Inflammation is the root cause of many health complaints and conditions, so let's get to know how to spot the signs of inflammation - and what you can do to manage it.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is something you may consider to be a bad thing, but it is a very normal and important process which happens in the body all the time.
It is part of the immune response and it happens to keep us functioning well. The inflammatory response protects our body by releasing cells and mediators that combat anything foreign, to help prevent infection and damage.
However, if we lead an ‘inflammatory lifestyle’ then over a period of time that ‘normal’ response is switched on for too long, and this can lead to various health issues.
Inflammation is often the root cause of many health complaints and conditions. So by getting to know what triggers inflammation and how you can manage it, you can help to lower your own levels and promote optimal wellness.
Common signs & symptoms of inflammation:
If you suffer with one of more of the following, it could be a sign that you suffer with inflammation in the body.
- Muscle aches / joint pain
- Low mood and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Frequent infections
- Skin conditions e.g. psoriasis
What contributes to chronic inflammation?
Some things which drive inflammation are unavoidable, but there are also others which can be avoided, including the follwing.
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Chronic stress
- Poor sleep
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Poor gut health
How to Naturally Lower Inflammation
The good news is that diet and lifestyle changes could be an effective way to manage inflammation before it becomes a problem.
Studies have also found that they can help as a potential adjuvant therapy for inflammatory conditions, working alongside conventional treatments.
So how can we manage inflammation, and therefore improve symptoms like aches and pains? Let's explore.
Reduce Intake of Processed Foods
Whilst the occasional takeaway and biscuit is going to do no harm, if we over indulge in heavily processed foods it can have a significant impact on our health over time.
These foods are usually packed with inflammatory refined sugars, trans fats and preservatives.
Sugar stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes.
A diet that is high in added sugars can also have a negative impact on the gut microbiome, as well as contributing to excess weight - which both increase inflammation.
- Trans Fats & Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and 6 are ‘essential’ fats because we need them, but the body cannot make them so we must get them through our diet or supplements. However, we need both in certain amounts and the ratio of each consumed has changed dramatically in recent years.
As well as being high in sugar, highly processed foods also typically have a high trans fat content. Trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils are rich in a type of fat called omega 6.
In today’s world we consume far too much Omega 6, and not enough Omega 3. This an issue because, generally speaking, too much Omega 6 is inflammatory, and Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory.
Unfortunately the modern diet includes a great deal of processed, refined oils – soy oil, sunflower oil and corn oil amongst others. These are all very high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3 - and therefore are largely to blame for the huge change in the Omega 3: Omega 6 ratio in recent years.
All these oils are cheap and used a lot by the food industry, especially in fast food. The best way to avoid them is to reduce your intake of processed foods, opting for natural and wholefood alternatives instead.
Increase Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Anti-inflammatory foods can reduce inflammation, promoting a normal immune response and allowing tissue to repair and return to normal function.
Foods which help to manage and lower inflammation in the body include:
- Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids - Examples include flax seed oil, hemp seeds, walnuts and oily fish if you eat it - or algal supplements if you don't.
- Colourful fruits & vegetables - Fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoids and antioxidants like vitamins A and C, as well as vitamin K. A marker of a food packed with antioxidants is its deep colour. In general, colourful foods fight to repair the cell damage caused by inflammation - so it's time to start eating the rainbow!
- Turmeric - Turmeric’s primary compound, curcumin, is its active anti-inflammatory component. Documented for its affects against inflammation in numerous circumstances, turmeric health benefits prove invaluable in an anti-inflammatory diet (1).
Ginger - Another immune modulator that helps to reduce inflammation caused by overactive immune responses. Ayurvedic medicine has praised ginger’s ability to boost the immune system since before modern science began. It believes that because ginger is so effective at warming the body, it can help to break down the accumulation of toxins in your organs. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our body’s natural detox system. In fact, ginger health benefits may even include treating inflammation in allergic and asthmatic disorders (2).
- Superfoods which support immune health & lower inflammation
Clean Greens: Contains 8 superfood ingredients which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help optimise immune function.
Berry Beauty: Great for immune health as it is packed with antioxidants and provides your daily dose of Vitamin C in one serving.
