The body is in a constant state of recognising, responding and readjusting to maintain a sense of balance. Balance is ultimately what we are trying to strive for with our health, whether that be in our body, mind or lifestyle. When something is thrown off balance for a prolonged time, we can start to see an undesirable cascade of events of that follow. Chronic inflammation is one of the most prominent examples of this, and it is becoming more and more common.
When you delve deeper into most chronic health conditions they all tend to have one key factor in common: inflammation. Many chronic diseases seem to be completely unique, but many have their roots very much linked to inflammation.
What is important to understand is that inflammation is not actually inherently bad. If you've ever had the flu, twisted your knee or cut your finger you will have experienced inflammation. Heat, pain, redness and swelling are the telltales signs of inflammation and are a part of a whole series of events that are happening to help protect the body. Whether that be fighting off threatening microbes or rebuilding damaged tissues.
This form of inflammation is known as acute. It comes on rapidly but is generally short-lived. After the affected area has been returned to a state of balance the inflammation dissipates within a few hours or days.
It is prolonged inflammation, known as chronic inflammation which is where we start to see a whole host of systemic problems manifest. Chronic inflammation often begins with the same cascade of cellular responses but morphs into a lingering state that persists for months or years. This happens when the immune system response fails to fully eliminate the problem, or when inflammation stays active, even though when there is no longer apparent injury or disease.
Too little inflammation and your body can't defend itself, too much inflammation and your body is attacking itself… So, how do you find the sweet spot between the two?! The best approach is by making sure you every day is full of things that help combat inflammation and is lacking in factors that promote inflammation.
Food & Lifestyle Causes of Inflammation: Avoid
• Refined sugar (table sugar, agave, processed honey, coconut sugar, maple and glucose/corn/ fructose syrup).
• Address harmful lifestyle habits such as smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
• Processed and refined grains and flours (white wheat bread, cakes, pastries, biscuits, muesli bars).
• Be mindful of alcohol and caffeine. No more than 200mg of caffeine daily which equates to 2x coffees or 4x cup of black or green tea.
• Seed oils including sunflower, canola, rice bran, cottonseed, rapeseed, grape seed and soy. Look out for these in processed food including dairy-free milk and long-life milk.
• Hydrogenated fats and oils including margarine and nuttlex products. Also, be cautious of these oils added to processed foods.
• Avoid excess stress. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to be stress-free, but making sure your ‘stress debt’ doesn't max out regularly. If you are going through stressful periods seek help to manage your stress, whether that be doing a yoga class, talking it out with someone or meditation.
• Grain-fed and factory-farmed meats, poultry and eggs. The health of the animal has a big impact on the health of their produce. For both ethical and nutrition reasons, we should focus on consuming fewer animal products and ensuring that the animal products we do consume are of better quality.
Food & Lifestyle Causes That Help Reduce Inflammation: Consume
• An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Aim for 6-8 cups of vegetables and 2 small pieces or 1 cup of fruit daily.
• Go for whole grains such as spelt and oats, quinoa, buckwheat, basmati, red, black or brown rice, amaranth or millet.
• All legumes and pulses must be soaked before cooking for 12-24 hours. Avoid tinned legumes unless tins are BPA free. Lentils, split peas, kidney beans, white cannellini beans, chickpeas, black beans, black eye peas etc. Try to include 1x serve daily (unless suffering from digestive symptoms).
• Grass-fed and finished meats (1x weekly), poultry (2x weekly) and eggs (2 daily) as high in omega 3 which is anti-inflammatory.
• Wild-caught low mercury fish, either fresh or tinned (always BPA free). Enjoy 2-3x times weekly.
• Moderate amounts of dairy. Up to 1/2 cup of full-fat natural yogurt, a thumb-sized piece of Parmesan cheese and sparing amounts of butter per day. When using oils go for extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee from pastured animals.
• Include lots of fresh and dried herbs and spices - in particular turmeric, ginger & garlic.
•Make movement a part of your everyday. Whether that be cycling to work, a walk on your lunch break or a class in the evening, try to get some form of exercise into your day.
•Be mindful of sleep. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so you are waking up feeling energised and giving your body time to reset and recover.
If you already have a chronic disease and are struggling with chronic inflammation you will need to follow a more specific dietary and lifestyle plan (in addition to paying attention to the points above) to meet your individual needs.
Wondering if this could be just what you need? Reach out and let me help.