You’ve likely heard that inflammation, a damaging process whereby the immune system releases ongoing inflammatory chemicals, is at the root of all disease. But what does this mean for you?
It’s common to recognize inflammation when we blatantly see or feel it. You might deal with sore joints, swollen ankles, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, or even a flushed face after drinking wine or exerting energy. Those are visible signs of heat and tissue damage from a trigger that has alerted your body to protect itself.
Now let me ask you this, are you able to recognize inflammation when it’s less obvious? Too often we associate health with external appearance, but it’s worth a second look. Perhaps you demonstrate no outward symptoms but internally you have elevated blood pressure, frequent migraines, sinus pain, pressure or congestion. These too are side effects from an inflamed system.
There are many causes for the fiery reactions in our bodies, some of which involve:
a highly processed diet with pro-inflammatory foods and beverages (If you haven’t yet, check out my previous post: Ten Ways to Remove Inflammation From Your Food.)
unknown allergies or delayed onset sensitivities
a bogged down and backed up immune system
and many other triggers and choices that affect us on a daily basis
I'm a good example of appearing well while living with chronic inflammation. Even though my sed rate rests nice and low at 2, and other inflammatory markers are within normal limits while others are steady - I am well aware that my daily headaches, body aches, allergies, food sensitivities and irritated stomach are all signs of inflammation. For this reason, I make a conscientious effort to incorporate anti-inflammatory practices in every aspect of my life. Join me in setting new habits and removing inflammatory (aka: damaging) sources from your body.
1) Maintain a healthy body weight. One way to reduce inflammation within your body is to avoid weight gain by partaking in whole foods and daily activity. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in 2008 researchers examined nine years of data on 1,222 adults. They found a positive association between weight gain and an increase in chronic inflammation. This is important because it was not just a temporary increase, but a long term increase resulting in ongoing inflammatory chemicals in the body.
2) Exercise most days. There’s mounting evidence supporting the anti-inflammatory properties of exercise. A 2002 study by Epidemiology was able to correlate C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker produced by the liver) concentrations of 0.98, 0.85, and 0.53 for participants who engaged in light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, respectively. An added benefit is that a consistent exercise practice may help to reduce muscle pain (like that in fibromyalgia) and body aches.
3) Decrease chronic stress by identifying your trigger. What’s the most stressful thing in your life right now? Whether it’s a job, a place or a person - one of the best things to do for yourself is to remove the source (within reason). A 2013 study revealed that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they actually enter the bloodstream - to prepare them to fight infection or trauma. Because this process happens even in the absence of an infection or trauma, it results in increased levels of inflammation.
4) Reduce remaining stressors with daily meditation, yoga or Mind Body Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques. Regardless of the size of your meditation muscle the real point of these exercises is to slow down, listen within, connect to a higher power, and BREATHE. That’s it.
According to a new study by researchers in Spain, France and the United States, meditation can decrease the expression of genes in inflammatory processes. Scientists discovered this by comparing a control group to experienced practitioners of mindfulness meditation. What they identified was the significant down regulation of pro inflammatory RIPK2 and COX2 genes, as well as histone dsactylase genes associated with gene transcription (cancer promotion). "The study provides scientific evidence for the notion that people can alter genetic activity and thus improve their health through thought and behavior. It's also related to the relatively new field of epigenetics, which examines how environmental factors can permanently alter genetic activity at a molecular level,” summarized a related article by Deutsche Well.
5) Make sleep a priority and avoid being sleep deprived. Not only is this important from an inflammation standpoint, but it also has the potential to effect appetite and increase weight. A 2004 study from PLos Med found that participants with short sleep had reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin (opposing hunger hormones), which are likely to increase appetite. This might explain the increased BMI observed with short sleep duration. The study went on to say that, "In Western societies, where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity.”
From the inflammation perspective, a 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine study revealed that sleep loss, even a modest amount, alters pro inflammatory cytokine response negatively while driving “cellular immune activation and inducing inflammatory cytokines.” In other words sleep deprivation sets off a cascade of inflammation internally.
6) Consider what your body ingests from your skin on a daily basis. As you likely know, your skin is your largest organ and a great absorber. It’s also closely linked to autoimmune diseases as we see in conditions like eczema, psoriasis, allergic dermatitis, lupus and vitiligo. Therefore what we expose to our skin, we expose to our immune system. To put this into simplistic terms, if you wouldn’t eat your skincare products than you really should replace them. Check out the EWG's Skin Deep Database and related App to make chemical-free choices while shopping. Aim for the lowest number possible (0-3) to reduce your body burden.
7) Exchange synthetic chemicals in your food, supplements, beauty and cleaning products with identifiable ingredients. A great way to do this is to begin making your own do-it-yourself products with high quality ingredients like doTERRA essential oils. Not only is this fun and affordable but it exposes us to many healthful properties. Monoterpenes, found in nature and present in most essential oils, have many benefits such as inhibiting the accumulation of toxins and acting as antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents.
8) Upgrade your facial regimen with organic, plant-based, wild crafted products. By making this simple switch you'll replace toxic ingredients, reap the benefits of aromatherapy and stress reduction, while absorbing anti-inflammatory properties. Oh yeah, and your face will glow. If you’re short on time and don’t want to make your own, it’s worth investing in AnneMarie Gianni’s skincare line. Once you try a free sample, there’s no turning back.
9) Determine if environmental toxins are making you sick with appropriate testing to measure chemical, pesticide and heavy metal loads. While our bodies are equipped with the innate intelligence to remove toxins, modern industrialization coupled with genetic variants and environmental burdens have contributed to alarming rates of autoimmunity. Unless you’re tested for these materials, you have no way of knowing how much they’re affecting you. I have the ability to order a variety of tests for these purposes and tailor my recommendations to clients based on their past exposures, potential occupational hazards, lifestyle choices and symptoms. If you’re skeptical about the autoimmune connection with environmental toxins, then reading The Autoimmune Epidemic by Donna Jackson Nakazawa is a must!
10) Think positive thoughts by using daily affirmations. Our state of mind plays an important role in setting off a positive or negative tone throughout the day. Make no mistake, this affects each and every cell at a microscopic level and it’s imperative to your health. For some of us, myself included, our stinking thinking is our biggest challenge in reducing inflammation and disease. But you can begin to change that by looking yourself in the mirror, or simply closing your eyes, each morning and envisioning yourself in perfect health. Start each day by saying something like, "My body is strong, healthy and capable of combating pain and inflammation." Say it, believe it, and mean it.
Something to remember is that each of these ten points plays a part, but when combined synergistically - that’s where the magic really happens. You want these habits to ooze over into all aspects of your life. The more consistent you are, the more cumulative the benefits will become.
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