Magic Matcha: Also rich in antioxidants and unique plant compounds which fight inflammation at a cellcular level.
Optimise Gut Health
Upwards of 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health.
Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of our microbiome. Many factors including antibiotics, smoking, stress, toxins and poor diet can disrupt the microbiome.
When alterations of our microbiome are compromised, dysbiosis occurs - meaning that there is a microbial imbalance, which can lead to a variety of inflammatory illnesses.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Chronic inflammation can also be a result of a leaky gut syndrome, also known simply as leaky gut.
The inner lining of your intestines acts as a physical barrier, closely controlling what is absorbed and allowed to pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream.
When these tight junctions begin to break down, it is known as ‘intestinal permeability’ or ‘leaky gut’. In other words, the barrier of your gut becomes inflamed and develops holes that begin allowing for the passage of bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles too.
When foreign invaders pass through a leaky gut and enter the bloodstream, this induces an immune response in the body. With a persistent leaky gut, there is an overproduction of immune complexes, which can act like antigens of their own and may cause chronic systemic inflammation.
Some factors that contribute to dysbiosis/leaky gut include alcohol, poor diet, stress, infections, medication, nutrient deficiencies and antibiotics.
You can learn more about how to nurture gut health from within in our blog below:
- Superfoods which are Great for Gut Health
Clean Greens: Gives you your daily super-greens in an easy scoop. Each serving provides a multitude of vitamins, minerals and fibre which help to optimise gut health from within.
Green Plant Protein: A great source of protein with added super greens, to help repair damage and strengthen your gut.
Stress is a very normal occurrence that everyone experiences. The stress response (fight or flight) is a good thing, and can be life saving at times. but that's when it works as it was designed: short, temporary and sporadic.
Issues arise when the stressor sticks around and the stress response continues. Stress that is persistent and unmanaged can cause dysfunction in the nervous and endocrine systems, leading to chronic inflammation.
The short-term impact of stress on the immune system is often seen with increased susceptibility to catching a cold or getting sick after a stressful time. The long-term effects from inflammation are harder to see, yet they are much more pronounced in the body.
Therefore, it is important to find ways to destress on a regular basis. Movement-related activities are typically some of the most effective ways to reduce stress. Consistent, regular exercise - both moderate and high intensity—not only reduces stress but also enhances the effectiveness of the immune system.
Other ways to help manage stress include:
- Regular yoga and meditation practice
- Regular walks amongst nature
- Fun hobbies
- Self care time (i.e pampering)
- Superfoods which can Help to Manage Stress
Balance Tonic: A blend of 6 superfoods rich in natural vitamins, minerals and powerful adaptogens. Each ingredient was chosen to help provide a natural, root-cause solution to manage stress and minimise its harmful impact on the body.
Prioritise Good Quality Sleep
Our sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, which drive hormones and other physiological changes to regulate sleep and wakefulness throughout the 24-hour day. It uses cues such as light and darkness, but is also influenced by certain other factors.
Those daily sleep-wake cycles we move through without much thought? Our circadian rhythms are working behind the scenes to keep us on schedule. When circadian rhythms are out of sync, so is sleep.
Circadian rhythms also regulate our immune system, and with it, our levels of inflammation. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, so is normal immune function. Poor sleep is also stressful for the body, raising cortisol levels. This can also disrupt our gut microbiome.
Research has shown that even one night of insufficient sleep is enough to activate pro-inflammatory processes in the body. So, getting enough sleep is another healthy habit to help manage and lower inflammation.
Helpful ways to improve your sleep quality:
- Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule
- Avoid screen time before bed - instead, wind down with a relaxing book or meditation practice
- Avoid too much caffeine and sugar throughout the day
- Enjoy a Coco Dream hot cocoa before bed
- Superfoods to Support Better Sleep
Coco Dream: Combines Raw Peruvian Cacao with Reishi Mushroom extract. Reishi helps you to relax, destress and unwind - perfect to enjoy before bed for a deep and restorative sleep
Like most aspects of our health and wellbeing, inflammation can be managed by leading as healthy a lifestyle as possible. By avoiding things which contribute to inflammation and replacing them with those which help to manage it, you can practice daily healthy habits to keep inflammation in check.