Addressing chronic inflammation naturally
We all have one of those friends who you are practically legally bound to maintain a relationship with because you've known each other since you were three. One of those friends you’ve kept for years and years and you go for dinner with occasionally. You have absolutely nothing whatsoever in common, but they are around when you need them. You can enjoy their company in short bursts, but too much time together and they really start to grate on you. A chat over coffee - great, a two week holiday - no chance.
Inflammation is one of those friends. There are times when we really appreciate it being around. It rushes to our assistance when we are wounded to prevent infection setting in, and fights our corner against bacterial invasions. This normal, healthy response is classed as acute inflammation. It doesn’t hang around for long, just does its job and passes through. This inflammation becomes problematic though when it becomes widespread throughout the body and takes up permanent residence. This is known as chronic, systemic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is now deemed to contribute to almost every major health condition you can think of. From asthma & allergies to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Of course it is also a key contributer in the development of most Autoimmune conditions such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Systemic inflammation such as this is stealth like. It spreads silently throughout the body inflaming and aggravating bodily tissue and your joints, whilst for the most part you remain oblivious. It can take many years before symptoms become apparent and other conditions develop as a result.
What causes chronic inflammation?
It occurs when the immune system initiates an inflammatory response unnecessarily, when no real threat is present.
As well as an immune system gone awry, chronic inflammation is rooted in an unhealthy, unbalanced lifestyle.
The main offenders being:
Inflammatory foods (quelle suprise)
Conventional and processed meat
Nightshades (in certain individuals)
If you are suffering systemic inflammation, eating these foods repeatedly will just serve to fan the flames of inflammation in the gut. Not only does this contribute to leaky gut, but also has a direct impact on the blood/brain barrier. Your gut and brain are inextricably linked, and when chronic inflammation is present in one you will invariably find problems with the other. When your digestion suffers you may start to notice brain fog, depression and other mental health concerns. Taking down the total body inflammation will support both gut and brain health to alleviate these symptoms.
As well as poor dietary choices, other factors play a part in keeping your body in a constant state of inflammation.
Excess stress from work, money, poor relationships
A sedentary lifestyle with little/ no exercise
Underlying chronic infections
Unbalanced ratios of omega 3 vs. omega 6 (omega 3 is anti inflammatory - too much omega 6 is inflammatory)
Not getting enough sleep
I imagine most, if not all of us can hold our hands up to a good chunk of that list.
How can I reduce inflammation?
As we are learning here, drugs are rarely the answer and only serve to mask your symptoms at best. At worst they exacerbate existing health problems further. The aim here is to exercise some damage control and tame the response.
There are some simple steps you can try to incorporate into your daily routine to help manage and reduce chronic inflammation.
An Anti – inflammatory diet
Both the Paleo and AIP diet are naturally anti-inflammatory. Not only do they eliminate most dietary irritants, but also they focus on consuming rich, nourishing foods with anti-inflammatory properties.
Ensure you are getting a good amount of high quality animal based omega 3. Ideally getting this from fish is preferable to buying a fish oil as the quality of these is often questionable. Equally grass fed animals are also a rich source of omega 3, as opposed to conventionally raised meats.
Exercise regularly. Exercise naturally supports the reduction of inflammation.
Ensure you are getting sufficient vitamin D. Spend enough time out doors every day or you may wish to supplement where necessary.
Don’t smoke. Just don’t. Ever.
Support detoxification through diet
Supplement your diet with anti – inflammatory herbs
Manage stress levels through positive practices such as yoga and mindfulness
Prioritise sleep habits and ensure you get enough rest
As well as adopting a natural whole foods approach to ease inflammation, there are certain foods that are anti inflammatory power houses and you should place an emphasis on incorporating more in your diet:
Ginger – calms the immune response and soothes joint inflammation
Turmeric – a portent anti-inflammatory. Be careful it stains EVERYTHING it touches.
Blueberries – low in fruit sugars but high in quercetin – a potent anti-inflammatory, which also supports the reduction of allergies.
Green leafy vegetables – such as kale and spinach. Rich in antioxidants vitamin A and C.
Coconut oil – rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Anti bacterial and anti-fungal to boot. I use this for everything you could possibly imagine, from make up remover to oiling squeaky door hinges.
Bone broth – heals the gut and provides a natural dose of anti-inflammatory, gut repairing, L glutamine.
Wild caught Salmon – rich in essential fatty acids and omega 3’s
Beetroot – high in compounds which inhibit the body’s inflammatory response
Garlic – anti bacterial, anti –inflammatory and anti – fungal. Just avoid if you are low FODMAP.
Shiitake mushrooms – prevent inflammation and inhibit oxidative stress
If you are able to implement both dietary and lifestyle changes you have a fighting chance of dramatically reducing inflammation throughout the body. As a result you will start to notice a reduction in symptoms of chronic pain and disease associated with inflammation.
This blog tells an ongoing story about me and my journey back to health and happiness. A boho soul always looking for my next European adventure. I am a Coeliac, Yogi, paleo advocate, dreamer, Bon jovi connoisseur, sun worshipper, snuggly jumper wearer and wife to my lovely Paulie.