Inflammation is a major player in all chronic diseases. Acutely, inflammation has 4 symptoms: redness, heat, pain and swelling. It's the body's normal healing response to injury. When it becomes chronic is when we run into health problems.
Whether we look at cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, dementia, arthritis or weight loss, inflammation is always a factor. On blood tests, we can measure is a CRP (C-reactive protein), which is a general marker for inflammation. But even if it isn't elevated on a blood test, it doesn't mean there isn't any inflammation in your body.
Here are my top 8 tips to bring your inflammation down:
This is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory we know. Traditionally used in Indian cuisine, this delicious spice brings down inflammation, supports the liver and is a good anti-oxidant. I like adding it to rice, to a smoothie or enjoy it as a turmeric latte or golden milk.
2. Omega 3
Fatty fish offers important anti-inflammatory fats - omega 3 fatty acids. We need these for brain health, cardiovascular health, skin and hair health, joint health and mood. Countless studies have shown the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids over and over. You'll find especially high doses in salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring. Try adding fish to your diet at least twice per week or taking an Omega 3 fish oil supplement.
Tasty and addictive, it's got to go. Sugar is a major cause of inflammation and removing it from your diet can change your life. This means all processed sugar, even artificial sweeteners. It doesn't mean fruit, but fruit should be limited to 2 servings per day. It means cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, agave, white sugar, brown sugar. Maple syrup and honey may be kept in small quantities if needed. Stevia and xylitol may also be used sparingly.
4. Fat balance
A balanced fat intake is crucial to keeping inflammation low. We all know how bad trans fats are for us, and those have be mostly eliminated from grocery store products. The fats I want to talk about here are the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids we find mostly in meat.
I'm not pro-vegan or vegetarian, but I am pro good quality meat consumption. Micheal Pollan very wisely says: "You are what you eat eats", which means that we consume whatever the animal we are eating ate - hormones, antibiotics, etc. The quality of the fatty acids in our meat also depends on what we are eating ate. If an animal is fed a corn or grain diet, the result will be a very high content of inflammatory fat. But if an animal is left to graze and eat its natural diet, the result will be meat that is much higher in omega 3 fatty acids and a much lower inflammatory fat content.
So if you're a meat eater, I encourage you to be picky about the meat you're eating. Look for smaller butchers or farmers who can tell you exactly what their animals were fed.
The bulk of inflammation in our body comes from our digestive system. Many suggestions on this list revolve around food and the digestive system because it's what needs to be targeted in order to heal inflammation. Probiotics are crucial in decreasing inflammation and usually, they need to be taken in a capsule form, for at least a while.
I like using food as medicine, but this is one of the places that food doesn't always do the trick. If we look at traditional diets around the world, they all include a fermented food as a source of probiotics. Some examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, fermented fish, etc. Now, it's important to add some of these foods to our diet, but it's also important to remember that our bodies are also under the pressures of stress, environmental pollution, medication, antibiotics and processed foods - which are highly disruptive to the gut flora or microbiome. This is why a higher dose of probiotics is important and can be achieved by taking a probiotic supplement.
Please note though that not all probiotics are the same and there are specific strains for specific conditions, so not just any probiotic will do. This is a whole topic on its own though!
Chronic Stress is actually a huge cause of inflammation. Stress also actually causes cholesterol to go up. When we are under constant stress, our cortisol levels go up, our blood sugar gets out of balance and inflammation goes up.
Most of us are under constant stress and we may think that we just have a normal amount of stress, but the fact of the matter is that most of us are under way too much stress - and we're all in it together.
It's important to have moments of "vacation" in your day. I call it this because the idea is to re-create the feeling of being relaxed and on vacation, even if it's just for 10 minutes a few times per day. This is so important for our stress hormones to get balanced and for inflammation levels to come down.
You could also try:
Yoga (especially Yin Yoga)
Herbal tea such as chamomile, passionflower or oat straw
Essential oils in a diffuser (my favourite for a sense of calm is Lavender)
I also love using herbal tinctures for this as they are much stronger and act more quickly!
7. Make sure you're regular
Regular bowel movements means at least one per day. Anything less is considered constipation. It's our body's way of getting rid of what is no longer needed and when this stuff hangs around too long, the bacteria of our large intestine start to metabolize that matter and it'll go back into our blood circulation. This leads to hormone imbalance, our liver working overtime and inflammation.
If you're not having regular bowel movements, you can try:
drinking more water
eating more fiber like psyllium husks, ground flax seeds or chia seeds
take magnesium citrate at night
use a gentle laxative tea like Senna (reserve this for occasional use)
*If constipation is an ongoing concern, it should be addressed to get to the bottom of it.
8. Remove food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are a major cause of inflammation. When our body is sensitive or intolerant to a food, our immune system mounts a chronic low grade reaction to this food causing a whole myriad of symptoms, including water retention. Although we all react to different foods, the most common food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. Once they are removed, our body has a chance to rest and the inflammation can go down.
I have 2 ways of identifying food sensitivities: Food Sensitivity Testing and an Anti-Inflammatory Elimination Diet Protocol. These are two very different approaches that lead to the same outcome - they are both very effective!