What is inflammation?
You probably have heard the buzz about anti inflammatory foods and/or an anti inflammatory diet. But in this post I want to dive into what this actually means; the why behind all this buzz, plus simple tips to keep you on track and free of chronic inflammation.
Acute Inflammation, we are all familiar with this. It is local redness, heat, swelling and/or pain in or on the body. It is when you scrap your knee and it turns red and hot. Or have a cold and get a fever. It is the corner stone of our bodies healing system. It begins within seconds to minutes following the injury of tissue and is our body’s brilliant way of healing itself.
Chronic Inflammation however is what I want to talk about. When our body is in a state of chronic inflammation the well intended immune system is confused between an invader and us. Therefore, the immune response turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue and whatever else gets in its way. When this issue is not addressed, chronic inflammation can lead to many serious diseases.
Dr. Hyman, a functional medicine doctor and leader in preventative medicine, uses the term “down stream medicine” and I love this idea! A “down stream” disease would be something like heart disease, obesity or arthritis. Treating chronic inflammation, through lifestyle shifts, before it develops into a disease state would be considered upstream medicine. Identifying the cause before one gets to a disease state is preventative medicine at its finest.
What would change for you if you focused on the “Upstream symptoms” rather then wait until inflammation becomes a downstream disease.
What an empowering mindshift.
Put the ball in your court, become motivated to make lifestyle shifts and kick inflammation.
Many diseases like IBS, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, arthritis, asthma, alzheimer’s, heart disease, allergies, and even some forms of cancers, are all considered chronic inflammatory diseases. There is, of course, more to the story on many of these diseases. However, we want to decrease chronic inflammation in our body, no question about that!
Your genes are not your destiny. The emerging research known as “epigenetics” is starting to show that lifestyle habits can either turn on or off gene expressions. Meaning your diet, movement, and stress management can all impact the likelihood of a disease to develop.
Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle will support your gene expression. And I want to go through some ways you can support this process, from increasing omega3 fatty acids, to decreasing sugar and stress.
How To Spot Signs Of Chronic Inflammation.
Your doctor can measure your level of C- reactive protein, a marker for inflammation to see if you are indeed experiencing chronic inflammation. Saying that, there are ways that you can check in with your body to see if this is a necessary step to take.
Now these symptoms are not necessary grounds for a self diagnosis. Keep in mind the research on this is new and nutrition (shockingly) is still in its infancy when it comes to western science. Nonetheless, note these symptoms and start to shift into asking yourself, what creates inflammation for me.
How do different foods and exercises make me feel.
As always, be a detective and keep working to feeling your best through sustainable lifestyle shifts.
How to identify chronic inflammation in your body…
Are you exhausted?
Yes, we are all a little tired from working too hard, sleeping too little and trying to keep up with
the many demands life has to offer. But if you feel exhausted, even when getting enough sleep,
inflammation might be to blame. Inflammation can impact the central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal core. This could effect your ability to be fully awake or fully asleep at night. Also, inflamed cells are not healthy cells and can not produce healthy, high quality energy.
You are feeling blue, anxious or have”brain fog”
Now depression is not solely caused by inflammation, however there just may be a link. Inflammation can impact your brain chemistry and cause changes in the way you think. Andrew Miller, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory School of Medicine states “When researchers medically induce inflammation, as treatment for skin cancer patients or certain types of vaccinations, they’ve noted an increase in depression and fatigue.” The connection is also seen in depression treatment “Interestingly,” says Miller, “studies have shown that exercise and omega3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, can decrease feelings of depression.
Unexplained mood shifts could be your body telling you something is up.
Your stomach hurts… a lot
You have digestive issues like constipation, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. Lets start with this, this is not normal and should not be overlooked. Irregular bowels is your body telling you an important message. We talked about leaky gut last month, one of the leading causes of chronic inflammation. An inflamed and overly permeable gut allows toxins to escape from the digestive track and into your bloodstream firing the immune system on a chronic level.
Skin problems like chronic acne, eczema, red and blotchy patches, rashes, puffy eyes and/or bags etc. could be external signs of an internal fire. Your skin is your largest organ and when it is inflamed on the outside there is typically a direct link to what is happening on the inside.
Chronic joint pain
Achy joins are inflamed joins. As you cool your inner fire, this just may support your join health
and mobility. I knew the link between chronic pain and food however it wasn’t until I actually participated in a strict elimination diet that I experienced this for myself. Now I’m not suggesting that you do the same however it’s interesting to keep in mind is there some sort of inflammatory process going on inside you that is causing your chronic joint pain, especially if you are like me and went to physics and chiropractors with no relief.
Our bodies are brilliant and when given half the chance they heal on their own.
Start to notice if you are experiencing any signs of chronic inflammation. Ask yourself, what creates inflammation in my lifestyle?
