What is Inflammation?
An immune response. When the body feels it is in danger of an injury or infection, inflammation is the is the natural way of protecting itself from harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins. Inflammation can be both helpful and harmful. There are two basics types of inflammation:
Acute Inflammation: Temporary inflammation which lasts a few minutes to a few days. Acute inflammation is our body’s beneficial and helpful response when trying to fight a potential infection or injury. Acute inflammation is typically due to minor cuts, bruises, scraps, bacteria, infection, allergies.
Chronic Inflammation: Long-lasting inflammation, lasts from days to months. Chronic inflammation can be caused by poor lifestyle choices such as, long term harmful exposures to dietary or environmental toxins, poor health that is not being managed (for example: high blood sugar, poor diet choices, toxic exposures, tobacco use, alcohol use, stress, inactivity and obesity). Chronic inflammation can further contribute to chronic disease by throwing off the body’s immune system and creating more inflammation. Although very damaging to our bodies, chronic inflammation may be under the radar of pain, therefore undetected by an individual that is not seeking health care.
Despite its important role in protecting the body, inflammation can also be “misdirected” leading to a wide range of chronic conditions such as: arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and neurological diseases. Inflammation also plays an important role in the most common causes of death worldwide, including atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive lung disease. It is clear that inflammation contributes broadly to chronic illnesses that affect a large proportion of Americans.
Differences in the way your immune system responds depends on:
- General state of health
- Health of your major organs (digestive tract, heart health, etc.)
- Dietary influences
- Blood sugar levels
Which of the above can you manage?
Oxidation = Inflammation
The process of oxidation is a natural process that occurs daily and overtime. It happens as our bodies metabolize the oxygen that we breathe and our cells produce energy from it (think of rust on our cars, or a cut apple sitting on your counter). This process also produces free radicals –which interact with the molecules within our cells resulting in damage to nearby cells, mitochondria, and DNA. Although a natural process too much oxidation can cause further inflammation.
HOW CAN YOU LIMIT UNNECESSARY INFLAMMATION?
Mental and emotional stress and the stress hormone cortisol increase inflammation, which further increases free radical production. The amount of stress you have in your life is important, but how you manage your stress is most important. Explore the most effective stress management techniques for you, whether it’s be breathing exercises, activity, being in nature, speaking with a therapist, etc.
Identify Possible Food and Environmental Allergies
When you body is continuously exposed to substances that is perceives as a threat or foreign invader, it will spark an immune response, which is inflammation. If you continue to consume this, your body will be in a constant inflammatory state that can reveal itself via your skin, poor digestive health, sinus problems, arthritis flare ups and more. If you suspect a reaction to a food or environmental substance, avoid it and consider comprehensive allergy and intolerance tests.
Avoid Exposure to Dietary and Environmental Toxins
Toxins that can be found in our food, water, and environment will spark and an inflammatory response which can cause a variety of unfavorable side effects, many may not be noticeable until later in life. Many toxins are difficult to avoid in the modern world so it’s important to minimize the areas that we can control, such as our home and our food.
Our digestive health is said to be 70-80% of our immune system. This makes sense since our digestive tract intakes the outside world (food) and is responsible for determining what to absorb and what to eliminate. Keep your digestive tract healthy and responsive in order to protect yourself from absorbing and rejecting the wrong substances. You can keep your GI tract healthy with a balanced diet, managing stress, and consuming pre- and probiotics (see recommendations below).
Move everyday! You don’t have to be playing a sport or at the gym, just move. Take the stairs, walk to your friend’s house, go for sunset walks, move your arms… whatever works best for you. Movement is essential for life. You we need movement for circulation of oxygen and nutrients in our body, detoxification, blood sugar regulation, stress management and so much more. In addition, break a sweat for at least 20-30 minutes three days a week.
Manage a Healthy Weight
Inflammation is present in an obese body, especially when weight is concentrated in the mid-section. Manage your weight with healthy nutrition, exercise, quality sleep and stress management.
EMBRACE HEALTHY NUTRITION
Antioxidants stop the cascade of damage caused by oxidation. Antioxidants can be found mainly in plants (fruits and vegetables). Berries are a great source of antioxidants, add them to your oatmeal, salads, and even have them as a dessert. A great antioxidant supplement that I take daily is CoEnzyme Q10. All of our cells use it. Here is a great supplement to add to your daily routine Pure Encapsulations Ubiquinol.
Manage Your Blood Sugars
When your body’s blood sugar is continuously high (due to the intake of simple and processed carbohydrates). Your body will call for more insulin in order to try to manage it. Not only is high blood sugar inflammatory, but the increased insulin that is needed to manage it is also inflammatory. After years of this cycle, a body can become increasingly inflamed causing widespread damage to other important organs. Get your blood sugar checked regularly, understand how to eat a balanced diet and be sure to be active daily. Low Gylcemic foods and overall diet are important for maintaining stable blood sugar. The glycemic index of a food is the measurement of how that particular food and serving size affects your blood sugar. A high glycemic food will increase blood sugar, while a low glycemic food will have little impact. The amount of that food refers to the glycemic load, which brings us back to moderation. Be mindful of your portion sizes, especially of carbohydrates.
Moderation is important is important in all aspects of life, but especially nutrition. I won’t say to never have a brownie or a glass of wine again, but do so in moderation. Practice portion control and balance when it comes to meal planning.
Healthy Fats are an important and beneficial part of our daily diet. Choose anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fats such as olive oil, avocados, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Choose saturated fat in moderation and strictly avoid all trans fat (anything that says ‘partially-hydrogenated in the ingredients list).
SUPPLEMENTS THAT MAY BE HELPFUL
Turmeric or Curcumin. Curcumin is the anti-inflammatory component of turmeric. Turmeric is not always bioavailable unless mixed with oil and fresh cracked pepper. If you are like me, this seems like too much trouble. A popular and effective supplement with the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin is Meriva by Thorne Research.
Probiotics. Probiotics feed the good bacteria in our GI tract. A probiotic is heat and light sensitive, therefore make such you are purchasing a quality controlled probiotic in shelf-stable packaging (such as Garden of Life Probiotics) or a probiotic in the refrigerator.
Omega 3 Fish Oils are helpful with inflammation. If you are not eating a good quality fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, or herring) at least 2 days a week, you may want to consider a fish oil supplement. A great supplement on the market today is Nordic Naturals
- Algae Omega – Omegas for Vegetarians
- Arctic Cod Liver Oil Soft Gels
- Balanced Omega
- Arctic Omega Lemon Oil
LINKS & TOOLS
Anti Inflammatory Food Guide Pyramid. Dr. Andrew Weil has created a great Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. (Click here)
Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen
Buying Organic can be expensive and sometimes challenging. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created two lists to help you decide which foods contain more pesticide residues and should be purchased organic (The Dirty Dozen) and which do not need to be organic (The Clean Fifteen). You can learn more about pesticides and health by clicking here.