Updated: Dec 11, 2019
One really important key to staying healthy is reducing inflammation on the body. Inflammation is a vital immune system response. It is now being studied heavily and is known to play a very large role in disease. It's the body's way of alerting the immune system that something is wrong and that something needs to heal. Without this very important response, any threat to our bodies such as infections or viruses could become very problematic.
There are two types of inflammation in the body, ACUTE and CHRONIC.
Acute inflammation is good inflammation when we need it. It helps us in times where we need immediate action like when we accidentally cut ourselves or fall. The site of the accident becomes red, swollen, itchy and often times painful. I know each and everyone of us have experienced this and it's how we know that our immune system has kicked in! The damaged tissue releases signaling molecules called cytokines they trigger the body to bring immune cells, nutrients and hormones to the affected area. Prostaglandins create blood clots to heal damaged tissue, and they trigger pain and sometimes a fever as part of the healing process. Eventually all of the swelling and pain goes away which leads to complete healing! See why we want to keep our immune system super happy and healthy?!
Chronic inflammation is not good inflammation. This is a low level of inflammation that is constant within the body. Chronic inflammation can be triggered by a perceived threat to the immune system when there isn't one, or an immune response to an infection that the body cannot fight off. This results in an elevated number of white blood cells with no task and no where to go. Eventually they being attacking otherwise healthy internal organs, tissues or cells. This leads to health issues such as disease and auto-immunity. A few interesting areas where we see chronic inflammation is in gluten sensitivity, where the body has antibodies built up toward gluten that in turn end up attacking other parts of the body that look like gluten. Increased inflammation can also be seen when LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) ends up in the lining of an artery. White blood cells move to the site and instead of fixing the issue, they make it worse by making plaque unstable, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is inflammation of the arteries, arthritis is inflammation of the joints and so on.
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation doesn't have many symptoms in the beginning and it's hard to tell that the body is dealing with perceived immune threats that we don't have any physical evidence of. Some symptoms may include long periods of fatigue, fever, joint pain, swelling and general overall pain. It really is different for everyone.
Food plays a large role in the inflammatory functions of the body. Did you know that some foods are PRO- inflammatory? Meaning they actually create inflammation in the body. Some of these foods are sugar, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, oils high in omega 6, gluten for those with sensitivity, casein which is found in milk for those that are lactose intolerant and large amounts of alcohol can all trigger an inflammatory response in the body. If you are dealing with chronic inflammation or would like to reduce inflammation I would recommend staying away from these foods, especially if you have a known inflammatory response. Now for the good news, loads of amazing whole foods are ANTI-inflammatory. By reducing inflammation you allow the body space for conducive healing. Therefore we need to remove the inflammatory causing foods and increase the foods that reduce inflammation in the body. Foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, herbs, spices and fermented foods all help to reduce inflammation. Amazing right?! Supplements that contain omega 3's, turmeric or willow bark have all been shown to decrease inflammation. Other things you can do include staying hydrated, reducing stress, getting adequate sleep and exercising.
Everyday life tips to reduce inflammation:
• Incorporate omega 3 fatty foods into your day
Walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds - throw them into smoothies, oatmeal, salads and trail mixes
• Reserve half your plate for veggies That could be a salad, mixed greens, roasted veggies, whatever veg you love most, eat it always! • Add turmeric into your regime Ensure to add black pepper for absorption. Start adding it to soups, stews, curries, chili's, smoothies - add to everything! More info on turmeric uses here. • Test out Willow Bark as an alternative pain reliever Known as "Natures Aspirin" it's been shown to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
• Get 100% real with your body
Change isn't easy, but if there is a certain food you know you should avoid, you need to avoid it. Find a replacement. Send me a message I'll help! We want to end the cycle and allow our bodies space to heal. • Eat good bacteria
Ew, bacteria I know... but your gut loves em'. An imbalance in bacteria can lead to inflammatory responses. Arming your gut with all the good stuff is an amazing step in the right direction. Introduce fermented foods such as coconut kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.
Now, it's time to get cooking up some delicious anti-inflammatory food! Have no idea where to start? Don't worry I've got you covered! Check out my FREE 3-day meal plan, full of plant-based anti-inflammatory meals and snacks!
Let's fall in love with taking care of our bodies!
Emily Manuel, B.A RHN
References: What is an inflammation? (2018, February 22). Retrieved April 29, 19, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Foods that fight inflammation. Retrieved April 24, 19, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
Minihane, A. M., Vinoy, S., Russell, W. R., Baka, A., Roche, H. M., Tuohy, K. M., . . . Calder, P. C. (2015, October 14). Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: Current research evidence and its translation. Retrieved April 24, 19, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563
Swirski, F. K., & Nahrendorf, M. (2013, January 11). Leukocyte behavior in atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. Retrieved April 24, 19, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891792/