What is Inflammation?
Inflammation. What is it? Well, a symptom of many dis-eases. Inflammation is the swelling, reddening, possibly painful area of the body where cytokine proteins are rushing to attack the germ or repair the physically damaged tissues. A disease with -itis at the end is some type of inflammation. Any organ or tissue in the body can become inflamed. A few examples are arthritis (joints), sinusitis (sinuses), meningitis (brain lining), colitis (intestines), dermatitis (skin) and on and on. Inflammation that gets out of hand can lead to more serious diseases such as heart disease, eye disorders, asthma, Alheizmer’s and even cancer, to name a few. Inflammation is definitely not something to be ignored or taken lightly.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation can be caused by many different things and of course, any combination thereof. It may take time to determine what is causing your inflammation, especially if it is due to a combination of things. The good news is, once you start paying attention to your body and what it is trying to tell you, you can make corrective action. Some symptoms of inflammation may also be the cause of it, a circular chicken and egg type scenario, but once you start working to heal one symptom, usually the others go away as well. That's a pretty impressive capability of our body.
Lifestyle choices that are to blame for inflammation are: chronic stress, not enough movement, over-consumption of alcohol, drugs or tobacco, being overweight, not getting consistent quality sleep, and/or having a hormonal imbalance. This is good news, because this just takes positive intention to make changes in this area.
Some foods that are usually to blame for inflammation are: foods high in omega-6 fatty acids (canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, seeds and nuts, etc…), gluten, sugar, artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors, nitrites, nitrates and other preservatives (which by the way, have been linked to cancer), and/or anything that you personally are allergic or intolerant to. The good news here is by changing your diet from junk foods to real foods like vegetables and clean meats will help you feel better while you take the time to determine which foods you are sensitive to and eliminate those from your diet while you heal.
Environmental factors that can contribute to inflammation are bacterial, viral or fungal infections, free radical damage, and/or exposure to environmental toxins. Changing your environment can be a bit trickier to combat inflammation and if you caught a germ, well, you'll just have to give your body all the support it needs to heal. But there are ways to help your body heal from infection naturally as well as many ways to reduce environmental toxins. In fact, I’m designing a course to do just that. Sign up for email updates so you’ll be first to know when it is released!
How Can We Correct Inflammation?
Now that you know many causes of inflammation, it is time to take a good, honest look at diet, lifestyle and environment to determine what is causing your inflammation. You must start at the root of the problem rather than just masking symptoms if you really want to be healed. I understand that painkillers have a place in the healing process sometimes, but they should be a temporary measure while you are working to eliminate the cause of your inflammation and be used in conjunction for more natural methods.
If you have eliminated all junk foods and still are suffering from inflammation, I’d look into food sensitivities. You can have an IgE blood test done to identify food allergies. Or, you can test yourself with your resting heart rate, or by doing an elimination diet and then reintroducing trouble foods one at a time and recording any symptoms you may have. Keeping a food journal is one way to track how eating a certain food makes you feel on the inside and outside. It can be tricky though, as symptoms may show up 3 days later!
Some foods that are wonderful for fighting inflammation include: bone broth, collagen, green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, collards), fatty fish high in omega-3’s (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna), foods high in antioxidants (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, cherries, beets, artichokes, coffee, chocolate,), pineapple, onions, coconut oil, butter, ghee, ginger, turmeric and garlic. There are a lot of other natural supplements and herbs that are great for inflammation in specific areas of the body which would take another couple blog posts to name. I just want to bring awareness that food is medicine and answers are out there if you take the time to look for them.
Lifestyle Choices That Combat Inflammation
Adding more movement to your day will help with inflammation. Start your day with 20 minutes of stretching, walking, yoga or any other exercise routine. This gets the blood circulating. With that, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day to promote elimination of toxins. If you overuse alcohol, tobacco or drugs, especially to help you cope with stress, I urge you to find another method of stress release. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep so your body has the opportunity to heal itself.
Environmental toxins are everywhere - the food we eat, the air we breathe, the products we use to clean our homes and ourselves, furniture, electronics, etc, etc… A lot of these toxins can be reduced once we can identify them. If you suffer from free-radical damage which can lead to inflammation, you can begin a grounding or earthing practice. The easiest way to do this is to walk around barefoot on the ground - dirt, grass, beach, lake, whatever is closest so you are making skin contact with the actual surface of the earth. There are earthing mats, sheets, pillow cases, and more you can plug into the ground prong in an electrical outlet to effectively ground yourself while inside your home. Antioxidant rich foods are also great for neutralizing free radicals in the body.
Whew, that was a lot for one post and there is so much more information out there on this important topic.
Until next time,
With love, hugs and smiles,
"Inflammation" Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, Revised and Updated by Stacy Bell, DSC
"The 11 Factors that Cause Inflammation" by Amy Neuzil, ND http://dramyneuzil.com/the-11-factors-that-cause-inflammation/