Calm your immune response to lifestyle stressors and feel lighter, brighter and more energised
Inflammation is your friend if you fall and injure yourself, or contract an infection. An army of chemicals from your white blood cells leap into action, increasing blood flow to the area, drawing in fluid to help protect it while you heal. However, inflammatory abnormalities and certain lifestyle factors can cause inflammation to hang around in your life when it isn’t necessarily needed, like an unwanted body guard; leaving you feeling tired, sluggish, bloated and depressed. These, among other low-level symptoms will most likely slip under your radar, but could be causing long-term damage to your cells. Think of it like a wound that your body keeps picking at, eventually it will leave a scar behind, rather than healing.
“A lot of the illnesses we wrongly associate with being a natural part of the ageing process have chronic inflammation as an underlying ‘common denominator’,” says our columnist and president of The Complementary Medical Association Jayney Goddard. Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even muscle wasting and frailty are all conditions that have been linked to chronic inflammation, alongside many more. “The truth is that we really don’t have to succumb to them and they are in fact largely avoidable. Most are reversible, many can be turned around and people can recover.” We’ve pulled together the very best advice for stopping chronic inflammation in its tracks.
The phrase ‘You are what you eat’ has never been truer than when it comes to inflammation. What we put in as fuel has a direct impact on how our bodies perform. Did you know that there is even a link between inflammation and obesity? Not only can being overweight exacerbate inflammation by stimulating the body’s immune response, but inflammatory compounds can impair the way insulin works, which can lead to weight gain. According to a report by Harvard Medical School, one of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, in the report.
Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet and avoiding foods that can cause inflammation is a great place to start.
Our gut is usually the first port of call for infections and bugs. Something nasty only has to hop onto our hands and it will likely get a one-way ticket to our insides. That’s why 70 percent of our immune system resides within the digestive system.
“When a person eats a food or substance that creates inflammation, this sets off a process that will either increase or decrease according to the person’s eating and drinking behaviour and diet.” says herbalist for The Really Healthy Company Leyla El Moudden (healthy.co.uk). “If gut inflammation continues to increase, the gut lining becomes ‘loose’ in a process that nutritional therapists refer to as ‘leaky gut’. Minute particles from the gut enter into the bloodstream, where the immune system recognises them as an invader and attacks them. This is how intolerances and allergies begin to form.”
In the small intestine, the home of the human microbiome, millions and billions of bacteria live and regulate many essential aspects of our overall health, one of which is inflammatory response. When the microbiome is out of balance, not only do we stop absorbing the nutrients that relieve inflammation, we also effectively kill off the parts of our body responsible for healing it.
“If this state continues,” adds Leyla, “then inflammation will increase and eventually develop into a condition. By taking care of our digestion, we can relieve, reduce and, in some instances, completely remedy inflammation.” We can do this by adding pro and prebiotics to our diet. Probiotics are often referred to as the ‘good’ bacteria that help keep our gut healthy and prebiotics are a form of fibre that probiotics feed on to keep them strong and healthy.
Make sure your diet contains plenty of foods that contain prebiotics, like: onions, bananas, oats, wheat bran, apples, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root. And probiotics, like: yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi.
We all know that exercise is good for us, but making sure we get enough of the right kind of exercise could be another key puzzle piece to reducing chronic inflammation. When we exercise, the cells in our muscles release anti-inflammatory proteins. The longer the workout, the more of these are released. But many of us don’t want to run marathons or spend all day at the gym, so how much is enough to make a difference to chronic inflammation? According to research conducted by the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, 20 minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to produce an anti-inflammatory cellular response.
“Our study shows a workout session does not actually have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects,” lead researcher, Suzi Hong told Medical News Today, “20 minutes to half an hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, appears to be sufficient. Feeling like a workout needs to be at a peak exertion level for a long duration can intimidate those who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases and could greatly benefit from physical activity.”
Look for ways to work one of the following forms of exercise into your day: walking, yoga, Pilates, dance, or anything that keeps you moving and helps you feel energised.
Inflammation feels as though it’s a purely physical thing, but inflammatory markers have been shown to be higher in those with depression, and inflammatory markers have even been used to predict a likely bout of depression later in life. “It used to be thought that patients with diseases such as poorly controlled diabetes (types one and two), rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease were depressed because they had miserable conditions that were bound to cause them to be depressed,” says Jayney. “However it is now known that the chemicals that are upregulated in the body as a result or cause of chronic inflammation also cause depression.”
Stress also has an impact on inflammation, according to Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at chemistclick.co.uk. “When your body is under stress, a hormone called adrenaline is released, telling your body to increase respiratory and heart rate, and to expand airways to push more oxygen into muscles,” Abbas explains. “Glycogen is produced, which is stored as sugar in order to power your muscles. Your immune system temporarily shuts down, reducing which blood cells that are important for fighting off infection.”
Essentially, when you are stressed, your body enters a ‘fight or flight’ state and reallocates resources away from functions that keep your body running on a daily basis. When you are stressed, your body is in this state all the time and starts devoting all its resources to coping with the stress instead of fighting off viruses and bacteria, or digesting the last thing you ate. Over time, this stress on your body will cause inflammation and could lead to some of the chronic health problems mentioned above.
It isn’t always easy to take steps to wellness when in the grips of depression, but keeping a positive outlook and reducing stress in your life can help stave off depression. Practise mindfulness and meditation, alongside things that bring you joy, whether that’s a dance class, a walk in nature or an engaging hobby. If you are suffering with depression and need extra support, contact your GP or call the samaritans on 116 123.
Save over £11
when you subscribe today
Exclusive prizes from our Heaven Skincare, Senspa, Green People and more...