Anti-Inflammatory Cheat Sheet: Part 1

You’re hearing it everywhere — eat this, not that to help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is being pegged as the culprit behind everything from obesity to acne to anxiety, but what…

You’re hearing it everywhere — eat this, not that to help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is being pegged as the culprit behind everything from obesity to acne to anxiety, but what exactly is it, and why does it happen?

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is not actually bad — it’s a natural response when our body becomes sick or injured and starts the healing process. When you get a cut, when you finish an intense workout, when you get a cold: your body responds with acute inflammation, sending white blood cells to help protect you and provide your body with the proteins and chemicals it needs to repair itself. This can manifest as swelling and fever.

However, sometimes this process can go awry and chronic inflammation develops; white blood cells are sent to address a threat where no inflammatory response is needed and the immune system begins to attack healthy body tissues and produce chemicals that damage your cells over time. When this happens, we can develop autoimmune diseases or other issues like asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and even acne.

What Causes Inflammation?

Given that 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut, it’s no surprise that what we eat has a direct impact on triggering or reducing inflammation. Refined sugar, refined carbs, artificial sweeteners, excessive alcohol, and processed foods deal some of the greatest damage and prevent our immune systems to turn off.

Sugar can take one of the biggest tolls on our bodies because it stimulates inflammation in all bodily systems, including our adrenals; the adrenals are responsible for regulating cortisol but when they’re stressed, they shut down the immune and digestive system, creating additional stress for the body.

Stress and Inflammation

Stress is another cause of inflammation — when we become stressed, our bodies produce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, useful in “fight or flight” situations, but dangerous on a continued basis. These chemicals trigger inflammation, raise blood sugar levels, and create toxic environments that can damage our microbiome and our overall health. Of course, stress is a natural part of life, so avoiding it is unrealistic. Instead, find ways to deal with it and manage it successfully, such as through meditation, exercise, and breathing techniques.

Even perceived stress can increase levels of cortisol, meaning when you complain to friends and coworkers about your busy schedule, you’re putting your body at the same risk of inflammation as if you were actually experiencing the stress of your workload.

Toxins and Inflammation

Daily toxins can also be to blame for the rise in inflammatory-related diseases: the plastic in disposable water bottles can leach toxins into your drink, especially when exposed to heat. Even some of our more innocuous products, like makeup, lotions, and scented candles, can contain toxins that disrupt our bodily systems and put our immune system on high alert. Like stress, most of these are unavoidable, but attempting to minimise exposure can be a great way to boost your immune system — when you do encounter these environmental factors, your body will be able to successfully defend itself.

Ready to take the steps to better health? Check out Part Two of our Anti-Inflammatory Cheat Sheet to learn ways to realistically, and successfully, reduce inflammatory triggers in your daily life.

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Published: 11/07/18

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