So What Are Some Causes of Chronic Inflammation
The main lifestyle causes of chronic inflammation are…
- Gut health issues
- Unmanaged & undiscovered food sensitivities
- Chronic infection
- Stress & exhaustion
- Lack of movement
- Environmental toxins
- Home & personal care products
There are many different causes to chronic inflammation but these are some of the biggies.
Let’s Start With Diet!
We are what we eat. Are you cooling or igniting your inner fire through food?
When it comes to an anti-inflammatory diet it is as important to focus on avoiding (in excess) inflammatory foods, as it is to add in anti-inflammatory foods. What you are not eating can really start to add up here. However, I really like the clients that I work with to focus on crowding out - focusing on adding in the good stuff and before you know it, you have less room for the “not so good” stuff.
What to crowd out?
The simple truth is a diet high in processed foods, sugar, sodium, refined carbohydrates, flour (“white stuff”), trans fats, unhealthy saturated fats, too many animal products (more so from factory farms), processed foods and excess alcohol all create inflammation in our body. Here are the foods to focus on adding in to decrease chronic inflammation…
Research shows a diet high in fiber helps to reduces inflammation. Think whole grains (grains that are not refined and come from their natural state like brown rice, barley, oatmeal, quinoa, millet etc.) fruits and veggies. Have at minimal 25 grams of fiber, striving for 40 grams per day. Watch out for processed carbs that market themselves as high fiber products like energy bars, cereal and crackers. Processed foods and refined carbohydrates increase inflammation, so crowd these out by adding in real, whole foods. Read your labels to know exactly what is in your food.
2. Get Your Daily Dose of Veggies & Fruit
Strive for at least 4- 5 servings of veggies and around 2 servings of fruit per day. Although a “serving” can vary according to its weight and nutritional content about half a cup of cooked veggies and one cup of raw veggies would count as a serving. Think variety, choose from all parts of the color spectrum. Different colors are associated with different phytonutrients which fight inflammation. As much as possible keep your food fresh, colorful, real and clean!
2. Spice It Up
Add in antiinflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, sage and thyme. Not only will these make your meals taste great but provide your body with inflammatory fighting properties.
3. Add in Gut Healers
Increasing gut health will decrease inflammation. Shoot for at least one serving of fermented foods daily. Feeling like you really have an inner fire? Try having a daily dose of gut healing bone broth to support chronic inflammation.
4.Get your Protein from Plants
Diets too high in conventionally raised animal products produce inflammation (excluding many fish). Try to always by organic and free range beef and chicken and don’t forget about all the ways you can get your daily dose of protein from plants. Add in beans, whole grains like quinoa, nuts, seeds and leafy greens.
5. Add in Healthy Fats
As much as possible get trans fats out of your diet. Studies have shown that trans fats have higher levels of C- reactive protein, a biomarker for inflammation. Enjoy anti-inflammatory oils like cold pressed, unrefined olive oil and coconut oil depending on your genetics, here is why coconut oil doesn’t work for me but might be great for you. Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, mixed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils of any kind. Enjoy avocados, nuts, nut butters and seeds especially walnuts, cashews and almonds.
6. Load up on Omega3 fatty Acids
Research shows that omega3 fatty acids decrease inflammation and may lower your risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, heart disease & some cancers. With the prevalence of chronic inflammation and modern diets so high in inflammatory foods, many physicians recommend a daily omega (EPA & DHA) supplement along with a diet high in omega3 fatty acids (most suggest eating fish 3 times a week). Add in foods like coldwater fish such as salmon, oysters, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines & anchovies. Also, foods like flax seeds & meal, walnuts, beans such as navy, kidney, & hemp seeds are all high in omega3 fatty acids. Grass fed meats and wild caught fish all have higher contents of omega3 fatty acids.
So many wonderful antiinflammatory foods to enjoy. Become a detective and notice what types of foods spark signs of inflammation and what foods make you feel good. As always, if it came from a plant eat it, if it comes from a plant skip it!
Environmental Toxins & Home & Personal Care Products
We live in a toxic world and these toxins induce inflammation. Everything you breathe, touch,
drink and eat has to be processed by your body. Saying that, beauty products, lotions, shampoos, air pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, and household cleaning products can all induce inflammation when they have a heavy toxic load.
Toxins are accumulated in our fat cells and produce proinflammatory cytokines (increasing chronic inflammation). It takes about 26 seconds for chemicals in your personal care products to enter your bloodstream. The average women puts around 168 chemicals on their skin from personal care products daily.
The FDA in the US has the power to regulate chemicals in personal care products, however they have not passed a law on products since 1938! Over 80,000 new ingredients have been introduced since.
Our skin is our largest organ and what it touches we, in a sense, “eat”. Think of how well (and why) a birth control or nicotine patches work.
Take a moment and think of all the products you use in a day… from deodorant to lotion, dish soap, laundry detergent, makeup, cleaning sprays and, yup, the list can go on and on. Exposure to some toxins we can control, others we just can’t. That is why it is important to feel empowered to decrease exposure when you can. Decrease inflammation and your toxic load by knowing what is in your food, sticking to a clean diet, managing stress, supporting your gut and decreasing environment toxins through food, and natural products.
