Inflamed: The Power to Heal

by Alexandria Bydalek

There is a reason the discussion on inflammation is a hot topic. Chronic inflammation is the culprit of many life-altering diseases such as stroke, respiratory illness, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. It’s both good and bad news that your daily lifestyle choices contribute to the cause. Our routine decisions may be at the root of activating the unhealthy side effects caused by inflammation, but our daily health-conscious decisions can also be the source of healing those same issues, plus many more. Take some time to commit to your body, how it is feeling, and if inflammation could be the source. We can discover almost anything through education and action.

Inflammation is a naturally occurring defense mechanism during moments the body encounters immediate stress and injury. The inflammation process exists for our internal entities to protect itself from perceived danger. When this response is prolonged (or chronic) due to factors such as stress, poor diet, infections, or a sedentary lifestyle, it weakens your immune system. This leads to chronic inflammation as it is continued over time, causing issues such as hormone imbalance and improper digestion. Key signs your immune system could be compromised include joint pain, swelling and water retention, bloating, gas, diarrhea, hair loss, exhaustion, and fatigue. Any of these sound familiar? We’re going to kick off this journey by balancing nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, and wellness to reboot your body and give it a fighting chance to heal from the inside out.

It’s All About Food

Let’s start here because proper and specific nutrition choices are key to reducing inflammation. Eating a whole-food, anti-inflammatory diet can prevent digestive problems like leaky gut, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth, and the body’s inability to heal. A diet filled with inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, processed meats, and gluten can tear their way through your digestive system and essentially create holes in the lining of your intestines and stomach. This allows partially digested food to seep into your body. Since the food in your digestive system is broken down and acidic, white blood cells try to attack the “leaked” foreign, rotting food, leading to an inflammatory response by the immune system. Healing your gut lining and the microbiota inside (what fights to maintain balance in your intestines) by stabilizing the “good” and “bad” bacteria with probiotic supplementation is fundamental to combat this process, mostly because the gastrointestinal tract houses 70 percent of your body’s immune system.

Eating a diet filled with healthy fats provides the nutrients for the body to heal. These include olive oil, nuts and avocados, omega 3’s and omega 6’s (essential fatty acids), whole grain and gluten-free carbs, fruits, vegetables, proteins found in hormone-free meat and cold water fish, and plant-based proteins such as legumes and seeds. The more you diversify your diet with brightly colored fruits and vegetables the healthier your gut microbiota will be. Drink green tea, take a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning and load up on spices such as turmeric and paprika to reduce inflammation and support a healthy gut.

Build Strength

A combination of high-intensity interval training, low impact stretching, and strength training is a must for regulating your body’s function. Exercise allows your body to produce a more diverse microbiota, balancing the bacteria in your gut. High-intensity interval training assists in stabilizing hormones that regulate appetite, reduce stress, boost your metabolism, and increase energy levels. Low-intensity activities such as yoga, barre, and pilates help to clear your mind, promote well being, strengthen and lengthen muscles, which improve your respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems and reduce stress, which also helps to regulate cortisol.

Cortisol is important because the wrong doses at the wrong time can wreak havoc on your body and dramatically reduce the overall functions of your immune system. A study published in 2014 suggested that people who performed two and a half hours of moderate exercise every week for 10 years lowered inflammatory markers by at least 12 percent.

Behavior Change

Reducing toxins in the household such as cleaning products, smoke, alcohol, and personal care products will also help to control your inflammatory response. Go natural whenever possible on products in order to limit immune system reactions. A recent review of 34 separate studies concluded, “Mind-body therapies [such as meditating at least 5 minutes a day, soaking in the sun, massage, or spending time with friends and family] reduced markers of inflammation.”

Gut health plays a major role in your mental well being. Scientists sometimes refer to your gut as your “second brain” because there are over 100 million brain cells in your gastrointestinal tract. If the microbiota isn’t balanced, it has been shown to lead to a variety of mental issues, such as anxiety, depression and chronic stress. And we all know that too much stress can be detrimental in numerous ways. Your overall happiness and taking care of your body is integral to healing and overall function. People who smile more often live longer – this has been studied and confirmed.

Get Stronger While You Sleep

Wellness practices including adequate hydration, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep are obviously vital to your health. You know getting seven to nine hours of sleep at night is critical. But how often can you attest to that? Those who get under six hours of sleep per night, store up to 32 percent more fat, as opposed to someone who sleeps at least eight. Sleep is the key to living a truly well-balanced, happy, productive, and stress-free lifestyle.

In addition, drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is imperative for your body to rid itself of toxins and inflammation. Furthermore, 26 percent of the American population that suffer from inflammation driven joint pain is caused by dehydration. Water is a critical component to healing these issues since any source of pain triggers a response by the immune system.

Bottom Line

Living an intentional, healthy life will dramatically reduce chronic inflammation and protect you from the mentioned diseases and many more. Here is a simplified call to action to keep inflammatory issues under control.

Fitness: Get out and move at least three times a week and be intentional about daily efforts and routines. Try a new yoga class, or at the very least, spend your time on a phone call walking instead of seated at your desk.

Nutrition: Add green leafy vegetables to every meal and reduced processed foods. If it has more than two or three ingredients, don’t eat it. Try switching one of your cups of coffee a day to green tea.

Lifestyle: Attempt meditation with an app (try Headspace) and replace household cleaning supplies and personal products with ones that are natural, or free and clear of chemical ingredients.

Wellness: Make sleep and hydration a priority in your life. Always have a bottle or glass of water near you. It will lead to a happier, healthier, leaner, less stressed and more productive lifestyle.

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