Muscle aches. Joint pain. Gastrointestinal discomfort. Stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. What do they all have in common? Chronic inflammation.
How do we get chronic inflammation? When the body’s first line of healing refuses to turn off due to constant stress, the disturbance can be a physical, mental or emotional breakdown. Physiologically, the body’s blood vessels dilate to allow blood, immune cells, nutrients and other molecules that aid in cleaning up damaged tissues to easily access the area in need. While required to initiate the healing process, concerns arise when this process doesn’t stop, and pro-inflammatory immune cells continue to flood the body. This continual offense, or chronic inflammation, has been linked to the development of many health concerns, including arthritis, autoimmune diseases, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, gastrointestinal upset and even cardiovascular disease. But sometimes the diagnoses are not always evident, including symptoms such as brain fog, congestion, fatigue, and difficulties gaining or losing weight.
Pharmaceutical interventions can be used to decrease irritations, but when it comes to avoiding chronic inflammation, preventive medicine plays a huge role. Here are five beneficial tips to combat chronic inflammation naturally.
No matter the age, sleep is a necessity. During sleep, the body goes to work repairing tissues that have undergone any micro-traumas throughout the day. If difficulty sleeping through the night or waking exhausted is a common occurrence, here are some tricks to encourage a more restful night’s sleep.
A sleep routine is essential. Set a bedtime and stick to it. A set bedtime trains our bodies to get used to “powering down” for the night, making sleep come more easily. Second, stop screen time two hours before bed. Screen time at bedtime wreaks havoc on the body’s circadian rhythm, our internal biological clock. Affected by light, it tells the body when to be awake, sleep and eat. Computers, cell phones, tablets and TV screens all emit blue wavelengths that mimic the sun’s natural emissions. So if your body still thinks its daytime at bedtime, pineal gland functions decrease, inhibiting the secretion of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. Without melatonin, restful sleep is difficult to achieve, and the body’s healing/repair time is shortened. Turning off our electronics two hours before bed prepares our bodies for sleep while ensuring proper melatonin production and secretion.
As cliché as the saying is, you truly, “are what you eat.” Food, in the simplest term, is one of the greatest medicines on earth. Even simpler, when inflammation-causing foods are ingested, inflammation develops in the body. Increasing your anti-inflammatory food intake can help prevent the constant build-up of inflammation in the body.
Some of the most common inflammatory foods are sugars, corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, heavily processed meats and cheeses, fried foods, and alcohol. These foods increase cytokine production (the inflammation messengers) and saturated fats, which elevate LDL-cholesterol levels. When this happens, inflammation balloons.
Foods that are anti-inflammatory tend to contain a lot of natural antioxidants, which aid in the removal of cellular waste also known as free radicals. Dark chocolate contains natural antioxidants like resveratrol and epicatechin, and nutrients like magnesium and zinc, which help promote muscular relaxation and cellular repair. Wild-caught, cold-water fish like cod, salmon, tuna and sardines contain omega-3s, EPA and DHA, which help with cognition, tissue repair and hormone production. And when we choose organic foods, we eliminate the pesticides, hormones and antibiotics that cause inflammation. These additional toxins overwhelm the liver’s detox pathways, increasing the overall physiological burden.
Botanical medicine can be incorporated into a daily routine to help decrease inflammation. Turmeric, ginger, green tea and cinnamon are common anti-inflammatory botanicals, but new studies are emerging on hemp-based CBD oil and its positive effects on reducing inflammation. Research on the endocannabinoid system and cannabidiol have shown positive results, but still more research is needed to understand the different mechanisms of action that come into play. A 2009 study stated that cannabidiol, “increases production of eicosanoids that promote the resolution of inflammation. This differentiates these cannabinoids from cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors that suppress the synthesis of eicosanoids that promote the induction of the inflammatory process.” Another study mentioned that cannabidiol causes, “dys-regulation of cytokines productions,” halting inflammation development.
Inflammation isn’t always due to physical trauma; it can also develop from mental/emotional trauma, like stress. Stress can trigger the inflammatory cascade as easily as a poor diet or a muscle strain. When the body encounters stress, it releases cytokines, which also help to regulate metabolism. When cytokines are released, anxiety and depression can occur along with a physiological inflammatory response in our bodies.
Take control of how the body processes life and become more mindful. Meditation, journaling, breath work and coloring are some of the few mind-body techniques that help improve mindfulness while cultivating a more efficient way to process through stressful life events.
Physical exercise is paramount, and cannot be left off the list. When it comes to inflammation, exercise aids the body on so many levels. It helps to decrease physical and mental-emotional inflammation. For those who do not already have a workout routine, incorporating just 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise a day will increase endurance, cardiovascular circulation, lymphatic drainage, cellular repair and detoxification, while also improving body fat percentages. Exercise releases endorphins that improve how people handle stress, anxiety and depression and, in turn, decreases cognitive chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is an inevitable part of life, but there are many ways to reduce it naturally and keep it under control. Pick one small change to incorporate daily and slowly build from there to help fight the war against chronic inflammation.