Inflammation is your immune system’s response to an irritant, whether it be bacteria, a foreign object, or toxins. It’s a natural process in the body, however it can become dangerous when your body’s inflammatory response starts to damage your healthy cells, tissues and organs. Chronic inflammation has been linked to major diseases like cancer and heart disease, so it’s important to keep inflammation under control and reduce it as much as possible. There are things you can do in your day to day life that can stop inflammation in its tracks. Check out these habits that reduce inflammation to feel better and reduce your risk of serious disease.
Inflammation 101: 14 Causes and Symptoms
Inflammation is part of your body’s defence mechanism and works to help your body heal. When your body detects an intruder, such as an irritant, bee sting or pathogen, it prompts a biological response to try to remove it. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses and other organisms, which cause infections.
This healing response to sudden body damage, such as getting a paper cut or a splinter, is known as acute inflammation. Sometimes, however, inflammation persists even if your body is not threatened by a foreign invader. If your body sends out inflammatory cells when you’re not sick or injured, it can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to a number of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Altzheimer’s and obesity.
Here are some things that can cause inflammation:
1. Pathogens like bacteria, viruses or fungi
2. External injuries like scrapes or damage through foreign objects, such as a splinter or bee sting
3. Exposure to radiation or chemicals, such as pollution
Symptoms of Acute Inflammation:
1. Flushed skin at injury site
2. Pain or tenderness
5. Loss of function
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation:
1. Abdominal pain
2. Chest pain
5. Joint pain or stiffness
6. Skin rash
9 Habits That Reduce Inflammation
1. Daily Movement
Exercising benefits your heart by lowering blood pressure, helping you manage your weight and reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Getting in 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can decrease damaging inflammation. Moderate intensity activity means that you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. Think: cycling, a brisk walk, pilates or water aerobics.
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Inflammatory foods include processed foods, white bread and pasta, fried and fast foods, red and processed meats, and sugary foods like cakes, cookies and breakfast cereals. Avoid these types of food as much as possible as they not only lead to inflammation, but can also result in weight gain, high blood pressure and diabetes.
3. Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Certain foods and drinks reduce inflammation, and as a result, chronic disease. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables like blueberries, cherries, apples and leafy greens that are high in antioxidants and polyphenols (protective compounds found in plants). Nuts have also been shown to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Other anti-inflammatory foods include fatty fish, tomatoes and coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
4. Eat Your Greens
Dark leafy greens like broccoli, kale, arugula, collard greens and spinach are rich in antioxidants and other compounds that help reduce inflammation and keep daily damage to your cells to a minimum. They contain significant amounts of vitamins, like vitamins A, D and E that have all been found to be able to fight inflammation. Many leafy greens also contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat known for its anti-inflammatory effects.
5. Try Turmeric
The main component of turmeric is curcumin, which has incredible anti-inflammatory powers. Curcumin reduces the production of a protein that makes your immune system work overtime. You can use turmeric powder to make a latte, sprinkle it on your roasted vegetables, or talk to you doctor about consuming it in supplement form. You’d probably need a pretty significant dose of it for it to work its anti-inflammatory wonders, so a supplement is likely your best bet.
6. Get the Proper Amount of Sleep
Getting too little sleep isn’t good for your health, but too much sleep can be harmful as well. A good 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night seems to be the magic number. More sleep than this is linked to higher levels of C-reactive protein and point to inflammation in the body. Research has also linked longer sleep habits with increased pain and higher risk of obesity and heart disease.
7. Practice Good Dental Hygiene
It’s super important to take good care of your teeth, as inflammation in the mouth can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels. When bacteria builds up on the teeth, it can cause an infection in the gums. The immune system attacks the infection and the gums become inflamed. Inflammation in the mouth can get into the bloodstream, causing inflammation in the blood vessels. Brush and floss your teeth everyday and see your dentist for regular cleanings. Be sure to visit a dentist promptly if you have red, irritated or bleeding gums.
8. Manage Your Stress
If you experience stress on a consistent basis, it can lead to chronic inflammation. Constant stress causes your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to secrete hormones that suppress your immune system. Figure out the best ways for you to manage your stress. This may be a daily morning walk, practicing yoga, journaling, calling your BFF on the weekly or talking to a therapist. Do whatever works best for you.
9. Keep Your Weight in Check
Obesity is strongly linked to chronic inflammation. Having excess fat tissue promotes the secretion of biomarkers like c-reactive protein and increases chronic inflammation. Focus on eating whole foods (with lots of lean protein and fibre), limiting your portion sizes and getting regular physical activity to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Reducing inflammation is essential to your overall health. Implement these everyday tips and habits to start feeling better all around.
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