Are you feeling great some days and crappy on others? Why does this happen? What is the cause?
Trying to figure out the signals our body sends us can be really complicated. You want to feel good all the time, and you can. It all starts with certain lifestyle choices, the food you eat, how much you exercise, your sleeping schedule, the stress you face daily, and your overall happiness.
The truth is, these internal and external influences have the ability to nourish us, but they can also impact our health in a very bad way. And that’s the root cause of inflammation, which is exactly what we are going to look at today!
What is Inflammation?
First of all, we have to address the fact that inflammation is not all bad.
Acute inflammation is a natural process that helps our body heal and defend itself from harm. For instance, when you fall of a bike, the cuts, redness and pain you encounter are all sings which indicate that the immune system is working to send white blood cells to the area in order to repair the tissue. In this case, inflammation is helpful.
However, inflammation is harmful if it becomes chronic. This form of inflammation occurs inside the body, leaving almost no noticeable symptoms. A poorly structured lifestyle is almost always the main cause for chronic inflammation, which in the long-run can drive many problems and illnesses like diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease, and even cancer. Studies have found that chronic inflammation is almost always a factor in chronic diseases (1).
How to Reduce and Prevent Inflammation
Now that we established how dangerous chronic inflammation can be, here are some effective ways you can combat and prevent its adverse effects.
1. Diet Change
Switching up your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to combat inflammation.
Processed foods are the real enemy. Recent research has concluded that eating four daily servings of processed food a day or more increased the risk of premature death for 62%. Highly processed foods are not the right fuel for our body, by consuming them we only ensure empty calories which are loaded with chemicals and preservatives (2).
Immediately remove all processed, enriched, pro-inflammatory food products from your diet and replace them with nutrient dense, real foods.
Your diet should include some of the following anti-inflammatory food options:
Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, grapes
Vegetables: Cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, etc.
Grains: Oats, barley, brown rice, millet, quinoa, etc.
Healthy fats: Avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, olives
Fish: Sardines, mackerel, wild-caught salmon, anchovies
Nuts: Almonds, pecans, walnuts, and other nuts
Chocolate: Dark chocolate
Spices: Chili peppers, turmeric, cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, etc.
Beverages: Green tea, Lemon and lime water, Apple cider vinegar
The majority of whole plant foods reduce inflammation and are recommended, so you are not just limited to the foods mentioned above.
However, some foods are highly associated with an increased risk of inflammation.
Try to avoid or remove these completely:
Sugar and sugary beverages: Processed sugar-filled drinks and processed fruit juices
Refined carbohydrates: White bread, white rice, white pasta, etc.
Processed meat: Bacon, hot dogs, sausages, processed red meat
Snack foods: Chips, crackers, pretzels, etc.
Oils and trans fats: Processes vegetable oils such as sunflower and soybean oil
Desserts: Cookies, cake, ice cream, candy
Alcohol: Should be limited or avoided completely
2. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting represent a fasting period of 12 or more hours daily, or a few days a week – where nothing but water and no-calorie liquids are consumed. For example, you would eat all meals between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This is a standard 8 hour eating window.
Studies have found that fasting eating patterns can not only reduce the risk of inflammation, but can also have a positive impact on gut bacteria, insulin, immune cell function, and overall health (3).
Now, intermittent fasting may be a bit hard to jump in too quickly, so it’s best to start out slowly, fasting for just 12 hours a couple of times per week. Once the body adapts you will be able to increase fasting time and decrease inflammation!
3. Get Moving
It is a well-known fact that exercise is good for us. Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on the human body and mind. This is another way you can decrease inflammation.
A 2012 study has found that physical activity was responsible for lower inflammation biomarkers in both men and women. Regular exercise helps us manage our body weight and composition, which in turn reduces the strain on our muscles, ligaments, and organs. The end result is a decrease in inflammation (4).
However, it is important to know which form of exercise to perform. If you’re struggling with chronic inflammation, the best form of exercises are walking, light jogging, swimming, etc.
Isometric resistance training is also a fantastic way to be active. This form of exercise includes a number of moves that can target the entire body. Isometric training recruits muscle and exert tension without actually moving, or in other words your muscles are flexed, but they are not expanding and compressing. The principal is to hold a contraction in a given exercise.
Example isometric exercises include:
1. Wall sit (Activates quads, hams, and glutes)
2. Plank hold (Activates abs, quads, and deltoids)
3. Glute bridge (Activates hams and glutes)
4. Overhead hold with kettlebell (Activates deltoids)
5. Body hold (Activates abs)
Traditional strength training and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) should be avoided for a while until the problem of inflammation is fixed.
4. Stress Management
The hectic lifestyle we all indulge in brings loads of challenges every day. With so many things on our mind, stress has become an inevitable thing.
Stress has a tight connection with inflammation, since its presence activates inflammatory biomarkers called cytokines which damage the immune system overtime.
So, it is imperative to lower and avoid stress as much as possible.
Try out spiritual practices that calm the mind, such as prayers, deep breathing, tai chi, etc. Relax more, don’t let petty things annoy you, let go of anguish and be more calm.
5. Sleep More
There is nothing worse than being sleep deprived. Sleep is the time when your body heals and recovers from the day and prepares for the new one. Each minute of your sleep is very valuable and essential for ones well-being. If you’re unable to repair properly, how are you going to perform optimally the day head? And with a lack of energy and focus, there is always a place for inflammation.
Chronic sleep deprivation is also associated with weight gain, mental issues, impaired immune function, high cortisol levels, and an increased risk for developing many diseases.
In order for you to resolve this problem and avoid inflammation, it is imperative to form a sleeping schedule. Aim to go to bed every night at the same time, avoid artificial light within 1-2 hours of bedtime, and get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Inflammation can be a serious issue. Chronic inflammation particularly can be considered a leading contributor to almost all chronic diseases.
Therefore, use everything you’ve learned here today and destroy inflammation once and forever.