Inflammation is part of your natural healing system. That said, there are many reasons why you may want to reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can make you feel fatigued or present with flu-like symptoms. Without treatment, inflammation can also lead to serious health issues. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more. So what is inflammation exactly and what can you do to reduce inflammation naturally?
Inflammation comes from the Latin word ‘inflammare’, which means ‘to set on fire with passion’. In reality, inflammation in the body is not quite as romantic as its Latin roots would have you believe.
You see, inflammation occurs when there is injury within the body. It’s actually a vital part of our healing process. It signals to the immune system that something within our system needs repairing. Without it, infections would take over the body and could even become fatal.
Think of injury or illness like a car accident. The damaged cells (casualties) send an emergency call (chemicals) which alerts the paramedics (inflammatory cells) to the scene. Once on the scene, the ‘paramedics’ work fast to isolate the injury and do what they can to protect it from further injury. This comes in the form of fluid leaking from the blood vessels onto the site of injury or infection, which causes redness, swelling, and pain. Yes, it can be painful but inflammation is an essential part of the healing process.
As vital as the inflammatory response is, when it continues for too long or triggers when it is not needed, it becomes a chronic condition. This can lead to many life-threatening issues. According to Harvard Medical School, inflammation is thought to be a contributory factor in coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.1
With acute inflammation, the symptoms are well known and obvious: pain, bruising, scabbing, redness, and swelling. If the inflammation is due to an allergy, the signs also tend to be clear: runny nose, watery eyes, rashes, itchiness and hives.
When it comes to the symptoms of chronic inflammation, the signs are not as obvious. Many of them might surprise you:
Know that this list is not exhaustive. The symptoms of chronic inflammation can far exceed those mentioned. Now you can see why it can be such a problem!
Unlike acute inflammation, the chronic kind is not going to go away any time soon. It’s the body’s reaction to (mostly) lifestyle choices. Unhealthy diet, environmental factors, stress, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise can all cause inflammation. Unless those things change, the inflammation won’t go away. But here lies the rub! Acute inflammation disappears once the injury heals, but chronic inflammation will continue to look for something to fight. When it doesn’t find an injury or infection it can turn on the body itself. It can start attacking the organs and tissues, leading to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
If the information above has got you thinking about your own health, don’t fret! There are a few things you can do to reduce inflammation and stop the progression of damage.
Start reducing inflammation by cutting out processed foods. Concentrate on filling your body with good, health-giving foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, clean meats, ‘good’ fats, nuts, pulses, seeds, herbs, and whole grains. Nobody is saying you should cut out your favourite treats entirely. Simply limit the chocolate, sugars, fast foods and processed foods to occasional indulgences only. You’ll enjoy them all the more when you do!
Many of the fruits and vegetables mentioned above will be naturally anti-inflammatory. Think green leafy vegetables, along with pineapple, blueberries, celery, mushrooms, and fresh beets.
Long lauded as something of a miracle spice, one of turmeric’s main active ingredients is curcumin. Curcumin has been shown in some studies to be as effective as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, without any of the side effects.
Stress is a major contributory factor in chronic inflammation. To reduce inflammation naturally, you can try to incorporate meditation or yoga into your daily routine.
Exercising daily is another natural way to reduce inflammation. Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise per day can have a significant effect on the body’s inflammatory responses.
As you can see, there are many small ways to reduce your inflammation levels, which in turn will have big benefits for your health and well-being.