The word “inflammation” gets used a lot and for good reason…
“Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection. It is the body’s way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.”
Our inflammatory response our body’s way of healing naturally from injury, wounds and illness.
So, is there actually a downside to inflammation? (because that’s what popular media keeps telling us!)
Yes! The downside is when inflammation becomes widespread (and unrelenting!) in the body. However, there’s a pretty big difference between acute inflammation, as described above, and the more detrimental, disease promoting type of chronic inflammation.
Let’s find out more about both types of inflammation and what we can do about keeping the nastier one at bay.
How can I tell if I have acute inflammation?
When physical injury damages your cells, the immune system swings into action releasing antibodies and proteins, as well as increases blood flow to the area. This is a normal and healthy inflammatory response, which allows us to heal quickly.
Signs of acute inflammation:
- Immediate response, lasting up to 7 days
- Heat or warmth
- Pain and discomfort
- Immobility in the affected area.
Persistent and chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is when this response lingers, leaving your body in a near-constant state of “attack”, with widespread systemic effects – sometimes for years! The problem is, we can’t always see or feel the inflammation on the inside of our body.
Signs of chronic inflammation:
- Can last months or years
- Ongoing fatigue and lethargy
- Digestive disorders – bloating, IBS and reflux
- Rashes, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or other skin afflictions
- Being overweight and having trouble losing weight
- Fatty liver, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes
- Aches and pains
- Ongoing headaches or migraines
- Heart disease
Autoimmune with chronic inflammatory symptoms:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Psoriasis & psoriatic arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Hashimotos and Graves disease
What can I do about chronic inflammation?
There are a number of lifestyle tips for someone experiencing this persistent type of inflammation, or who wants to prevent it from (re)occurring.
Tips for reducing inflammation
- Quitting smoking
- Learning to better manage stress, and getting adequate sleep
- Exercising regularly and moving your body daily
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Re-evaluating your diet, including eliminating sugar, processed foods and refined grains, trans fats
- Include anti inflammatory supplements (therapeutic dose) curcumin, Omega 3, anti oxidants, Vitamin D
Anti Inflammatory Diet
If you want to reduce inflammation for overall good health — your diet plays a huge role! The focus should be on whole foods that contain a wide variety of nutrients.
Think about which foods give you the best bang for your nutrient buck!
Basically, you want to eat more anti-inflammatory foods and fewer inflammation-promoting foods — which means avoiding processed “food-like products” whenever possible.
Specific foods that are known to fight inflammation:
- Fruit like berries, avocado, apples, cherries and citrus
- Leafy greens & cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts
- Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines & other healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, olives & olive oil
- Aromatic spices like turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate and raw cacao powder (It’s true! That’s why we’ve got a delicious chocolate-infused smoothie recipe for you as well!)
- Identify any food sensitivities causing you low grade inflammation
- Supplements like fish oil, curcumin (turmeric), ginger, and resveratrol also have anti inflammatory properties but you want to make sure it’s in a therapeutic dose (most over the counter supplements are not!)
And not surprisingly, you will want to reduce or eliminate the following:
- Refined carbohydrates & processed/packaged foods
- High amounts of sugar & added sweeteners (even the “natural” ones)
- Fried food & “franken fats” like margarine, vegetable and canola oils
- Soft drinks and other highly sweetened drinks, including most fruit juices
- Red meat more than 3 times/week and processed deli meats
- Alcoholic beverages – although red wine has been shown to have some benefits for warding off inflammation – but just ONE glass!
Anti InFlammatory Medications
Pharmaceutical medications are commonly prescribed to help reduce inflammation. While these can be helpful in the short term, can cause problems of their own with long term use.
You still need to support your body using the steps above!
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin corticosteroids like prednisone and cortisone)
- Statins (usually prescribed for high cholesterol and arterial inflammation)
Summing it all up…
So, to answer the question: “Should I be concerned with inflammation?”
If you’re striving to keep yourself healthy for the long run, and you want to know what single thing you should be paying (more) attention to, then it’s INFLAMMATION.
There’s no question that persistent, chronic inflammation is unhealthy and can lead to disease, and has been shown to be an underlying common denominator in many serious health conditions.
The reality is that your diet and lifestyle is either helping to keep inflammation at bay or it’s driving it. This is why you should aim to include as many anti-inflammatory foods in your daily diet as possible — to lower your risk of disease, and for optimal health and wellbeing.
How about kicking off your new anti-inflammation nutrition plan with an easy 5-minute smoothie?
Anti Inflammatory Dark Chocolate Berry Smoothie
1 cup frozen berries (tart cherries if you can find them)
1 – 1.5 cup almond, cashew or coconut milk (homemade if you prefer!)
Handful baby spinach leaves (organic preferable)
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder (not “dutch processed” cocoa powder)
1 Tbsp almond butter
½ tsp cinnamon
1-2 Medjool dates, pitted & pre-soaked in a bit of water to soften
Optional add-ins & toppers (for extra nutrients & texture)
- Cacao nibs
- Shaved dark chocolate
- Shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- Hemp hearts
- 1 scoop vegan protein powder (to make it a balanced meal; use low-sugar/unsweetened, plain, vanilla or chocolate flavour)
Place all ingredients, liquid first, into a high-quality blender and blend on high (or smoothie setting) until desired consistency is reached.
Add a bit more dairy-free milk or water to thin out if desired.
Top with one or more of the extras and either sip it or spoon it 🙂