When we talk anti-inflammatory, we talk healing.
Anti-inflammatory this. Anti-inflammatory that.
Let’s start with the question, “What is inflammation?”
We can all easily identify inflammation when it appears on the outside of our body — swelling from a sprained ankle, a pimple, a paper cut or a bruise from knocking into something. Clearly we don’t intentionally step in holes to create swollen ankles, and if someone suggested you do that you would think they’re crazy.
And, yet, we intentionally, although perhaps unknowingly, fill our bodies with foods that create systemic inflammation inside our body, a slow, quiet disturbance that never shuts off.
The fact is, If we could “see” the damage, like we can feel and see a swollen ankle, surely we would ban those substances from ever entering our mouths!
Systemic inflammation is our body’s immune response to substances it sees as a foreign invader. Over time chronic inflammation can lead to many heavy-hitting diseases, such as heart disease, many cancers and even Alzheimer’s (1). It is also associated with allergies, anemia, asthma, autism, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, gall bladder disease, GERD, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and more (2).
Inflammation makes us feel sluggish, bloated, and gives us achy joints or muscles. It is associated with high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.
Susan Blum, MD, a pioneer in the field of Functional Medicine and one of the leading authorities on inflammation, writes in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan,
” … inflammatory messengers can tell your fat cells to hold on to the fat and not let it go. Obviously this isn’t good and will prevent you for shedding pounds or maintaining weight loss.”
5 Ways to Put out the Fire on Systemic Inflammation
1. Change Your Diet — This is the #1 starting point! Clear your body of inflammatory foods and substances, such as sugar, unhealthy fats, high-carb processed foods. Eat more of the foods that protect your body, such as berries, lots of greens, delicious seasonal foods, garlic, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, and fish.
2. Maintain Your Ideal Weight — Inflammation can cause stubborn weight gain. But, don’t despair, eating clean will promote weight loss. And once you are consistently eating anti-inflammatory nourishing foods, maintaining your weight will be effortless.
3. Get More Sleep — Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta found that not getting good night’s sleep or not enough sleep is linked to high levels of inflammation. Not getting adequate sleep is linked to metabolism and weight gain, but beyond that it is directly related to mood, patience threshold, learning and memory, personal safety (and safety of others), decision-making, disease, and more.
Here’s help: Go To Bed Now!
4. Move Your Body — Research shows that exercise fights
inflammation. What you do isn’t as important as how you do it. In fact, over-doing exercise can cause inflammation. Aim to exercise at least 3 times a week. There’s lots of ways to exercise that have nothing to do with going to the gym or going for a run. What do you love to do? Love to dance? How about dance lessons? When was the last time you went ice skating? Or played “tag?” (Yup, tag!) The point being, think outside the box. Then craft an exercise lifestyle that works for you.
5. Reduce Stress — Emotions and stress have also been linked to higher levels of inflammation. Working long hours, being over-scheduled, not taking time for self-care all promote inflammation. The key is to put in place powerful anti-stress tools and strategies that will help you manage stress, such as meditation, going for a walk in nature, tai chi, massage, listening to calming music, unplugging from electronic media, or simply being quiet and focusing on your breath.
Fantastic article Melissa! Sleep (my favorite, by far!) is how our bodies repair and heal. Not enough of this and we never give our bodies the chance to do what it was designed to do – heal itself.
Kristie Notto says
Our body is our temple. We need to honor and nurture it. I truly believe in the power of sleep and eating real foods. Only thing I would add is cut the carbs. Carbs fill you up and turn to sugar in your body so quickly. Instead reach for the superfoods: berries, dark green leafy veggies. And the sooner you give up sugar the better. I am a big stevia fan. All natural.
Lisa Hutchison says
Thank you for this informative piece Melissa! This is an important issue in society and I so am glad to be reminded of it for myself.
An anti-inflammatory diet and lots of sleep have been important in healing from a chronic illness. As I’ve let go of foods (and habits) that do not serve me, I’m amazed at what has happened to the “standard” American diet. SAD is a perfect acronym, no?
Debra Reble says
Wow timing is of the essence! I needed this today Melissa as I’ve just embarked on a 30 day detox through the Athletic Greens supplement I take…which is only grass fed protein, free range poultry, cage free eggs, wild caught fish and veggies. It’s only been 2 days and I already feel so much more energized but it’s a tough cleanse. Thank you for sharing yours which I’m looking forward to trying in the near future! Much love