When inflammation occurs in the body, especially in your joints it can cause irritation, wearing down of cartilage, and may even lead to arthritis. Chronic inflammation if left unchecked can have damaging consequences over the long term. But did you know that the foods you eat, the quality of sleep you get, and how much you exercise can all play a role in reducing inflammation? In order to be more dedicated to our wellness goals, we must feed our bodies with the proper nutrients, rest, and exercise in order to fight off the harmful effects inflammation can have on our bodies.
What is inflammation?
The immune system is our body’s main defense system again foreign invaders. It recognizes these invaders and battles to keep all our systems as close to 100% as it can. This is done using the inflammatory process as a defense mechanism. But, just like any fighting soldier needs recovery from the constant attack, so does the immune system. It needs a break from inflammation. Otherwise, it loses the ability to resist and build back immunity.
Chronic (long-lasting) inflammation can rear its ugly head in the form of symptoms that can be all too familiar to many of us: unexplained lingering body pain, sleep disturbances, constant fatigue, weight gain, frequent sickness, and gastrointestinal issues which all can lead to an increase in negative thoughts and feelings diminishing our mental health and leading to depression and/or anxiety.
How to fight against inflammation.
What we nourish our body with has an effect on the inflammation in our bodies. So, what you eat is a good place to start in preventing and/or resetting that chronic inflammation. A good tool to use is called the dietary inflammatory index, or DII. It is an evidence-based index developed by researchers who have tested over 1,900 foods and their components by tracking markers on cells (our building blocks) in the body and overall effect on systemic inflammation.
You can start by going all in and following a strict elimination diet which basically allows you to eat only anti-inflammatory foods for 3+ weeks. Then, slowly adding in food groups that contain inflammatory properties in moderation to analyze the effects you feel.
Anti-inflammatory foods include: vitamin C such as citrus fruits, strawberries, colored peppers, and potatoes; omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, albacore tuna, and lake trout; flavonols such as apples, berries, onions, kale broccoli; beta-carotene found in orange vegetables; flavones such as eggplants and tomatoes; and isoflavones which are found in soy. There can be some controversy over specific anti-inflammatory foods. Just make sure you listen to how your body feels and responds!
Foods to stay away from.
Inflammatory foods that should be avoided or eaten in moderation include: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fat such as fried foods, margarine, processed baked goods; refined carbohydrates such as any processed food that includes added sugar and flour, bread, pasta, candy; processed meat such as hot dogs, sausage, bacon; and excessive alcohol which is no more than 1-2 standard drinks per day.
It’s more than just anti-inflammatory foods.
Although your dietary intake is a very important factor in reducing inflammation, you can’t rely on this to do all the work. Help that soldier out and add to your army with regular exercise and stress management from a mental aspect. Find something you enjoy such as yoga with meditation, reading outside in fresh air and Vitamin D, or listening to a positive podcast while at the gym.
Just like that and your habits are changing from the inside to out. You’re on your way to meeting your goals with hopefully some extra benefits of better sleep, more energy, and a body feeling 10 years younger!
If your inflammation is slowing you down, contact your nearest Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy to get your move back!