It's the new year, and inflammation may not be the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning, but if you've been struggling to get healthier, or can't lose weight, maybe it should be. Here are 5 ways to reduce chronic inflammation that could be affecting your health in more ways than one.
Losing weight and feeling your best is an uphill battle, particularly if you have chronic inflammation. You need to get the flames of inflammation under control before you start making any real progress.
What is chronic inflammation?
First of all, inflammation is a good thing...to some extent. Every cut, scrape or bruise results in acute inflammation. Without inflammation, small wounds, aches and pains would have a tough time getting better. A switch goes on to help heal the wound, then it turns off when healing is done.
Chronic inflammation is when a switch turns on, triggering a response in your body to help the wounded area. The "attack" put up by our body is never-ending. Ultimately, our body starts attacking itself because the switch never turns off. You may not feel that you have inflammation, but it can show up in various ways, including:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- multiple sclerosis
- irritable bowel syndrome
What you can do
- Swap out refined foods for fruits and veggies. This can be challenging, but once you get the hang of eating fresh, whole foods in lieu of refined foods (think most sandwiches, cookies, crackers, pizza, pastries, candy and soda), your world will change. Trust me, I've worked with people on getting them to make this change alone for over a decade (I even wrote a book on how to do it), and the results have been incredible. Take this in baby steps by starting with once food that you know you need to cut out, but haven't made the effort, or focus on one meal. Pay attention to how you feel immediately afterward. More importantly, notice how eating better affects your energy. It's a commitment, but worth the shift.
- Eat more healthy fats and oils. Olive oils, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, eggs, coconut oil(1) and omega-3 fatty acids(2), particular from cod liver oil, can be very beneficial. Cut out refined oils(3), including canola, corn and soybean oil, which can wreak havoc on your body's ability to reduce inflammation. Make sure you read your labels, because refined oil is in most processed foods. If you cut out processed foods, you naturally cut out an abundance of the refined oils you're eating.
- Exercise. It doesn't matter if you go for a 15 minute walk, a long run or jump into a sweaty yoga class, movement is good! Exercise most days of the week and you'll reduce markers of inflammation. Sure, you might feel a little sore after your first workout, but that's ok. Reprioritize your schedule if you're not making time to move, or save your workouts for Saturdays only. Consistency is key. Need a few suggestions for workouts, here are 11 you can start with. They're mostly body weight, and require almost no equipment. Get moving!
- Sleep and Breathe. I'm combining the two of these in one category as they both fall under stress. Longterm stress leads to chronic inflammation. When you're stressed out all the time, you're elevating your cortisol levels...all the time. Chronically high cortisol levels and inflammation go hand in hand. Sleep 7 to 8 hours a day. Not only is sleep a great way to help control stress, but it helps our body repair all the damage we do to it throughout our waking hours. We can't repair if we don't sleep. Our body is built for five (5) 90-minute sleep cycles every night. Each releases a burst of human growth hormone (HGH) that helps to prevent everything from body fat to blood sugar levels. Are you getting enough sleep? Breathe deliberately slow a couple times a day for a couple minutes. Take time to count 10 deep breaths in and out. It takes longer than you think, but your body will appreciate it. Deep breaths help to stimulate the "rest and digest" part of our nervous system (aka parasympathetic nervous system). It helps calm an overworked system, especially if your day is filled with rushing around, muscling through traffic and fighting fires.
Needless to say, the list could go on and on, but these five are pretty high up on the priority list. Don't cut corners with your diet, move your body and remember to relax!