Inflammation is a natural biological function that arises in response to any stressor within the body. Inflammation is essentially the body trying to protect and heal itself - it comes from a place of good intentions! Injury, illness, or any other kind of stressor causes an inflammatory response in order to fight off the infection or to properly heal the area of trauma.
There are two types of inflammation that can be present in the body: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is important in times of injury or infection because it is the body’s way of repairing itself (for example, when you have a cut). Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a major cause of chronic degenerative diseases. This type of inflammation, also known as “silent inflammation”, is not as easily detectable as acute inflammation and can go unnoticed for years.
Symptoms and conditions associated with inflammation include cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autoimmune disease, PMS, diabetes, digestive complaints, skin conditions, and obesity. The most effective blood test to identify chronic inflammation is one that tests for C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an indicator of how much inflammation is occurring in the body. It is also an effective marker for predicting cardiovascular disease.
Western lifestyles are far more stressful, sedentary, and nutritionally imbalanced than what is ideal or natural, which is leading to a problem of chronic inflammation in our society.
Causes of inflammation can include physical, chemical, or biological factors, such as:
Hyperpermeability of the intestinal tract
Standard American Diet (as it is insulin-promoting)
A deficiency of healthy fats and antioxidants
Insufficient Omega-3 and/or excessive Omega-6 intake
An excess of free radicals
Excessive exposure to environmental toxins
Poor food choices + Allergies and intolerances +Poor gut health
Lack of sleep
Any combination of the above leads us to a place where our bodies are in a constant state of low-grade inflammation, which can negatively affect many different systems, organs, and tissues.
It’s important to look at what contributors may be causing inflammation in your life, and to modify your diet and lifestyle accordingly. There are many foods and tools that can decrease inflammation and promote health which you can also add to your routine:
Increase antioxidants and alkaline foods (blueberries, green tea, bell peppers, cacao, goji berries, elderberries, cilantro, cloves, cinnamon, olive oil, turmeric, oregano, and non-starchy vegetables)
Increase Omega-3-rich foods (fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and natto)
Consume plenty of fiber (psyllium, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, celery, avocados, and leafy greens)
Consume foods that are low on the glycemic index
Eat plenty of garlic
Eliminate allergens and intolerances
Eliminate processed and refined foods
Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption
Decrease red meat and conventionally-raised animal products (corn-fed/soy-fed animal products and dairy)
It is recommended to eat a basic anti-inflammatory diet as a prerequisite to any further specialized protocol.
Eat lots of dark leafy greens and other colorful vegetables, which are high in antioxidants
Incorporate plenty of healthy fats from nuts and seeds
Choose organic meats and animal products (over conventionally-raised animal products)
Choose fatty, low-mercury, wild-caught fish such as salmon, cod, and sardines
Choose low glycemic fruits such as berries, pomegranates, apples, citrus, cherries, and dark red grapes
Limit dried fruits, which are high on the glycemic index
Reduce or eliminate all processed, junk, and fast foods
Eliminate cow’s dairy or choose organic; in general, goat/sheep dairy products are less inflammatory and more easily digestible than cow’s
Eliminate gluten and eat gluten-free grains and starchy carbohydrates in moderation, i.e. 1-2 servings a day
Reduce stress - stress is a major cause of inflammation in the body. When our body is under stress, we produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol promotes inflammation in the body as part of the stress response. By reducing stress, we can lower our cortisol levels and help to reduce inflammation.
Try: stress-reducing activities such as mild and moderate exercise, meditation, breath work, yoga, socializing with friends, cooking, enjoying a new book, or anything else that you find relaxing.
Exercise - while exercise does place some stress on the body in its physical breakdown and buildup of muscles, overall it has been shown to greatly reduce inflammation even in small amounts.
Try: spending at least 20-30 minutes a day doing moderate exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, or anything else that you enjoy.
Mindfulness meditation - meditation helps to restore the body, mind, and spirit connection. It is another effective way to reduce stress and decrease inflammation.
Try: meditating for at least 5 minutes daily. This can be to a guided meditation or mindfulness practice, or simply sitting in silence and observing the breath.
Yogic breathing (Pranayama) - deep yogic breathing can help to reduce stress and lower inflammation.
Try: finding a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and practicing a square breath: inhale for 4 counts, pause at the top for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and pause at the bottom for 4 counts. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
Vitamin C - 6 grams daily, spread out through the day (supports adrenal and digestive health)
Vitamin D - 2,000-4,000 IU daily (supports the immune system) (Note: it’s best to get your vitamin D levels tested before supplementing, as supplementing if not needed can be dangerous; most people are deficient, though, in which case you may want to supplement even more than the recommended dosage here)
Zinc - 30-60 mg daily (anti-inflammatory)
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) - it has been revealed that an excessive amount of Omega-6 fats (high in processed foods and restaurant foods) induces an inflammatory response in the body, while the proper ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s can actually help to lower inflammation. Incorporating more Omega-3 fatty acids is the best way to correct the improper ratio. You can find Omega-3s in their most bioavailable form in fish and algae oils.
Try: high-quality fish oil or algae supplement with 2,000-3,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
Proteolytic enzymes - protein-digesting enzymes help to gently reduce inflammation while increasing nutrient absorption. They are also essential in healing damaged tissue. Proteolytic enzymes are usually found in capsule form.
Try: taking about 200,000 HCT away from meals to fight inflammation.
Ginger - this spicy root has long been used in traditional medicine for healing inflammation.
Try: taking 2-3 grams of powdered or fresh ginger per day, in divided doses. Do not exceed this dosage and avoid completely if taking blood thinners, as ginger has been shown to thin the blood.
Turmeric - this herb contains a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound called curcumin, which helps to reduce inflammation in all areas of the body that need it.
Try: 0.5-1 gram, 3x per day of powdered turmeric or 400-600 mg daily in capsule form.