Reduce inflammation naturally
Ever noticed that when you get a cut or graze on your skin that area turns red? Maybe you’ve sprained your ankle in an evening yoga class or fell off your bike and hurt your knee on an uneven pathway? Cue swelling, pain, redness and bruising - how can your body treat you this way?! At the time it feels like your body is your worst enemy, but believe it or not, your body is responding appropriately and supportively. It’s on your side! Your body has triggered an inflammatory response, in order to help you heal as quickly as possible. When your body responds this way, it’s known as ACUTE INFLAMMATION. Acute inflammation is your body’s natural response to damaged tissues. It’s a protective mechanism to help shield an injured area and repair the damage. This process can sometimes be supported by certain anti-inflammatory medicines.
There is another type of inflammation however, known as CHRONIC INFLAMMATION. Unlike acute inflammation which is immediate and short living, chronic inflammation is longer-lasting and proving to be of more concern. Overtime, our body produces a response (inflammation) when exposed to potential invaders due to stress, environmental toxins and heavily processed foods. This type of inflammation is at a much lower level than acute, however it is constant, slow and indiscrete. Chronic inflammation has been suggested to play a role in many chronic diseases. As chronic inflammation is an immune response, in order to reduce the inflammation, it’s important to identify what’s causing your immune system to respond in the first place. In this case, conventional anti-inflammatory medicines are not appropriate as they just help with the symptoms rather than the cause.
Feeling overwhelmed?! No need to worry. Turns out, there are many alternative ways to reduce inflammation without reaching for your medicine cabinet.
1. Listen to your gut
Your gut contains many tiny microorganisms to help protect your body. Since a large proportion of your immunity comes from your gut, if your gut is in a bad way, your immunity will not be at its optimum. Probiotics are the good guys that help support a healthy gut and immune system. They are already found in our large intestines, so additional probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of ‘good’ bacteria. Sufferers of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome may also benefit from probiotics to help reduce the symptoms associated with the condition.
2. Identify troubling foods
A wonderful way to begin gut healing is by identifying key foods which trigger discomfort. If you’re regularly consuming foods that your body finds difficult to tolerate, you may be experiencing inflammation more often than you think. Ever felt bloated, windy and overall uncomfortable? Your body was trying to tell you that something’s wrong! It may be time to put on your detective hat and investigate which foods are causing you these symptoms. Consider foods such as gluten, dairy, fructose and other FODMAPS as these are common triggers that upset tummies. It may be helpful speaking to a nutritionist or dietitian to help identify these triggers.
3. Eat your veggies (and fruit!)
‘Eat your veggies’. The 3 words every kid detests hearing! But your mum’s right, veggies are little pocket rockets exploding with nutrients that help support a healthy and thriving body. Not only are veggies all different shades of the rainbow, but those different colours contain different essential micronutrients and phytonutrients. The lycopene that makes tomatoes ravishing red, carotenoids that give carrots and sweet potatoes their golden glow and anthocyanin that gives eggplants their royal purple skin contain anti-inflammatory properties. Eat your veggies indeed! Oh, and don’t forget about fruit either! Include 2 wonderfully sweet, juicy and nutritious fruits every day. Opt for whole fruit over juice to ensure you’re getting those anti-inflammatory properties from the flesh and skin. Plus, who doesn’t love that crunch factor of a juicy pear or creamy taste of a sweet banana? Yummmmmmm!
4. Spice it up
Turmeric is an exciting spice as research suggests it has potential anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, most studies conducted on turmeric are done on curcumin (Jurenka 2009). Research proposes that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are so powerful that they match the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medicines (Jurenka 2009). While it doesn’t help find the cause of inflammation, turmeric is proving to be a natural alternative to help with the symptoms associated with chronic inflammation. Eating your way to less inflammation? I couldn’t think of a more delicious approach!
5. Sleeping beauty
Are you someone who finds it difficult getting 8 hours of sleep as your busy life doesn’t leave you with much time for rest? Or maybe you’re someone who enjoys living in the moment, and believes that time sleeping is time wasted! The thing is, we need those precious hours of sleep. Our bodies work very hard to keep us alive, so it makes sense that they need time to rest and restore. And this is exactly what happens when we sleep. A lack of sleep means your body is not able to repair as efficiently as it could, including your immune system. When your immune system doesn’t have enough time to rest, it compensates by triggering an immune response and as a result inflammation increases. It may be time to reconsider the importance of sleep!
6. Manage stress
Stress is the unwelcomed cousin to lack of sleep. Research suggests that when your body is in a stressed state it releases the hormone cortisol; with the job of regulating stress and inflammation (ScienceDaily 2012). Sounds good in theory, however things get out of hand when the body is in a constant stressed state, as cortisol is unable to regulate inflammation as efficiently as possible (ScienceDaily 2012). Chronic inflammation due to stress may be managed by lowering triggers of stress as well as practicing stress management. Remember that speaking to someone about stress and anxiety is one of the best ways to help manage stress.
These tips are not extensive, but they are wonderfully natural ways to help reduce inflammation. Remember that by reducing chronic inflammation, you’re reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases. Our bodies are complicated and sophisticated, so combining these tips together can ensure you’re doing your best to reduce inflammation!
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Carnegie Mellon University. “How Stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm (accessed April 15, 2015).
Jurenka, Julie S. 2009. Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of curcuma
longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research. Alternative Medicine Review 14 (2): 141153.