How is it that inflammation can be a good thing, but can also be fatal?
Inflammation is supposed to be a short term response by your body to get things back on track after a foreign body has caused injury. The injured area turns red and you often see swelling. The immune system handles this in a matter of hours or a couple days. This is acute inflammation.
When inflammation persists for weeks, months and even years it’s called chronic inflammation. This is a serious problem with long-term health impacts.
The symptoms of chronic inflammation aren’t as easy to spot as acute inflammation because it’s going on at a low grade level from head to toe, inside and out.
In this case when a good thing goes bad, it’s not the end of the world, but it an be the beginning of very slow breakdown of your body.
Chronic, systemic inflammation has serious consequences if left unchecked. Inflammation has been linked to autoimmune disorders, several types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, leaky gut syndrome, heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, negative behavioral changes and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
- In a 2014 study researchers analyzed data from the 2009-2019 NHANES study looking at the connection between inflammation, obesity and metabolic syndrome in depressed individuals. 29% of the depressed individuals had elevated C-Reactive Protein, a key inflammation marker[*].
- Clear back in 2005 scientists concluded that inflammation and stress are linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, asthma and even fatty liver disease. These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and based on 110 studies[*].
To live a long life, you have to start actively making changes that will help decrease and eliminate chronic inflammation.
6 Ways to Reduce Inflammation
#1: Switch Up Your Diet
The biggest factor in inflammation is your diet.
Immediately remove processed, pro-inflammatory, chemically loaded, free radical ridden food products from your diet and replace them with antioxidant rich, natural, nutritious, real foods with health benefits.
As the number of food products go up in American so do the rates of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, mental illness (anxiety, depression, etc.), cancer and other chronic diseases. It’s not a coincidence.
Processed foods are not real food and eating products instead of food is bound to lead to health problems. It’s the very chemicals put in those food products that cause inflammation.
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Put an immediate cease and desist order on all pro-inflammatory foods. The biggest inflammation culprits are refined grains and sugar.
You may have heard the term anti-inflammatory diet. That means choosing to not eat foods that are pro-inflammatory and specifically eating healthy foods that fight inflammation.
A ketogenic diet does this by default because sugar and grains are eliminated and replaced with whole foods that are loaded with nutrition. A ketogenic diet also naturally balances out the ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids in a way that reduces inflammation.
Most commonly known foods with anti-inflammatory effects are salmon, olive oil, turmeric, ginger root, avocados and nuts. Which are all great ketogenic options – although some nuts are far better than others.
#2: Decrease Stress
Inflammation occurs as a response to physical and emotional stress. Losing weight, reducing the number of chemicals you’re exposed to in your immediate environment and eating a healthier diet are things you can control to decrease physical stress.
Injury and outdoor air quality are a more difficult to control.
What you can significantly improve is the emotional stress you’re exposed to. Yes, life throws us curve balls, but it has been found time and time again that it is our response to those curve balls that truly impacts our well-being and lives.
Finding ways to immediately reduce your stress in your life pays off.
A 2014 cross-review of 34 studies found that mind-body therapies significantly reduced inflammation in the body[*]. Mind-body therapies are things like Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga and mediation.
Look for mind-body classes in your community, as well as videos online. As for meditation, not only are there online videos and community classes, there’s an app for that! In fact, there are lots of apps for that. You can start reducing your inflammation in 5 minute increments.
Get moving. We all know that exercise is good for us, even though we may not like it. Regular physical activity has not only been shown to have a positive impact on your body, but it also has a positive impact on your mind. This is one of the ways that exercise decreases inflammation.
The results of a 10 year study released in 2012 found that physical activity was associated with lower inflammation biomarkers in both men and women[*].
Think about those improvements to your body. Regular exercise helps create a healthy body weight and composition, which reduces the strain on your muscles, bones and organs. This in turn decreases inflammation. Additionally, all that sweat you build up during exercise helps detox the body from toxins that could be leading to inflammation.
Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep up with your needs during exercise, replenish your water loss and continue to help flush out those toxins.
On the note of drinking plenty of water during exercise, staying hydrated as a whole is a great way to reduce inflammation. Regularly consuming 8 to 10 cups of fluid a day is important to your health. Make sure to choose healthy drinks without added sugar, chemicals or other nonsense.
Water is and always will be the golden standard. Depending on where you live and your water supply, filtering water may be recommended to remove toxins and microbes which can cause inflammation and/or infection.
We’ve heard it a million times, but are bodies are mostly water. Each cell of our body has water within it and is supposed to have some water surrounding as extracellular or intracellular fluid. When you’re low on water, not only does the water leave the cells, but the water surrounding the cells decreases too creating a friction of cell membranes rubbing up against one another.
Think of young siblings in the back of the car on a long road trip. Life is surely going to be better with a little space in between them to prevent the screams and arguments of who is and who isn’t touch the other.
#5: Go. To. Bed.
To be clear, there is no glory in walking around sleep deprived. Did you know that sleep deprivation impairs your driving as bad as alcohol? Would you boast to your coworkers about driving to work drunk[*]? Surely hope not. If so that’s a whole other issue and a completely different article.
Sleep is the time that your body heals from the day and prepares for tomorrow. Every minute of sleep that you short yourself is putting you at risk for health problems. If you cannot repair, restore and prepare for the day ahead inflammation will begin to run rampant in your body.
This is why chronic sleep deprivation is related to weight gain, mental health issues, impaired immune system, high blood pressure and increased risk for developing several diseases.
If you’re looking for a free solution to lose weight, improve your mood, increase your mental clarity and even fend off a heart attack, restructure your life to consistently get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep.
#6: Epsom Salt Baths or Foot Soaks
Epsom salt soaks could fall under improving your nutrition, decreasing stress and supplementing. Epsom salts are magnesium salts and magnesium is your body’s off switch. Individuals with chronic pain and inflammation tend to have low magnesium intake, serum magnesium levels and high magnesium needs.
Acute inflammation’s job is to heal an injury and/or remove foreign substances from the body. Once the mission is accomplished. It’s magnesium’s job to tell the body to stop the inflammation process — off switch.
If the inflammatory causing insult continues to happen again and again and again — poor diet, high stress, toxic environment, etc. — magnesium quickly becomes depleted trying to shut things down.
Magnesium is found readily in seeds, nuts and beans. It’s also found in leafy green vegetables. While beans aren’t keto, seeds, most nuts and leafy green vegetables sure are. Regularly consuming those foods is going to help replenish your magnesium stores while providing other anti-inflammatory benefits.
But if you’re deficient you’re going to need more magnesium. Supplement with caution and only with the advice of your healthcare professional as improper supplementation can cause osmotic diarrhea and/or heart issues as magnesium is an electrolyte as well.
Truth be told magnesium is needed for over 300 enzymatic functions in the human body and then some.
Taking a 20 minute epsom salt bath not only relaxes your mind and muscles — literally, off switch — it helps replenish your magnesium stores. Magnesium can be absorbed through your skin, especially if you’re deficient.
If bathes aren’t your thing or unavailable to you, you can soak your feet instead. You have lots of receptors on your feet, about the same number as you have on the rest of your body.
Take an Active Role in Eliminating Chronic Inflammation from Your Life
Chronic inflammation is no joke. Take everything you’ve learned here and start putting it into motion today. Pick up some epsom salts at the store on your way home from work, as well as some healthy, real foods with real health benefits.
Other actionable takeaways would be to see if your employer has an employee assistance program that provides 6 to 10 free counseling sessions to get your stress under control. Use those handy apps in your phone to help you reduce stress, learn how to meditate, track your physical activity and help you increase your sleep.