If you’ve ever injured yourself or had an infection, you know that acute inflammation, with swelling, redness, and warmth, is part of the body’s healing process. It not only alerts you that something is wrong, but it helps deliver white blood cells to the affected area and restricts movement. This same process, however, can have negative effects when it becomes a chronic condition.
Chronic inflammation is usually caused by an immune response to some sort of “threat” to the body (such as a resistant infection or gluten), although it can still be triggered when there is no real threat. It may linger after a threat is resolved or continue because a threat isn’t resolving. Regardless of what causes it, chronic inflammation is hazardous to the body because the white blood cells begin attacking healthy tissue as well. It has even been linked to serious or life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Symptoms of chronic inflammation include fatigue, body and joint pain, gastrointestinal complaints, skin problems, regular infections and increased mucus production.
Although this sounds scary, the good news is that chronic inflammation can be reduced through three simple lifestyle changes:
1. Improve Your Diet
· Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
Foods that naturally reduce inflammation include tomatoes, olive oil, fruits (especially apples and blueberries) leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish and some spices such as ginger and turmeric.
· Eat fewer inflammatory foods
Foods that trigger inflammation include refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white bread, lard and shortening, red or processed meats, fried foods or any other foods with trans fats and sodas or other sugary drinks.
· Avoid processed sugar
Processed sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, is linked with increased inflammation as well as contributing to obesity, another inflammation trigger. Natural sugars, like those found in fruit, do not have the same inflammatory effect.
In general, Americans are at a higher risk for nutrition-related inflammation because our diet in often includes a lot of processed foods. By contrast, the Mediterranean diet is naturally anti-inflammatory.
2. Increase Your Activity
Multiple studies have shown links to reduced inflammation and regular exercise. For best results, be sure to get 30-45 minutes of exercise—both cardio and weight or resistance training—at least 4 times a week.
3. Reduce Your Stress
There are different kinds of stress: “good” stress, for example, can be a catalyst for progression, while “bad” stress prompts the release of excess levels of cortisol. Cortisol regulates the inflammatory and immune response, and elevated levels of cortisol can reduce its effectiveness, allowing inflammation to continue. Habits such as meditation, visualization, and purposeful breathing are all effective at reducing stress. Taking time to relax, re-center, be active, and talk with loved ones can also improve stress levels.
Stress can also affect our ability to sleep or sleep well, and improper amounts of sleep also trigger inflammation. Making even small changes in your lifestyle to promote better sleep will help improve the level of chronic inflammation in your body and will help you cope better with stress.
Although the concept of “eat better, move more and stress less” is not a new one, the ramifications of living this lifestyle (or not living it) go far beyond just being healthy—making these changes could save your life.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, come see us at In2it Medical. We can help you understand the source of your pain and find the right pain management options for you.