Here are a few tips to help you decrease toxins in your environment:
1. Download the EWG Healthy Living App
The Environmental Working Group is a wonderful organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. You can scan your personal care and food products while shopping and they rate the level of harmful toxins in the product. Check it out!
2. Choose NonToxic Personal Care and Cleaning Products
Don’t go throwing away all your current products. Finish what you have but start to make the shift to more natural products. Use both the EWG app and the EWG Skin Deep resource to help you make smart choices.
3. DIY Household Cleaners
Vinegar and water can go a long way when it comes to cleaning up around your house. Try making some of your household cleaning products although there are also a lot of awesome natural ones these days you can buy at the grocery store. White Vinegar: cuts grease, deodorizes, and disinfects
Baking Soda: cuts grease, deodorizes, lifts dirt and whitens
Olive Oil: lifts dirt
Club Soda: lifts stains
Essential oils: makes stuff smell great
Lemon juice: whitens & disinfects
4. Pick Organic
As much as possible pick organic. Buying from local farmers markets can also be a great way to get high quality local produce and often even if it’s not organic, the farmer can tell you what they have used on that particular crop and why. Pesticides and herbicides create inflammation. Use the below chart to make organic work for your budget. As always, decreasing the amount of processed foods in your diet will keep toxic ingredients like color additives, and chemicals out of your digestive track.
5. Avoid “fragrance” on labels
The word “fragrance” on a label usually is a cover for thousands of potentially toxic ingredients. Again think of adding in essential oils for a natural way to make things smell great.
6. Get to know the companies you are buying from
Seven generations and Myers are two great trusted American companies for cleaning products. Beauty counter is a wonderful skin care brand. Do some research and buy from companies you trust. It is unrealistic to think you can eliminate all toxins, but you can work to minimize them! Stay empowered by making smart choices.
I did an interview with another amazing health coach Jill Annenberg Lawerence who specialises in environmental toxins and I got all her amazing recommendations. Check it out below.
How Movement & Mindfulness Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Yes, our bodies are made to move and we need consistent exercise to feel and function at our best. We all know this. But here is a little more motivation to keep movement on the top of your priority list.
Research done at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine showed that only 20 minutes of moderate exercise reduces inflammation in the body.
Wow, just 20 minutes and you can start to cool your inner fire through movement! Reinforcing the importance of starting small and dropping that “all or nothing” thought pattern that we can easily slip into.
You know what I’m talking about… I can’t hit the hour long yoga class, may as well not go at all.
Use this fun fact as motivation to get a least 20 minutes in a day. We can all find 20 minutes to use our bodies.
Stress & Inflammation
Chronic, unmanaged stress is linked to increased cytokines (markers for inflammation secreted by certain cells of the immune system) which produces inflammation in the body.
Stress is an inflammatory state. During an emergency, weather that be a disease state like fighting a cold or an external threat, like running from a dog, our nervous system fires. This is a brilliant mechanism for survival and once again our body is so highly intelligent. Yes, we want our immune system to turn on when a virus enters our body. Where we get into trouble is when our nervous system is working overtime from unmanaged stress.
In today’s world characterized by multitasking and over flowing todo lists our nervous system can run on over drive if we are not careful. When cortisol, our stress hormone, is flowing through the body chronically, this leads to chronic inflammation and over time can lead to some serious health issues.
New research has found that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so that they’re ready to fight infection or trauma — even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This overworking of the system leads to increased inflammation. We can not always control or change the stress in our lives. But we can control our perception of it and keep up with our mindfulness tools to consciously turn off our system.
Another plug for exercise. Physical activity reduces levels of cortisol in the body and increases endorphins.
Studies show regular moderate aerobic exercise may address depression and anxiety better than medications. So, as you can see getting your daily dose of movement will impact your stress, which will decrease chronic inflammation in the body.
It is all connected!
Here are some high mileage questions for you to consider to break any blocks you may have around keeping up with your mindfulness & movement practices.
- What does a good day look like?
- What would it feel like if _____?
- What would happen if you lowered your expectations?
- What would happen if you raised your expectations?
- What does success look like?
- I felt best during _____ this time in life and this was because _____
- Adding in some sort of meditation or mindfulness practice can really help to reduce this inflammatory effect in your body.
Not sure where to start? Let me know, I’m happy to jump on a call or email me anytime!
Wow if you are still with me and have made it down to the bottom of this post then I am so proud of you! You’re an inflammation expert! Any questions or comments let me know below or come over to my free facebook group to continue the conversation!
To your health,
P.S. I’m continuing my Valentines Day Special for the rest of February on all my DNA health testing programs and so if this is something you have been interested in finding out more about Click HERE to schedule in a time to chat to me to find out whether this may be the right option for you and get $100 off.