For many, inflammation has a daily impact on overall health and well being. That said, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Let’s break it down with a brief overview and some of the ways we can begin to heal.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury. But “injury” doesn’t have to be purely physical; mental and emotional stress also increases inflammation in the body. Sometimes inflammation is healthy and normal, like when you injure a limb and inflammation helps the body heal internally. Inflammation is detrimental when it becomes long-lasting, without an end in sight.
Inflammation itself can impact mood, energy, and overall well-being. And chronic systemic inflammation has been linked to every major illness and disease, so learning how to prevent and control it is critical in maintaining health.
Inflammation can be caused by:
- Gluten sensitivity and food allergies
- Autoimmune conditions
- Poor sleep
- Chronic stress
- Hormonal imbalances
- Past head or neck injuries
Unfortunately, many of the factors contributing to inflammation are typical of the modern American lifestyle. Inflammation can also stem from these sources:
Stress of all kinds (physical, mental or emotional) is the main contributor to hormone imbalance and inflammation. Stress triggers the release of cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, acts as a systematic immune suppressant, meaning it suppresses immune system function, leaving us vulnerable to illness.
Refined sugar, specifically in the form of fructose and sucrose, spikes insulin and triggers the release of inflammatory agents called “cytokines” in the body.
Industrial chemicals in our food, products, plastics and environment stimulate the immune system to disrupt normal energy production on a cellular level and increase inflammation.
Genetically modified foods, herbicides and certain gluten grains irritate the intestines and change intestinal chemistry, leaving the immune system in a state of alarm.
How do we prevent inflammation?
Experts view unhealthy inflammation as a reflection of “body disharmony.” But there are a range of lifestyle choices that can help support healthy inflammatory balance and bring back harmony.
Nutrition plays a key role in reducing inflammation. And while every body system is unique and requires trial and error to determine the best anti-inflammatory diet for you, generally anti-inflammatory foods include green vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash, avocado and berries, and nutrient-dense foods like vegetable or beef broth, salmon and chicken (although it’s possible to uphold an anti-inflammatory diet without meat). In being mindful of inflammation, it’s also important to avoid processed or refined foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and alcohol (when possible). And, those with food sensitivities and allergies should avoid foods that cause discomfort, as they further perpetuate inflammation. The Paleo diet is one of many options for those with gut or inflammation issues.
Meditation, Exercise and Quality Sleep
These habits contribute to less overall stress and support an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Supplements and functional herbs
Natural anti-inflammatories like curcumin (the active component of turmeric), green tea, probiotics, and CBD work synergistically with the body to promote balance.