Calming Inflammation 101
Inflammation is part of the body's defence mechanism. It is the process by which the immune system recognizes and removes harmful and foreign stimuli and begins the healing process. Inflammation can be either acute or chronic. When inflammation is chronic, it can damage the body by creating too many pro-inflammatory cells and molecules such as prostaglandins, and free radicals. Chronic or systemic inflammation can have a deleterious effect on the body and is a key factor causing almost all chronic degenerative diseases. Inflammation can affect the gut, the joints and can lead to auto immune diseases.
Inflammatory reactions are determined by factors over which we have at least some control; including the foods we regularly consume. Diet can have an important impact on the immune system both positively and negatively. However, there is not a universally healthy diet and foods that suit one person may negatively impact another. This is where elimination or learning type diets can be useful in finding which foods may be affecting the gut for example. Uncovering food intolerances and sensitivities is an important part of winning the inflammation battle. Temporarily cutting out both dairy and gluten for a few weeks may be helpful in identifying whether these foods are problematic for some people.
On the other hand, fermented dairy products such as kefir and yoghurt may reduce or minimise inflammation by improving gut health. Improving gut health is an essential component to reducing overall inflammation in the body, and regularly consuming a variety of good bacteria strains is one of the best ways to do this. Good bacteria, or probiotics, have many health benefits, including improving immune function and making the intestinal gut lining stronger and less permeable. This, in turn, means fewer irritants such as toxins, chemicals and other compounds can cross the gut lining and get into the body triggering inflammation.
There are numerous foods that have been found to help reduce inflammation in the body. Beetroot juice contains anti-inflammatory compounds called betalains, that inhibit specific signalling pathways that play a role in inflammatory diseases. The celery plant and its seeds both contain chemicals that nutritionists call phytonutrients. These chemicals have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Celery contains beneficial antioxidants, two of these; apigenin and luteolin reduce inflammation and may help treat a range of inflammatory diseases.
Other foods such as Omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, garlic, rosemary, turmeric are good dietary sources of antioxidants which can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures.
The foods we eat but also the amount of food we can have an impact on chronic inflammation. Limiting our food intake via intermittent fasting has been shown to lower inflammation, by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as delaying breakfast so there is a fasting period of between 14 to 16 hours after the evening meal.
Inflammation has been shown to play critical role in the progression and onset of stress-related diseases. Stress is broken down into two categories: acute stress which is short term and chronic stress that is long-term stress. Long term stress plays a role in systemic inflammation. But it can also be managed with behavioural changes.
Practices such as meditation and yoga practice that help with stress, can help decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. Stimulating the vagus nerve which you can do by slow breathing, singing, or deep humming, has also been shown to lower a pro-inflammatory cytokine called TNF (tumour necrosis factor).
Oxytoxin, known as the “love hormone” and is released when we hug, kiss, cuddle, and yes—have sex. Research has shown that the love hormone can also help lower inflammation.
A gratitude journal in which you write three to five things you’re grateful for helps you reframe the day to focus on the positive and reflect on all the good things that happen to you and lower stress and negative thinking.
Breathwork practices, such as yogic pranayama or Wim Hof breathing exercises are good ways to combat stress. Ice baths or ocean dips, which are acute stressors to the body can help mediate long term chronic stress and have impact on the immune system. This can be as simple as having a cold shower burst after your normal shower.
Kicking off your shoes and literally connecting with Mother Earth in your bare feet has health benefits, such as boosting immunity, regulating sleep, and reducing stress. Grounding, also known as earthing, is when humans make an electrical connection to the earth’s energies. The simplest form involves walking barefoot in the grass, dirt, or sand.
A bedtime routine that includes wearing blue light blocking glasses, adequate good quality sleep has a significant impact on stress levels and subsequently the inflammatory response in our bodies.
Inflammation is one of the best things we can treat. There are amazing anti-inflammatory tools, and it is becoming a biological process that we have a lot of knowledge about and can target easily.
By Dr. Amanda Wiart - Founder Yogi Spirit