If you’ve ever been injured in a sporting event, cut your finger in the kitchen, or been stung by a bee, you’ve experienced inflammation. Pain, redness, swelling, and heat that result from an injury or infection are hallmarks of the inflammatory process. Inflammation helps the body fight off hostile microbes and repair damaged tissue. Yet there is another side of inflammation that can be harmful rather than helpful to human health. There’s evidence that inflammation, promoted in part by such factors as obesity, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle, contributes to a variety of diseases. There are two forms of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation comes on rapidly, usually within minutes, but is generally short-lived. Many of the mechanisms that spring into action to destroy invading microbes switch gears to cart away dead cells and repair damaged ones. This cycle returns the affected area to a state of balance, and inflammation dissipates within a few hours or days
Chronic inflammation often begins with the same cellular response, but morphs into a lingering state that persists for months or years when the immune system response fails to eliminate the problem.
Alternatively, the inflammation may stay active even after the initial threat has been eliminated. In other cases, low-level inflammation becomes activated even when there is no apparent injury or disease.
Unchecked, the immune system prompts white blood cells to attack nearby healthy tissues and organs, setting up a chronic inflammatory process that plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time, including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s.
Prolonged and poor stress management leads to hyper physiological levels of cortisol. As your body heals, inflammation becomes a response to stress. Like stress, inflammation is beneficial. When stress becomes chronic, it can lead to constant tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system. This is your nervous system working against you.
So, the one key biomarker must be managed but how does one do it? Keep things simple and implement slowly one habit at a time. If you try wholesale change all at once, odds are you will fail.
Here are 6 ways to reduce inflammation in your body:
- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods
Your food choices are just as important as the medications and supplements you may be taking for overall health since they can protect against inflammation. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Matthew McNamee says, “Making good choices in our diet to include fresh vegetables and fruits as well as reducing refined sugar intake can make a big difference.”
Eat more fruits and vegetables and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources of omega-3s are cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna, and tofu, walnuts, flax seeds and soybeans.
Other anti-inflammatory foods include grapes, celery, blueberries, garlic, olive oil, tea and some spices (ginger, rosemary and turmeric).
The Mediterranean diet is an example of an anti-inflammatory diet. This is due to its focus on fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limits on unhealthy fats, such as red meat, butter and egg yolks as well as processed and refined sugars and carbs.
- Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods
“An anti-inflammatory diet also limits foods that promote inflammation,” Dr. McNamee adds.
Inflammatory foods include red meat and anything with trans fats, such as margarine, corn oil, deep fried foods and most processed foods.
- Control blood sugar
Limit or avoid simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, refined sugar and anything with high fructose corn syrup.
One easy rule to follow is to avoid white foods, such as white bread, rice and pasta, as well as foods made with white sugar and flour. Consider Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean or other similar eating plans to balance your glycemic patterns.
- Make time to exercise
“Regular exercise is an excellent way to prevent inflammation,” Dr. McNamee says.
Make time for 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise (brisk walks qualify) 5-6 days a week and weight or resistance training 2-3 times per week.
- Lose weight
People who are overweight have more inflammation. Losing weight may decrease inflammation.
- Manage stress
Chronic stress contributes to inflammation. Use meditation, yoga, biofeedback, neurofeedback, guided imagery or some other method to manage stress throughout the day.
“We cannot always change the stressful situations we face in life, but we can change our response and perception by learning to manage stress better,” Dr. McNamee says.
Dr. McNamee goes on to say; “It’s important to remember also that measures to reduce inflammation pay off over time with improved health and reduced risk of chronic disease.”
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