6 Easy Steps to Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the most critical aspects on understanding disease. What is it, and how does it actually affect us?
Our immune system reacts to environmental, physical, and mental stressors. Our diet, the quality of our sleep, how we exercise, and long-term habits as well as our genetics all effect the strength of our immune systems.
Modern living, fast-paced lives, and exposure to all manners of toxins, such as pollutants or synthetic chemicals, could lead to chronic inflammation within our bodies. This negative inflammatory response adds stress to our immune systems, especially when the immune cells activates without an injury or infection to fight.
While inflammation occurs naturally and is our first line of defence against harmful irritants in our body, when sustained for a prolonged period, it can trigger diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, Type II diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease.
Every health problem we face is related to some form of inflammatory response. Luckily, you can control and even reverse the effects of inflammation through a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower the inflammation that contributes to diseases associated with ageing.
This week we’re sharing our expertise in fighting inflammation in 6 steps in order to help you achieve optimal health. The small changes you make today to reduce inflammation can boost your overall health!
Step 1: Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods:
Choosing to nourish your body with gut-healthy foods rich in vitamins, minerals, is beneficial for your overall health.
Protect against inflammation through a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, good fats containing omega-3 fatty acids, and fibre rich food, with the addition of spices and herbs!
Find good sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals (bioactive compounds) to reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage.These include leafy greens (baby spinach, arugula, and lettuce), colorful berries, tomatoes, spices (turmeric, cinnamon, cumin), root vegetables (ginger, garlic), herbs (rosemary), beans, and pulses. Research suggests consuming spices and herbs decreases associated risk of degenerative and respiratory conditions.
It is recommended to have at least 2-3 portions of omega-3 fatty acids per week. Fatty acids or mono-saturates reduces the risk of inflammation through increasing the level of good cholesterols (HDLs) and reducing bad cholesterols (LDLs). They are best found in tofu, seeds, nuts, and fish.
Other anti-inflammatory foods you might like to eat to strengthen the gut’s microbiome barrier include grapes, celery, olive oil, tea, cocoa, and probiotic rich foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi.
The Mediterranean diet has commonly been stated as one of the best anti-inflammatory ones. This is due to its focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains.
References:Ben-Arye, E., et al. (2011). Treatment of upper respiratory tract infections in primary care: a randomized study using aromatic herbs. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 690346.
Christofidou-Solomidou, M., & Muzykantov, V. R. (2012). Antioxidant strategies in respiratory medicine. Treatments in Respiratory Medicine, 5(47-78).
Balasubramanian, S., Roselin, P., Singh, K. K., Zachariah, J., & Saxena, S. N. (2016). Postharvest processing and benefits of black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, fenugreek, and turmeric spices. Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition, 56(10).
Step 2: Eliminate Inflammatory Foods:
Limit the intake of sources of unhealthy fats, such as red meat and margarine, as well as processed food high in refined sugars or carbohydrates.
Focus on a diet with whole and minimally processed foods.
Figure out and understand your body's triggers of systemic inflammation, such as food intolerances, allergies, or poor gut health. 60-70% of your immune system is found in the gut.
Individuals with a weaker gut barrier should be aware of their body’s reaction to food colorings, yeast, sugar alcohols, eggs, aspartamine, additives such as sulfites, and preservatives.
Food intolerance can be disruptive to bowel function and can lead to inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, and the development of obesity amongst others. In some cases, it can cause psychological disorders amongst children suffering from ADD and autism.
It is crucial to understand and consume a diet accordingly to your genetic profile.
Another tip is to reduce alcohol consumption, whether a cocktail or the regular glass of wine with dinner. Be aware of the fine line between moderate alcohol consumption and the potential long-term harmful inflammatory effects daily alcohol consumption could cause to your body.
Replace alcohol and coffee consumption with green tea, a drink with antioxidant properties to reduce free-radical damage.
Acute and Chronic Inflammation:
Individuals with a family history of health problems should talk to our MHG doctors about lifestyle changes to support disease prevention and in reducing inflammation. Health literacy is an important factor to making lifestyle changes on the individual and community level.
There are two types on inflammation, Acute Inflammation and Chronic Inflammation. Inflammation is a protective mechanism that allows your body to defend itself against infection, illness, and injury. However, if it occurs on a chronic basis, it can lead to a variety of diseases.Acute inflammation:
Acute inflammation is the response to tissue damage, like cuts or bruises. This is shown by external redness, pain, heat, or swelling. As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases its production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection at the site of injury. Chronic Inflammation:
Chronic Inflammation often occurs inside the body. This gradual change accumulates as a factor to health challenges and we rarely notice their symptoms. It is difficult to detect chronic inflammation as the main factor to developing other chronic diseases and its effect on our quality of life.
When doctors look for inflammation in the body, they may test for a few markers through a blood test. One of the most common methods is measuring the level of C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, TNF Alpha, and IL-6.
