Have you ever felt that you are often feeling fatigued, always sick, or experiencing symptoms like brain fog and digestive discomfort? Did you know that naturally reducing your inflmmation could help these symptoms?
While there are many potential causes of these symptoms, it’s possible that you are experiencing underlying chronic inflammation. Suprisingly, this can be the root cause of many unwanted health conditions and symptoms.
So what exactly is chronic inflammation? While the phrase “inflammation” is commonly thrown around, it can be confusing to understand what it actually means.
How Do You Know If You Have Chronic Inflammation?
First, it’s important to note the difference between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.
When you experience an injury, infection, or the common cold, your body activates it's immune response to help heal you. Inflammatory signals are sent out in order to attack a foreign invader or heal damaged tissues.
This short-term acute inflammation is necessary for getting you back to a state of health.
However, chronic inflammation can occur when your body continues to promote these inflammatory pathways by making immune compounds such as free radicals and inflammatory cytokines in excess when you no longer are in a state of acute illness.
There are many lab tests that your doctor can run to identify markers of inflammation, including genetic predisposition to it, that is a good starting place before assuming that chronic inflammation is the source of your concerns. However, it's always important to understand how you can reduce inflammation naturally in your lifestyle and diet choices to support your overall health.
Even without an official diagnosis of an inflammatory disorder, fighting inflammation in the body is a universal pursuit due to our modern sedentary lifestyles, food choices, and toxicant exposures that have been thoroughly studied as possible causes of elevated inflammation.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself for determining the potential causes of inflammation in your life!
What kind of foods am I feeding my body?
The internet is a confusing and often misleading place when it comes to nutrition. It's easy to get caught up in the diet fads on the blogosphere that claim to be a cure-all.
The real truth is that science is constantly evolving and we are learning new information every day. Esspecially when it comes to what our body needs to help prevent and treat disease.
So when in doubt from reading about the latest “detox” diet or supplement that is supposed to fix “inflammation”, it's always good to go back to the basics - whole foods.
Essentially, "whole foods" just means a food that has been processed or refined as little as possible. Whole foods contain most of the nutrients that your body needs to stay in a state of health.
Highly processed foods - like processed meats, packaged goods, and sugar-sweetened beverages - can be major promoters of inflammation in the body.
Whole foods contain beneficial compounds that are superstars in controlling inflammation in your body, that highly processed foods often don’t.
Let’s discuss a few different components of foods that are extremely important to have in your regular diet. Not only for combating inflammation, but also oxidative stress in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You can get them in your diet from sources like fish, various nuts and seeds, seaweed, and organic pasture-raised eggs!
The term “antioxidant” is an umbrella term for many different types of compounds that work by reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals that can lead to inflammation.
They are identified as compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and even vitamin C and E are considered potent antioxidants.
What’s amazing about antioxidants is that there's so many different kinds available in so many different types of foods - so if anyone tries to ever sell you on needing antioxidants supplements it's possible they have forgotten the power of whole foods (although there may be specific situations in which a doctor would recommend them).
While reducing oxidative stress is oftentimes a beneficial thing, there are systems in our body that do require and strengthen from the presence of oxidative stress, and so taking potent antioxidant supplements without consulting with a professional could end up being more damaging than beneficial. Rather, let’s focus on some amazing whole food sources of antioxidants!
You can get antioxidants in your diet from “eating the rainbow”, which tells you which foods are high in these compounds - dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, and even dark chocolate and green tea!
It's generally understood that fiber is extremely beneficial for almost all aspects of health including its ability to reduce inflammation.
Fiber may do this is by supporting the microbiome by feeding the beneficial bacteria there that can promote anti-inflammatory pathways.
Am I cooking with spices and herbs?
Even with a whole foods based diet, there are many awesome additions you can add into your cooking! Take sprices and herbs for example! They can provide additonal support for inflammation; not to mention, they make your food much more flavorful!
There are many different forms of herbs and spices available, like teas, spices, capsules, tinctures, extracts, and more! Here are a couple that you might want to consider keeping on hand when you’re in the kitchen.
One of the best things about cinnamon is that it’s likely that you already have it in your kitchen!
Not only does cinnamon taste great and is easy to sprinkle on foods, it is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice!
