'Inflammation' has become somewhat of a buzzword lately.
There is a lot of information out there about inflammation and how it affects our health. When you start hearing it everywhere, the actual meaning gets lost. It can be difficult to discern between what's real and what's not.
So what is inflammation, exactly?
By definition, inflammation is referred to as a localized reaction that occurs as a result of injury or infection. Basically, it is an immune response that happens when your body recognizes something as foreign like a bacteria, plant pollen, food, or chemical. It's how your body protects and heals itself.
However, the inflammation that we are talking about is the kind that comes from your diet, lifestyle, and environment. The kind that becomes chronic and stays with you every day.
Your immune system is constantly in 'on' mode and releases damaging chemicals that flood your healthy cells.
We have found that this chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and most other chronic diseases that can have life-threatening consequences. Scary but true.
Here are some signs that you might be suffering from inflammation and the steps you can start taking to squash it.
1. Stubborn, chronic pain
Pain and inflammation go hand in hand.
The science behind pain and all of the different chemical reactions and pathways can be kind of complicated.
But, inflammation due to injury sets off a cascade of reactions that tells your nervous system to sense pain.
It turns out that long-term inflammation can bolster inappropriate or exaggerated pain responses over time. Inflammation can really do damage.
2. 'Spare tire' around your waist
Ever hear of metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that raise your risk of cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and yes, excess body fat around the waist.
Metabolic syndrome is a one-way ticket to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Fat cells around the belly area shoot out inflammatory chemicals, making inflammation worse.
3. Feeling tired all of the time
Is fatigue a familiar feeling to you? Like, still being tired even after getting out of bed and crashing by the afternoon?
Inflamed cells are damaged and don't work properly to produce the energy you need to feel refreshed.
Fatigue may also be a result of a condition caused by or made worse by inflammation like thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or inflammatory bowel disease.
4. Digestive problems
Your gut tells you a lot about your health.
Problems like gas, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation can stem from an inflamed gut.
You might also have 'leaky gut syndrome' which is caused by increased intestinal permeability. This allows toxins to leak into your bloodstream causing those unwanted symptoms.
5. Acne, rosacea, eczema or other skin redness
Got red bumps, blisters, or dry patches on your face or body?
Skin problems on the outside is a strong sign of inflammation on the inside.
In fact, there is a possible connection between the inflammatory processes of psoriasis and serious consequences like heart attack and stroke.
More food for thought: There is increasing evidence that shows an association between acne and diets that contain refined sugars and dairy. These are also foods thought to cause inflammation.
This should be an obvious one.
Consistently experiencing fevers is not normal and should be evaluated by a doctor. It is a sign of an underlying problem.
7. Depression, anxiety, or mental fogginess
Symptoms like these make it nearly impossible to get through your day with everything that you need to do.
Sometimes, inflammation can affect your brain's chemistry which alters the way you think and feel.
Research suggests that inflammation plays a key role in the underlying mechanisms of depression. Not only that, depression, in turn, seems to also worsen inflammation. A very vicious cycle.
Are you often battling a runny nose, congestion, or watery eyes? If so, seasonal allergies are probably all-too-familiar to you.
Seasonal allergies are probably more annoying than anything, but this suggests that your body is in a constant state of inflammation. Yikes.
What do I do?
Many of us probably have one or more of these signs of inflammation. Fortunately, there are ways to help decrease inflammation in the body which all come down to lifestyle.
Here are some quick tips to help you get started today:
I know, easier said than done.
However, stress management has so many benefits that it is absolutely worth pursuing.
Great ways to reduce stress include doing yoga and meditation.
Also, good places to troubleshoot sources of stress include underlying depression or anxiety disorders.
We have said many times before that you can never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep.
Sleep does amazing things for our body helping us recover from injuries, restore energy, balance hormones, and keep our immune system in check.
Start your day off on the right foot with a good night's rest.
We have also told you before about the benefits of exercise on our bodies.
Exercise strengthens our muscles, keeps our hearts healthy, maintains body weight, and helps us to sleep better.
No matter what, just keep moving. Don't sit in one place for too long. Whatever activity you can handle, it's better than nothing.
Quit bad habits
We all have our vices but some are more dangerous than others.
It should be no surprise that smoking is putting a strain on your body functioning at its best. Smoking is associated with a lot bad things including pain, inflammation, and chronic disease.
Also, consider giving up the habit of drinking too regularly. By this, I mean more than a few drinks every day. Your body will thank you.
Think about your food
Yes, I've saved the best for last.
There is a lot of evidence that what we eat (or don't eat) plays a big role in inflammation. This remedy comes from the grocery store, not the pharmacy.
Choosing the right foods can reduce your risk of illness. If you are constantly choosing the wrong foods, make changes now to halt the inflammatory disease process.
Foods that promote inflammation include:
- margarine, shortening, or lard
- foods containing trans fat like french fries or donuts
- soda and other sugary beverages
- refined sugars
- red meat and processed meats (like hot dogs)
- refined carbohydrates like in white bread and pastries
Many of these foods are already known to be bad for our health. Therefore, it's not surprising that inflammation is an underlying cause of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Not to mention, they can really pack on the pounds.
On the flip side, there are foods and drinks that can actually help lower inflammation in our bodies. These foods are rich in antioxidants. This, in turn, will help protect us from chronic disease.
Foods that fight inflammation include:
- healthy oils like olive or avocado
- berries, especially blueberries
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
- fatty fish like salmon and tuna
- spices like turmeric and cinnamon
A great diet plan to follow for crushing inflammation is the Mediterranean Diet.
Eating your way to less inflammation and better health doesn't have to be difficult.
Pick foods that are close to their natural source and avoid junk.
And don't forget to hydrate. Water is the best thing you can drink. Natural, brewed tea is good too. Stay away from soda, the fake, sugary iced tea, and juice cocktails.
If you are showing signs of inflammation, this is a wake-up call to adopt a lifestyle that will repel inflammation. This will keep you in good health for the long haul.
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