Inflammation is the body’s natural health response to injury or infection. It is a defence mechanism that triggers your immune system to begin the healing process. When the inflammation response is working properly, your body heals, and the inflammation stops. This is known as acute inflammation; the injury and infection heal after a short amount of time, rarely more than a few weeks.
If the immune system fails to fix the initial problem, it causes an on-going immune system reaction where the body continues sending out inflammatory cells and substances, even though there is no injury or infection. In addition to injury and infection, chronic inflammation can also be caused by illness, harmful toxins and even stress.
If inflammation lasts well after your body has healed, acute inflammation then turns into chronic inflammation and causes additional health concerns. Symptoms can often be a bit hazy, such as chronic fatigue, which can increase gradually over time. Chronic inflammation may be misdiagnosed due to this reason. Some people don’t realise they have it until they are diagnosed with a serious illness.
Over time, chronic inflammation, often called the ‘silent killer’ can trigger your immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs in your body. If left untreated, it can increase your risk for diseases such as diabetes, auto immune conditions, heart disease and even cancer. If you are concerned about inflammation, talk to your doctor about blood tests that detect inflammatory markers in the body.
The Hazy Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
Some of the most common symptoms which can point to inflammation and should be investigated further include:
- Body discomfort including joint stiffness and muscle pain.
- Abdominal pain and other digestive system issues.
- Weight gain or sudden weight loss.
- Skin rashes like eczema or psoriasis.
- Frequent infections and viruses.
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia.
- Persistent fatigue.
- Unexplained fever.
- Mood disorders including depression and anxiety.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation contributes to the development of illness, but it can also be the cause of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or lupus for example.
It can also result from untreated injuries or illnesses you haven’t been able to fully recover from. Toxins are all around us and can be another culprit to causing inflammation. Just by living in society today, we are surrounded by industrial chemicals, pollutants and environmental toxins. Not to mention toxins from food, cleaning products, cosmetics, plastics, the list is endless. That’s why it is so important to do periodic detoxes to reduce the burden of these toxins on the body.
Lifestyle causes are easier to address which we cover in the next section. These causes can include:
- A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats and processed or fried foods.
- Drinking alcohol in excess.
- Being overweight.
- Chronic stress.
- Irregular sleep patterns or insomnia (can be both a symptom of and a cause of inflammation).
Healing Inflammation Through Lifestyle Modifications
Our bodies are designed to heal, we just need to give them what they need to do that and thrive. Lifestyle modifications are easy and simple ways to move your body into a more balanced state so it can start reducing or even reversing inflammation in your body.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Diet is an important place to start and should be addressed before you consider taking supplements and herbs to boost your efforts. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet not only reduces inflammation in the body, but it also encourages a healthy, balanced diet.
Increase foods that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish like sardines and mackerel. Tofu, soybeans, walnuts are other examples of food high in omega-3 fatty acids. Try following a Mediterranean diet which is highly anti-inflammatory since it focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, limited carbs and low intake of sugar.
Eliminate inflammatory foods
Limiting or eliminating foods that aggravate inflammation is just as important as eating more anti-inflammatory foods. The biggest culprits of inflammation causing foods are processed sugar, fried foods, processed meats and alcohol.
A good rule of thumb to avoid overly processed foods is to check the ingredients list. If there is a whole bunch of ingredients that you find difficult to pronounce, stay away from it. Whole foods such as single ingredient foods are the way to go. In addition, avoid white foods including white bread, rice, pasta, sugar and flour. These foods are simple carbohydrates which contribute to inflammation so should only be consumed in moderation.
Maintaining a healthy weight reduces and can even reverse inflammation. Carrying excess body weight due to fat increases your risk of inflammation. Regular exercise can help you to manage your weight and your risk of inflammation. Aim for 30-45 minutes of vigorous, heart-pumping exercise like jogging, biking, dancing or skipping three to four times a week. Coupled with 20 minutes of resistance training two to three times a week.
Another effective way to reduce your weight and boost your body’s ability to revive and heal itself is with intermittent fasting, where you don’t eat for a period of time each day or week. After hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat. Intermittent fasting is also another great way to reduce inflammation in the body as you are giving the body a rest from digesting and assimilating food and giving it time to repair.
It is worth finding an intermittent fasting schedule that works best for you, a great way to start is by following Dr Will Cole’s flexible four-week intermittent fasting plan from his book Intuitive Fasting.
Manage your stress levels
Stress is a huge contributing factor to a myriad of conditions and problems. Cortisol, the main stress hormone can wreak havoc in many ways in the body if not consciously addressed, such as increasing levels of inflammation.
There are many practices you can do to manage your stress levels, which in turn will help to reduce inflammation. Try using meditation, mindfulness or yoga to manage your stress throughout the day. Long term use of these types of practices will also help you to become more resilient to future stressful encounters.
Practising a healthy lifestyle should be your first step to address and reverse inflammation. Eating a healthy diet and staying active can help to quickly bring down inflammation levels in the body. Blood tests will reveal the extent that these measures are having, which can motivate you to continue your new regime. In addition, you can also take anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements to boost your efforts.
There are a host of holistic therapies that can help to reduce inflammation to support your efforts. Acupuncture, homeopathy, massage and reflexology to name a few. Nutritionists, herbalists and naturopaths can help you devise a bespoke dietary plan and supplement regime to get you back on track. Search Holistic Room to find the right practitioner for you, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will point you in the right direction.