You might have heard of “inflammation”, but what does that mean, exactly? In layman’s terms, it means your immune system is activated but can’t “shut off”. Generally speaking, we think an active immune system is a good thing, because it protects us from illnesses. But when it overreacts and can’t settle down, your body’s immune cells can cause problems for you.
Chronic inflammation means your immune system is attacking you. Diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and some metabolic syndromes are strongly linked to inflammation.
What causes inflammation? Often, inflammation results from certain dietary choices. Too much white flour, sugar, and fried foods can trigger the problem, and a lack of fruits, vegetables, and “good” fats can exacerbate it.
Obesity is another culprit. When fat cells reach critical mass, they can emit inflammatory compounds.
Finally, stress and lack of sleep will only make the problem worse. Lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, exposure to sunlight, and good sleep habits can help to boost healthy sleep patterns and reduce unhealthy levels of stress.
Fighting back against inflammation. Other than lifestyle changes, diet is probably the most important weapon against chronic inflammation. Take the time to clean out your pantry, getting rid of processed foods, sugars, and packaged snacks high in trans fats and white flours. Replace those items with:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to “eat the rainbow” by consuming produce in every color daily
- Certain spices and herbs – turmeric, ginger, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and many others have been shown to combat inflammation
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Nuts – particularly walnuts, almonds, and cashews
- Seeds – like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
- Fish – such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and rainbow trout
- Whole grains
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Ideally, you should institute these changes to prevent inflammation from harming your health in the future. If you’re already suffering the effects of chronic inflammation (such as arthritis) the above tips can help. But make sure to discuss your dietary and lifestyle changes with your doctor, and he or she can offer additional guidance.