheat products and other grains containing gluten can also be triggers for inflammation. 

3. Include fermented foods with your meals.

Fermented foods such as kefir, natto, kimchi, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives will help repopulate your gut with a variety of beneficial bacteria (probiotics).

Fermented Foods

4. Boost your omega-3 fat intake.

Cold-water marine fish like wild salmon, sardines and anchovies, or plant-based sources like flaxseed and walnuts are great sources of Omega 3 that you can easily incorporate into your diet. Omega-3 contains anti-inflammatory properties that are particularly important for brain and heart health. But don’t forget to balance your ratio with omega 6 fats such as avocado and coconut oil, and hemp and chia seeds.

Good fats to minimize chronic inflammation

5. Spice up your meals or drinks with herbs and spices.

They are among the most potent anti-inflammatory ingredients available and can help prevent chronic illness. Examples include cloves, cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, oregano, marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary, ginger and turmeric.

6. Add natural supplements to assist you in the process.

EPA/DHA—ratio of 1.5:1, alpha-linolenic acid, probiotics, n-acetylcysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, and niacinamide are a few of many natural agents that help modulate inflammation. You can also explore some of the phytochemical anti-inflammatories like quercetin, Boswellia, curcumin, licorice root, grape seed extract, milk thistle, devil’s claw root and ginkgo biloba.

7. Reducing your stress is key!

Chronic stress will actually trigger an inflammatory response by increasing cortisol (the stress hormone) production, which then increases your blood sugars. To reduce stress, find activities that help you relax and slow your pace, focus on doing something you love, spend time with your family or friends, get a massage, do some crafts, read a book or journal.

8. See your chiropractor to make sure you are optimizing your brain-body communication.

Chiropractic adjustments may help reduce the production of certain inflammatory agents. When the body is in chronic inflammation, the immune response goes into overdrive causing overproduction and build-up of cytokines, causing a severe inflammatory response, thus perpetuating the cycle. As you read earlier, chronic inflammation is bad news. It can cause illness and disease. However, your chiropractor can help realign the vertebrae in your spine to alleviate some of the pressure on the nerves and allow proper communication between the body and the brain. Not only does this promote a healthy nervous system, but it helps your body’s biomechanics return to more normative movements, which can also help to reduce inflammation.

In short, there’s no right order for getting started. Simply choose a step that feels right for you and do it. Now, my question to you is, what small change from this list can you make starting right now? Sometimes it can be hard to know where to begin so if you need help getting started, check out my online webinars and programs here.

Yours in health,

Dr. Nathalie

General references: 

Vachon-Presseau E. Effects of stress on the corticolimbic system: implications for chronic pain. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. Oct 25, 2017.

Holt KR, Haavik H, Lee AC, Murphy B, Elley CR, Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care to Improve Sensorimotor Function Associated With Falls Risk in Older People: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. April 2, 2016.

Lelic D, Niazi IK, Holt K, et al. Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:3704964.

Quintanilha BJ, Reis BZ, Duarte GBS, Cozzolino SMF, Rogero MM. Nutrimiromics: Role of microRNAs and Nutrition in Modulating Inflammation and Chronic Diseases. Nutrients. Oct 27, 2017;9(11).

Ciaccia, L. (2011, March). Fundamentals of Inflammation. Retrieved March 02, 2017, from 

Nordqvist, C. (n.d.). Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved March 02, 2017, from php

Haavik H. (2019). The Prefrontal Cortex . Haavik Research. 

Haavik H. (2019). Stress Affects Your Brain and Health [Video]. Haavik Research. 

Chronic Inflammation8 Strategies to Minimize Chronic Inflammation and its Effects on Your Health
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