Step 3: Control Blood Sugar:
Build meals around lean proteins and whole foods high in fibre, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Limit your consumption of simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, refined sugars, and highly processed foods.
In the NOVA classification system pioneered by Professor Carlos Monteiro (University of Sao Paulo), the concept of ‘ultra-processed foods’, has been widely adopted by nutrition and public health experts internationally.
The implications of industrial food processing has the potential to trigger or aggravate inflammation, especially when they contain large amounts of fructose, sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup. These ingredients are implicated with sugar-related diseases, which increases fructose malabsorption and intolerance.
Increase your diet choices with low GI foods, including whole grains or sweet potato.
Avoiding peaks and drops in blood sugar that triggers insulin spikes can minimise risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Step 4: Make Time to Exercise
Regular exercise is an excellent way to prevent inflammation.
There are links between the amount of activity we regularly have in our lives with the levels of inflammatory markers.
A study by Harvard suggests adults who get regular exercise of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 minutes of weight resistance training, four to five times per week, maintained lower inflammatory blood markers.
At minimum, regular brisk walking has been shown to reduce levels of chronic inflammation, especially for inflammatory kidney disease.
Take care of your joints and your arteries, while reducing heart disease risks, through getting at least 20 minutes of movement, whether from walking, weight training, or cardio workouts.References:
Harvard Health (2016, February). How much exercise is optimal for heart health? Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School [Blog post]. Retrieved from: health.harvard.edu/…/how-much-exercise-is-optim…
Step 5: Achieve a Healthy Weight Goal:
Being overweight or obese is associated with various disease risks and high inflammation. Although preventable, 39% of adults were found to be overweight in 2016, resulting in a greater effect on global mortality and disability rates than the underweight population (WHO, 2018).
Being overweight or obesity are major risk factors for chronic diseases including Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), certain cancers (endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, gallbladder), and musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis).
One of the largest contributors to chronic inflammation that is often overlooked is obesity. Obesity affects 13% (2016) of the global adult population (WHO, 2018). Surprisingly, developing countries in Asia also have a high percentage - 10% (2016) in Thailand, 29.9% (2018) in Hong Kong, and 14% (2019) in China.
There are many factors to this fast-growing epidemic, but we can take preventative action to reduce our risks.
Two areas we’ve discussed previously is increasing the amount of exercise we do and choosing to introduce more anti-inflammatory foods into our diet.
Further suggestions include reducing salt intake, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and avoiding food with high cholesterol; all great measures to help reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, often associated with obesity.
Obesity is linked to inflammatory diseases, with increased body fat linked to joint pain. Weight loss can help mitigate the inflammation associated with arthritis.
References:WHO (2018). Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheets. who.int/…/fact-sh…/detail/obesity-and-overweight
Center for Health Protection of the Department of Health, Hong Kong. (2018). Non-communicable disease watch: Obesity: A weighty health issue. chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/ncd_watch_august_2018.pdf
Central Intelligence Agency (2016). The World Fact Book - Country Comparison: Obesity - Adult prevalence rate. cia.gov/…/the-world-fac…/rankorder/2228rank.html
World Population Review (2020, 18 Feb). Most obese countries 2020. worldpopulationreview.com/coun…/most-obese-countries/
Step 6: Manage Stress:
Chronic stress acts as one of the largest contributors to chronic inflammation. Stress is linked to the high production of the hormone, cortisol.
Although stress hormones are important for metabolic balance, an excess will negatively affect your psychological, physiological, and emotional health.
Learn to manage and cope with existing stressors, or the stress patterns found in your typical life. Take more time to enjoy relaxing activities such as listening to music, exercise, yoga, meditation, and spending time with loved ones can help.
Further manage stress and reduce inflammation by improving your quality of sleep. Routinely not getting enough sleep, or a low quantity of REM Sleep, may increase the likelihood of inflammation and metabolic issues. Avoid using digital devices that emit blue-light an hour before your bedtime, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
It is important to remember that measures to reduce chronic inflammation results in improved health and reduced risk of chronic disease.
We believe that a defensive health strategy is critical to optimal health. Miskawaan Health can work with you to prevent disease by building resistance and find the root of any chronic inflammation.
Inflammation and our immune system play a significant role in our overall health.
Inflammation is a natural process that helps our body defend itself from harm but could potentially be harmful if it becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation could last weeks, months, or even years, leading to increased risk for a variety of health problems that we should deal with if we are not at peak health.
Chronic inflammation is associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive issues, hormone imbalances, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, and even cancers.
Take our six tips to reduce inflammation in your body:
- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods
- Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods
- Control blood sugar
- Make time to exercise
- Achieve a healthy weight goal
- Manage Stress in your life
If you wish to get a complete understanding of your health, contact us and book a consultation with one of our doctors.