Reduce Chronic Inflammation with these 5 Steps!
Author: ANCP Date Posted:29 March 2016
Inflammation – The Basics
The Good: With most injuries or illnesses, your body's reaction is the same. Your immune system sends in a battalion of white blood cells to eradicate bad bacteria and repair damaged tissue. This effective healing process, or inflammatory response, is one of the body's basic survival instincts. Under normal circumstances, inflammation stays at the site of the injury or infection and disappears as the injury or infection heals.
The Bad: But sometimes the immune system does not shut off. This can cause a release of inflammation-promoting compounds that spread through the body and can damage cells and tissues. If left unattended, low-level systemic inflammation can aggravate for years, contributing to a range of ailments that may seem unrelated such as cardiovascular disease and immune system dysfunction. The cause of most chronic inflammation is unknown. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of chronic inflammation is its silent nature. Unless you are having painful inflammatory symptoms, such as arthritis, you might not even know you have it.
How can you reduce Chronic Inflammation?
We have outlined five ways below which may help reduce chronic inflammation in your body – diet, weight management, exercise, stress reduction and herbal remedies.
1. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet:
The biggest influence that you have over your level of inflammation is the food that you eat. Different foods contain specific messages that turn on or off messages of inflammation.
Keep your diet simple! The basic premise of an anti-inflammatory diet is very simple and not surprising. You should eat unprocessed plant foods with plenty of colour and variety, along with other whole foods. Include herbs like ginger and garlic that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and high-glycemic foods such as potatoes, white rice and white bread as they prompt the body to make pro-inflammatory chemicals which trigger inflammation.
- Get rid of all saturated and trans fats in your home such as margarine and hydrogenated oil. Replace them with healthier options like extra-virgin olive oil.
- Eat berries which are rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds.
- Fill up on fibre by eating beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains.
- Eat more plant and fish-based proteins because unlike red meats, they are anti-inflammatory sources of protein.
- Use spices with strong anti-inflammatory effects to season your food such as ginger, garlic, onion and turmeric.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Overweight individuals have increased inflammation levels. Scientists believe that the increased inflammation can be traced to the actual fat cells. Fat cells release proteins known as cytokines that can induce low levels of systemic inflammation.
Location of the fat is also critical, with the greatest source of inflammation thought to be from fat that forms around the abdomen. Increased abdomen fat has been linked to a condition known as insulin resistance which disables the body from responding to and using insulin correctly and can lead to other chronic diseases.
One study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who lost weight around their mid-sections lowered their insulin resistance but also lowered their levels of inflammation.
- By dropping just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight, you can dramatically lower your inflammation levels. A simple way to measure whether you are a healthy weight is to calculate your BMI. You’re aiming for a BMI ranging from 18.5 to 24.9 as this is considered the 'normal range.' To calculate your BMI, use an online calculator or the formula BMI = (Weight in Kilograms / ( Height in Meters x Height in Meters ) )
It’s important to note that the BMI has its limitations because the calculations do not take the individual into consideration. Therefore athletes with higher amounts of muscle mass, women who are pregnant or lactating, growing children and the elderly who have lost muscle mass are advised not to use the BMI.
Experts increasingly believe that the type of fat and where it is on your body may be more important than BMI – and that your waist circumference is really the figure that you should pay attention to.
Waist measurement compares closely with body mass index (BMI), however waist measurement is often seen as a better way of checking a person’s risk of developing a chronic disease. Grab a tape measure and measure around your stomach at your belly button. The tape measure should be firm but not tight. Don't forget to breathe normally.
- Measure directly over your skin or no more than one item of light clothing.
- Take the measurement after breathing out normally.
- Have the tape measure fitting snugly, but not compressing the skin.
- If you have a waist measurement above 94cm for men and 80cm for women you may be at risk of serious chronic disease.
You can also measure your waist to hip ratio as a predictor for insulin resistance and therefore higher levels of inflammation. Measure your waist loosely, like a tailor, then measure your hips at their widest point. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. A result of more than 0.9 could suggest a tendency for insulin resistance and you may wish to consider seeing your healthcare practitioner for further tests.
3. Move More:
Regular moderate physical activity is one of the best ways to stave off inflammation and maintain a healthy weight. Experts think this is because exercise activates the body's production of antioxidants which can fight the free radicals that can increase inflammation levels.
- You should get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging or swimming, four days per week.
- Try incorporating high intensity interval training into your exercise routine at least three times weekly along with 20 minutes of weights or stretches two or three days a week for maximum effect.
- Working out too hard can boost inflammation levels rather than reduce them, so if you're feeling exhausted or overly achy make sure you take a rest day.
4. Calm Your Mind:
Your emotions and lifestyle can affect your inflammation levels. Researchers have found that people who are prone to hostility, anger and depression are at higher risk for inflammation flare ups. Stress from being over-scheduled, over-worked and overwhelmed also causes inflammation flare ups. Constant stress can also weaken the body's normal immune function. The result is that inflammation continues to flare.
- Practice meditation or a spiritual practice such as Yoga or Tai Chi. It can transform your relationship with stress so that it no longer overwhelms you.
- Deep breathing exercises or practising mindfulness are both known to help reduce the niggles of mild anxiety.
- Putting a pen to paper is good for the body and the mind. Consider journalling your thoughts and feelings for therapy.
5. Supplements that Soothe:
While cooking with anti-inflammatory herbs such as garlic and ginger is a great remedy for chronic inflammation, if you want and extra anti-inflammatory boost and support, try some of these herbal remedies:
- Grape-seed extract – Rich in antioxidants, this extract may help reduce inflammatory responses caused by free radicals in your body.
- Curcumin – An extract of the popular spice turmeric, has a powerful anti inflammatory effect on the body.
- Boswellia – This tree resin works on multiple chemical reactions that begin the process of inflammation.
- Ginger – Has been traditionally used for thousands of years for its potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
- Willow Bark – The active ingredient in willow bark, Salicin, is responsible for Willow Bark’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.
- Fish Oil – Essential Fatty acids make up our cell membranes and are heavily involved in modulation of inflammation in the body. The most beneficial omega-3s come from cold-water fish, which contain the fatty acids DHA and EPA.