Cinnamon has been studied in lots of different research for its ability to reduce markers of inflammation in the body.
Aim to consume about 1 teaspoon per day to get these benefits!
Cinnamon is so easy to sprinkle on yogurt or oatmeal, blend in a smoothie, or make a hot tea with!
This might be another spice you already have in your kitchen cupboard, but if you don’t, you should!
There’s a good reason why many cuisines, especially traditional Indian cuisine, has utilized this delicious and colorful spice for thousands of years!
Turmeric contains a potent compound called curcumin, which has been studied extensively to help reduce inflammation naturally in the body.
Pro tip: When seasoning with turmeric, combine with black pepper to increase curcumin that your body can use!
There are so many other great anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, including garlic, ginger, cayenne, clove, basil, coriander, anise, cumin, fennel, saffron, sage, and more!
Looking for recipes that combine anti-inflammatory foods and spices? Check out these delicious options from Medical News Today!
Am I exercising regularly?
While it's no probably no surprise that exercise is important for overall health. Any kind of daily movement that gets your heart pumping at a quicker rate can help reduce inflammation naturally.
Daily movement can take place in many forms, such as walking to work some days, doing some physical home or yard improvements, spending time playing with your kids outside, or of course the more recognized forms of exercise such as going to the gym or running.
Yoga, particularly, can be very calming to the body and has even been studied for benefits to reduce inflammation!
To help reduce inflammation naturally, aim for 30 minutes of exercise as many days of the week that you can!
Do I have a regular sleep schedule?
Sleep is one of the most basic human needs but is often overlooked!
Poor or irregular sleep patterns has been linked to inflammation in the body.
This makes sense as sleep is the sacred time that our body needs in order to restore itself from any stressors experienced that day, and without this time our body will become more run down and more susceptible to inflammatory cycles.
Am I doing practices that help calm my mind and body?
Is it sometimes hard to imagine that the psychological stress that you experience in your life can negatively affect your entire body's health and even promote inflammation?
Especially when it comes to eating and digestive health, it’s extremely important to slow down and breathe.
If your body is in a stressed state or in “fight-or-flight” mode, it will greatly impede your digestive system because your body is sending its energy, blood, and nutrients to the parts of the body necessary for survival, rather than relaxation and eating.
This causes poor function of your digestive processes, from the production of salivary enzymes to the action of breaking down food in the intestines, which can in turn lead to inflammation in the gut.
So next time you feel the desire to scarf down a snack quickly on your way to work or wherever you are rushing off to, remember how it can impact your body’s functions and the promotion of inflammation.
Don’t have the time to take it slowly?
Even if you’re on-the-go and need to eat (and yes, this even means when you’re sitting, like working at a desk or driving), try to take a few rounds of calming breaths before you consume. This will send calming signals along the vagus nerve connecting your gut and brain, which can reduce any inflammatory signals and allow your digestive system to function better.
Talk about reducing inflammation naturally - it doesn’t get more natural than breathing!
If you do have more the ability in your day to carve out more time for mindful practices, it can do your body wonders to make space for meditation, deep breathing techniques, yoga, stretching, or even simply taking a walk.
Even if those seem too difficult to attain daily, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have just 5 minutes to do a quick breathing technique to help calm my mind?
- Can I listen to a calming meditation in bed before falling asleep?
- Can I find a few minutes to do some simple stretches?
- Can I walk to the store instead of driving?
These little additions may seem insignificant or difficult to implement into your normal routine, but can greatly benefit your health in the long term by calming your central nervous system and reducing inflammation naturally.
There are many aspects of your lifestyle that can help in naturally reducing inflammation.
While it may seem overwhelming to focus on all of these areas at once, choose just one to start with!
It might be easier for you to change up the foods that you shop for at the grocery store, or it might be easier to aim for daily movement and improve your sleep schedule.
Whichever areas you focus on, remember that they are all helpful for improving your body’s overall health. Don't worry if you don't feel the benefits right away, you will soon!
If you are unsure how to implement some of these lifestyle changes, try Vessel today for hundreds of wellness tips, lessons, and full access to a nutritionist on chat to guide you through them!
No one wants to live with brain fog or fatigue - start making changes to naturally reduce inflammation today!