You may have heard this before: Inflammation is the root of all disease. But what exactly is inflammation?
Inflammation is the immune system’s normal response to injury, toxins or infection. It is a defence mechanism, when all is well. Short-term, or acute, inflammation is beneficial when it is under control, however, inflammation that persists longer is known as chronic inflammation. What we are exposed to in our modern lifestyle and our choices like smoking, a high intake of processed foods, chronic stress, alcohol, and environmental pollutants actually increase the systemic inflammation in our bodies as these are all sources of toxins that our immune system continually tries to fight off.
Chronic, persistent or long-term inflammation lasts for periods of months to years. Generally, the extent of chronic inflammation can vary, but it may lead to things like tissue destruction and scarring, reshaping of healthy or normal tissue, changes in gene expression, and much more. Briefly put, it leads to disease.
Please refer to our blog entitled All About Chronic Inflammation for more information on this critical topic.
It is clear that chronic inflammation is bad for our health. But how do we go about reducing this inflammation and give our bodies the best chance against developing disease, or managing it if disease is already present?
Here are some habits to BREAK in order to lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
1) AVOID REACHING FOR:
- refined or simple carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, cookies, cakes, and soda
- fried foods
- processed foods such as cured meats
- red meats
- margarines, shortenings or lard
2) SMOKING- In case you needed another reason to quit, smoking is linked to inflammation in the bloodstream, putting you at increased risk of cardiovascular events.
3) STRESS, STRESS, STRESS- The connection between stress and inflammation is quite complicated. Simply put, stress disrupts the delicate balance of the immune system, making it less apt at defending you from illness and disease. It is important to try to decrease stress in your life, as best as you can.
Here are some habits to CREATE in order to lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
1) EAT MORE FISH- Aim for twice a week. Fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are loaded with powerful anti-inflammatory fatty acids, omega 3s.
2) SNACK ON NUTS AND SEEDS- Eat about a handful of walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios or almonds a day. They are high in good fats, protein and fiber and therefore may contribute to weight loss because they keep you nice and full.
3) REACH FOR FRUITS AND VEGGIES- Especially darker or vibrant coloured fruits and veggies as they contain more inflammation-fighting properties. It is recommended to consume 9 servings of fruits and veggies per day. One serving is equal to 1 cup of most veggies and fruits or 2 cups of the (raw) leafy green variety.
4) DON’T PASS ON THE BEANS- Beans, particularly red kidney beans and pinto beans, are loaded with fibre and phytonutrients, which may decrease CRP (an inflammation marker in the blood).
5) WHOLE GRAINS OVER WHITE BREAD- Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grains (one ounce is equal to ½ cup cooked brown rice or one slice of whole-wheat bread). These grains are full of fibre, which not only keep you full but can lower that CRP marker again.
6) GET MORE SLEEP! We all know sleep is good for us. But why? Well, it is largely due to the fact that our immune system is hard at work; helping to repair injury, wounds or illness from the day. This is an example of positive inflammation as in those who have “healthy” sleep (approx. 8 hours a night) the inflammation fades back to normal levels before waking. However, in those who do not get enough sleep, the inflammation carries over into the day as the self-regulating system that shuts it off, fails.
7) EXERCISE! Yet another obvious pointer, but here is why. Inactivity has been shown to INCREASE inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. On the other hand, individuals who exercise not only have lower levels of inflammatory markers, but they also have an increase of anti-inflammatory biomarkers in their bodies! Click here to check out our blog on Moving Well as an Older Adult for guidelines and tips on how to get started.
8) WEIGHT LOSS- Studies show that losing weight decreases inflammation in the body. The good news is, performing the other pointers on this list should help with this category.
9) ADD A FULL-SPECTRUM TURMERIC SUPPLEMENT TO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE- Turmeric is an ancient spice that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine; a natural anti-inflammatory medicine. Learn about why a full-spectrum turmeric supplement is so important on our blog Dr. D’s Ultra BioTurmeric: Whole Root Nutrition.