Turn the inflammation dial down with these nutrition and lifestyle tips.
Inflammation is a condition of angry heat. When you twist your knee, you will notice that, along with the pain and swelling, the injured area will feel warm. Your body responds to injury and illness with inflammation; it’s a protective mechanism that lets you know something is wrong.
This is a helpful process in the short-term. Acute inflammation is part of how we have evolved to be able to fight off infections and recover from illness. Unfortunately, modern living has paved the way for inflammation that is low-grade and longer lasting.
Rupy Aujla, a London-based medical doctor, cites “excess sugar consumption, psychological stress, sedentary behavior, accumulation of fat tissue, and nutrient deficiencies” as part of the reason so many people are dealing with this type of inflammation.
This meta-inflammation, as it’s often referred to, can cause symptoms such as mental fog, fatigue, skin conditions, mood disorders, chronic pain, and heart disease.
In his book, Eat to Beat Illness, Aujla describes a healthy inflammation response as a system in balance. We need some inflammation, but we want to make sure it doesn’t take over our system. In order to keep that balance, he suggests limiting pro-inflammation triggers, and adding anti-inflammatory dietary and lifestyle suggestion:
Colorful plant foods
Sense of purpose
Aujla contends that “we are in constant communication with our environment via our digestive tract, and so it should come as no surprise that inflammation is heavily influenced by the microbes living in our gut.” When our microbiome is healthy and diverse, we have less damaging low grade inflammation.
Given our gut’s relationship with inflammation, it’s not surprising that dietary changes offer the fastest route to countering inflammation. Aujlan suggests incorporating the following changes in how you eat:
- Quality fats. “Oily fish and nuts can positively impact inflammation by changing the expression of your genes, influencing the inflammation pathways within cells, “ writes Aujla.
- Polyphenols. You’ve heard the term “eat a rainbow”, and the reason this is important is that each of the brightly colored fruits and vegetables you eat offers a different type of polyphenol, and you want to ingest a wide variety.
- Green foods. Aujla makes special note of brassica greens such as kale, bok choy, and broccoli, and he suggests eating some at every meal, (including breakfast.)
- Red foods. Foods that are deeply colored red such as red cabbage, red and blue berries, and red carrots are all excellent sources of a powerful anti-inflammation chemical.
- High-fiber foods. Foods that have more fiber slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream and that lessens the inflammatory response. Fiber also helps to provide nourishment for healthy gut mircrobes.
- Spices. Aujla writes that although there is promising research around certain spices, he suggests including a wide range of spices in your cooking, and including a variety of flavors that you enjoy.
Try Aujla's "Vibrant Malay Salad".
- Slow down while eating. Eating on the run or while standing up is not a relaxed way to consume a meal. Slowing down while eating has been shown to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Mind-body activities. These activities include tai chi, meditation or “any practice that encourages inner calm, whether that be the simple act of reading in a quiet space or meditation and yoga practices.”
- Walking. Many of the markers of inflammation and stress can be lowered by going for a walk in nature. It’s simple and it works.
- Sleep. Not getting adequate sleep affects our health in many ways, including increasing inflammation. Work on your sleep hygiene, (read "5 Reasons You're Not Sleeping".)