What is the big deal about inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s normal physiological attempt to defend itself against foreign invasions and repair it from injury. When describing what inflammation is to my patients, I always explain that there are 2 types: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is important to pay attention to, especially if we experience an injury or infection—it’s what promotes healing. It is a natural process and necessary for removing harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens. Acute inflammation occurs as a short-term response to harmful stimuli such as a cut, sprain, or burn.
When inflammation persists over time it becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation is the body’s response to ongoing lifestyle stressors such as high sugar intake, high intake of trans fats and processed foods, obesity, poor spinal health and dysfunction of the mitochondria (our cell energy centre). Chronic inflammation occurs when the “injury” is ongoing or a predisposed immune system fails at counter-regulation, contributing to the onset of many chronic illnesses.
Symptoms Of Chronic Inflammation
Pay attention to your body and what it’s signaling to you—remember, pain is your body’s alarm system! Are you experiencing any of these symptoms regularly?:
- brain fog
- frequent headaches
- mood swings
- low energy and chronic fatigue
- digestive issues
- high blood pressure
- muscle and joint pain
- sudden or stubborn weight gain (1)
Now that we’ve identified what inflammation is, it’s important to understand what causes inflammation in your body so that you can understand how to make the necessary changes to reduce it!
Causes of Inflammation
8 main factors that cause inflammation:
- Eating Inflammatory Food: Common dietary inflammatories include dairy, GMO products, fried foods, wheat (gluten), refined sugar, conventional red meat and inflammatory fats such as trans-fatty acids and Omega-6 (linoleic acid) in vegetable oils.
- Blood Sugar Imbalances: Blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance occur when the body begins to lose sensitivity to and cannot regulate sugars properly. This affects as many as 1 in 3 Americans and often leads to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increase the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Losing weight, exercise, and dietary changes can help prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome.
- Leaky Gut Syndrome: When you have a leaky gut, certain tiny particles that should never be able to enter your bloodstream start to make their way through. The vast majority of your immune system is found inside the gut and results in a potential over-activated immune system and a chronic state of inflammation.
- Chronic Stress: Our body longs to be in homeostasis, but when going through a period of stress, it will move from the alarm stage to the resistance stage, and, finally, to the exhaustion stage. Short-term stress is, of course, normal (fight or flight) however, long-term stress (constant fight or flight) is where we experience health issues.
- Poor Sleep Quality: Sleep is incredibly important, as it’s a period of rest and cellular repair necessary for maintaining health. Our immune system and inflammatory response are directly linked to how much and how well we sleep, as too little can wreak havoc on our bodies.
- Environmental Toxins: Chemicals found in household cleaning products, and skincare/beauty products make their way into our system. Without a properly functioning detoxification pathway, we end up absorbing them and they create a state of chronic inflammation. We need to lower our toxic load to decrease chronic inflammation from environmental toxins.
- Chronic Infections: Chronic infections can be a warning signal of a damaged gut.
Since you now know the main causes of inflammation, the next step is to evaluate ways to reduce your inflammation.
There are 6 ways that you can do so:
#1. Take Control Of Your Sleep: Why is sleep such a big deal? Sleep is involved in regulating many systems in the body, including inflammation. Studies show that the best sleep and metabolic repair happens between 10 pm to 2 am. If you happen to get a second wind of energy around this time, your body is likely using that metabolic energy that would otherwise be spent for cellular repair. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
#2. Take Control Of Your Nervous System: Your nervous system is involved in helping lower inflammation, as well as changing the brain’s response to pain. Research shows that pain is created in the brain, and as such, adjusting the spine can have a significant impact on the brain’s pain centres.
#3. Take Control Of Your Gut Heath: The health of our gut is strongly connected to our brain and immune systems. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat a high fibre diet which is both important for a proper bowel movement and elimination of toxins.
#4. Take Control Of Your Detoxification Systems: There are seven channels the body uses for elimination: the lungs, the liver, the kidneys, the skin, the blood, the gut, and the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is often overlooked, but it plays a huge role in optimizing detoxification.
Think of the lymphatic system as a city waste-removal service; garbage is removed regularly, and if not, the garbage will build up and eventually overwhelm a household. Our lymphatic system can become blocked and congested, causing stagnation in circulation and, therefore, having adverse effects on the body. Properly functioning kidneys are also key for a properly functioning lymphatic system.
Ways To Improve Your Lymphatic System And Detoxification
- diaphragmatic breathing
- movement and exercise
- staying hydrated
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritionally adequate diet
- Avoid unnecessary drugs and alcohol
- Lymphatic drainage daily routine
- Regular use of infrared saunas
#5. Take Control Of Your Fitness And Movement
It’s important to remember that fitness is heart health, strength, flexibility and core, not just simply walking or cardio. Strength training and functional movements are important for building a healthy and strong body.
#6. Hack Your Food And Supplementation
Our nutrition has a profound impact on our health and can be the direct cause of inflammation in the body.
There are many inflammatory foods that you may be consuming regularly, try to avoid:
- Alcohol—all wine, beer and spirits
- Gluten, refined grains, dairy, and processed meats
- processed and packaged foods—if it has a food label, it is likely on the out list
- Soda, carbonated and other sweetened beverage
- Sweeteners, processed fruit juices, candies and sweets
- Fats and oils—processed and refined oils including canola oil, vegetable oil
Tips to hack your food and supplementation:
- Stabilize your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity by consuming less sugar and simple carbohydrates and more of the good healthy fats
- Block or intermittent fasting to have “eating windows” in which your body has a period of eating and a period of fasting for digestion, absorption and rest.
- Increase Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet or supplement with a quality fish oil supplement. Consider supplementing with EPA/DHA to balance the Omega-6 to-3 ratio (we are typically over-consuming Omega 6 and under-consuming Omega 3).
Natural Support For A Healthy Inflammatory Response
Although your diet always takes precedent when wanting to lower inflammation, various natural supplements can aid in decreasing chronic inflammation and pain. Here are a few natural supplements that can mitigate the signs of inflammation:
- Omega-3 and Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
- Turmeric (Curcumin)
- Chinese Skullcap
- Willow Bark
- Devil’s Claw
Always keep in mind that when it comes to health, there is no magic bullet, only daily actions toward healthy lifestyle choices can help you move towards better health.
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