We have all heard the term “inflammation,” but what exactly is it and how does it affect our health? Inflammation is at the root of a wide host of health issues so it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms related to inflammation, so you can take action and reverse it.
Inflammation is defined as our immune system's natural response to infection or injury. While inflammation in small doses is necessary to help you heal in acute circumstances (such as when you get a cut or sprain your ankle), chronic inflammation, or a prolonged period of inflammation, can have negative consequences.
Chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of most chronic illnesses such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.
So how do you know if you have too much inflammation?
Some basic symptoms to look out for when you have too much inflammation are simple, but common to many of us.
Weight gain, food sensitivities and allergies, aches and pains, skin inflammation and chronic fatigue are some of the most common things to watch out for when evaluating inflammation overload.
One thing to note- inflammation is both a cause and result of obesity and weight gain. In fact, many scientists believe that out of control inflammation is the most important driving factor behind weight gain/obesity and the many health problems that go with it.
It is also important to remember that our gut plays a major role in the optimal functioning of our immune system. Over 70% of our immune system is found in our gut. The beneficial bacteria in our gut play a vital role in communicating with our immune system and making sure that it is in balance.
If our immune system becomes out of balance, chronic inflammation can occur. In order to optimize a more healthy inflammatory response, it is important to address our diet and lifestyle. Below are some of my action items that can help with reducing inflammation.
One of the first steps to decreasing inflammation in your body is to avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation- such as those that are processed (with high amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and preservatives), as well as those containing bad fats (such as trans or saturated fats). Instead, try and incorporate more of a plant-based diet with plenty of clean sources of protein. For more information, please check out our recent blog on The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Eating, which is a comprehensive guide that discusses the right types of foods to eat and the most ideal eating schedule.
Many individuals are intolerant or sensitive to gluten- which is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt.
Other common foods that many people react to include soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. These foods increase inflammation and may even worsen symptoms from a particular chronic disease that you have (e.g., causing increased pain, fatigue, digestive upset, etc.). If you notice that after consuming a certain food, it aggravates these particular symptoms, try eliminating it for 2-4 weeks and see if you notice an improvement of symptoms (also known as the elimination diet). After this period, you can gradually introduce it back into your diet (slowly). The elimination diet can not only help heal your gut and reduce inflammation, but you might notice that it can help you determine what foods you have a reaction to (upon reintroduction). It is recommended that you work with a functional medicine physician and/or licensed dietician so they can help you identify potential food sensitivities or intolerances that you might have.
A sedentary lifestyle is very prevalent in our society. A majority of us spend more than 10 hours per day sitting down! Try and set a goal to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Exercise reduces fat mass and adipose tissue inflammation (which contributes to systemic inflammation). Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, and help “turn off” the immune cells responsible for producing increased inflammation.
Consistent, chronic stress can have damaging effects on your mental, physical, and emotional health. Stress causes an elevation of the hormone cortisol (or stress hormone), which has profound effects on our immune system. Chronic elevated levels of cortisol not only lowers our immune defenses (causing us to get sick more), but it also leads to inflammation throughout our body and can worsen the symptoms of a chronic disease. Learning stress-reduction techniques can help normalize our cortisol response. Activities such as breathing exercises, meditating, listening to nature sounds, trying Qigong or even going for an outdoor walk can all help with relaxation and reducing stress levels.
Toxins from our environment and the unhealthy foods we eat tend to accumulate in our body over time. Unfortunately, the buildup of these toxins can affect the machinery inside our cells, resulting in chronic inflammation, immune dysregulation, and endocrine disruption. One great resource that I recommend to patients who are looking to identify less toxic products for their food, home, and personal care is the website Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research and advocacy group. They also have charts that you can use to help you prioritize which produce to buy organic, and when it’s okay to go with conventional produce.
I would suggest incorporating the following protocol (containing our Transformation Bundle products) below as part of your health and wellness plan in order to lower inflammation.
Step 1: Revive Beets + Roots | 8:00 AM
Step 2: Organic Pressed Greens| 10:00 AM
Step 3: Pineapple Chia Cleanse | 5:00 PM
Step 4: Immunity Wellness | 8:00 PM
Dr. Jason Dave
A new series featuring leading physicians who love plants as much as we do!
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