What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is one of the biggest buzzwords there is right now and is blamed for everything from skin issues to heart disease. And although we’re right to be wary of it, it’s also important to understand exactly what inflammation is and the point at which it stops being beneficial and starts being harmful. In its simplest form, inflammation is an important process that happens in the body to fight infections, injuries and illnesses that threaten to harm it. When our bodies are damaged or under attack from foreign substances, the body releases chemicals which the immune system responds to by causing tissues to swell. This swelling works to cut off the affected parts and prevent more harm. So far, so good, but when inflammation becomes chronic and lingers in the body (otherwise known as slow, long-term inflammation) it disrupts normal cellular function and can lead to a plethora of health conditions, many of which can be serious. As with many issues, a lot of inflammation can be controlled and reduced through diet and although every bit of food you eat triggers some kind of inflammatory response as the body works out how to deal with it, some cause a greater inflammatory disruption than others; table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbs, alcohol and processed meat are amongst the worst culprits that have been shown to increase inflammatory markers in the body. Cutting down on these or cutting them out together will go a long way to decreasing inflammation, but read on to discover more ways you can help.
Get your sleep
According to experts, broken sleep is seriously bad news when it comes to increasing inflammation, with even one night enough to trigger cellular pathways that cause inflammatory damage. Getting lots of regular, good quality sleep on the other hand helps reduce inflammation because it releases cytokines, a group of proteins that help the body fight off infection and inflammation.
Improve your diet
Diet does play a huge role in reducing the amount of inflammation in our bodies so taking steps to eat a less inflammatory line-up of foods is one big step you can take. Free radicals are reactive molecules that are present in the environment and are created naturally in the body, but when they’re left unchecked, they can quickly lead to an imbalance and an excess of inflammation. To negate this, make sure you get plenty of antioxidants in your diet by way of green tea, fresh fruit and leafy vegetables. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are also important because they’re loaded with magnesium. In studies scientists found that those with high inflammatory markers often have low magnesium levels. When it comes to what fruit and veg to eat, ensure your diet is loaded with plenty of deeply coloured options like red cabbage, blackberries and blueberries. Rich in anthocyanins, the compound that provides the deep pigment, it's thought that those who regularly eat dark fruit and veg in abundance have lower inflammatory markers than those who only eat them in minimal amounts.
It’ll come as no surprise that prolonged stress actively promotes inflammation in the body. That’s because when cortisol (one of the primary stress hormones triggered during the body’s stress response) gets released and remains high, it raises inflammatory markers in the body and also prevents cortisol from regulating the inflammatory and immune response. To try and keep on top of your stress levels, actively seek out activities such as meditation, massage and taking warm baths that will help you wind down and relax. If you can factor it into your daily routine, exercise is a great way to destress, with experts believing just 20 – 30 minutes exercise a few times a week can make a big impact on reducing stress levels and reducing inflammation.