We’ve all experienced inflammation at one time or another from a sprained ankle, a fractured bone, a cut or a mosquito bite. We’ve felt the swelling, the pain and the localized heat from an injury. These are all signs that your body’s inflammation response is working as your first line of defense against injury and infection.
When you suffer an injury, your internal emergency response team goes to work faster than you can call 911. Biochemical distress signals are instantly transmitted to specialized cells and proteins that are sent to the wound site to remove damaged tissues and combat bacterial invasions. The swelling helps to seal off the wound from the rest of your body to keep any infection from spreading. The pain signals sent to your brain help to immobilize you to avoid further injury. And just like a high fever helps kill off an infection when you’re sick, a sprained ankle or pulled muscle heats up to thwart infection. These outward signs demonstrate that your inflammatory response is working. However, inflammation goes much deeper than just these outward physical signs.
Your body is constantly barraged with bacteria, toxins, allergens, sugar spikes, bad cholesterol, trans and saturated fats and other irritants that throw your system out of whack. It’s a constant struggle for your body to regulate itself and respond to this army of unhealthy invaders. Your immune system, hormones, specialized cells and neurotransmitters are constantly firing off signals and activating cells to do their jobs so your body can stay balanced.
Keeping inflammation in check
To keep the inflammatory response in check, your body must maintain a delicate balance between the genes, cells and signaling molecules that make up the immune system and how it interacts with all the other organs, tissues and systems in your body.
So what can you do to keep inflammation in check? One of the best things you can do is eat anti inflammatory foods that support a healthy immune system, and avoid foods that don’t. Here are some anti inflammatory foods to eat along with some lifestyle changes to help you combat inflammation:
- Load up on fruits and vegetables. Luckily, nature has provided us with a bounty of anti inflammatory foods that are not only good for us but that taste good too. Include generous portions of fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack. These foods contain natural anti inflammatory compounds and are also full of natural fiber, vitamins and minerals, and powerful antioxidants that fight free radical damage.
- Add more omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) to your diet by eating wild fish and taking a fish oil supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for our health, yet the human body can’t produce them on its own, so we must get them from dietary sources. Yet, despite our vital need for them, omega-3s are extremely lacking in most modern diets. Salmon is an excellent source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two powerful omega-3 fatty acids that calm inflammation. The benefits of omega-3s are backed by numerous scientific studies and they range from staving off heart problems to reducing the symptoms of autoimmune and psychological disorders. Be sure to include some oily fish such as wild salmon in your diet twice a week.
- Know the difference between good fats and bad fats. A healthier cooking oil to use is grape seed oil, and for dressings, use olive oil, which is a great source of oleic acid, an omega-9 fat with anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Trans fats or hydrogenated oils and saturated fats are the worst offenders and should be avoided at all costs.
- Eliminate unhealthy foods and additives that shift your body’s inflammatory response into overdrive. Besides trans fats, some of the other bad foods that you should limit your consumption of include sugars, refined carbohydrates and gluten. These foods and other harmful additives and preservatives are abundant in the processed foods that we mindlessly eat every day without giving a thought to how they are sabotaging our health, making us fat and making us sick over time.
- Go nuts! Eat a handful of nuts and seeds every day as part of your regular diet. Some of best ones to snack on include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, and almonds.
- Spice things up with healthy herbs and anti inflammatory foods such as turmeric, oregano, garlic, green tea, blueberries, and ginger. They contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that help stop free radical chain reactions in the body that wreak havoc on our health.
- Be aware of allergens or any food sensitivities that you might have and avoid them. Some of the most common foods that people have an intolerance to include gluten, eggs, dairy, soy and nuts.
- Take a natural daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that includes folic acid and other B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, D and E, and important minerals such as calcium, potassium, and zinc. Science has shown there is a clear connection between higher blood levels of certain nutrients and lower risks of health problems caused by inflammation such as arthritis, cardiovascular conditions, and insulin resistance. Plus, these vitamins and nutrients are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and are powerful antioxidants which fight free radical molecules that damage healthy cells. Try Healthy Choice Naturals Full Spectrum Daily Multiple which contains a powerful formula of 56 vitamins and minerals, plus a fruit complex, a vegetable complex and a digestive enzyme complex.
- Kick bad habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking caffeinated beverages, using marijuana and abusing drugs or prescription medications. Some of the fastest ways to reduce inflammation are to stop smoking, stop using stimulants and stop abusing drugs. Research alternative ways to deal with stress, pain, low energy, etc. Many people have found help through acupuncture, massage, water exercise classes, yoga and other mind-body activities that reduce pain and inflammation naturally without the use of drugs.
- Go out and play! Stay physically active and exercise every day, even if it’s just walking the dog. Or try swimming, golfing, bike riding, or simply do some yard work or gardening. Just keep moving!
- Reduce stress and get plenty of rest and relaxation. Make time for yourself to decompress, de-stress, and take a break from your busy lifestyle. Any stress relief activities you can do will help calm inflammation by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. Make sure you get plenty of sleep every night too because it’s your body’s natural way to repair, restore and rejuvenate itself.
It’s important is to be aware of the harmful effects of inflammation and to eat more anti inflammatory foods and make better dietary and lifestyle choices on a continual basis. The changes you make today can affect your biochemistry and curb systemic inflammation almost immediately. Even eating just one meal of anti inflammatory foods vs. eating a Big Mac and fries can have a positive impact on your immediate response.
Make these kinds of improvements on a daily basis and you’ll be on your way to enjoying greater health and vitality for years to come.