The secret lies in your lifestyle!
You must have heard all that buzz about inflammation! Sources tell you that inflammation is a bad guy. And how it slowly destroys your health. And how it’s a major contributor behind many serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer and a lot more!
And that may make you wonder: How do I recognize inflammation in my body? And what can I do about it?
Well, before Dr YOU addresses all your questions, let’s first break down the science behind it.
Understanding Inflammation- A friend or a foe?
Inflammation is actually a vital life process without which we cannot survive. It is a natural response of our immune system to heal injury, combat infections, and repair damaged body tissues. Here, we are talking about acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is characterized by swelling, redness, fever, and warmth. It plays a temporary but constructive role of healing and repair, but it switches off as soon as the trigger (infection, injury, disease) subsides.
On the other hand, if inflammation persists longer than required, it becomes ‘chronic inflammation’.
What triggers chronic inflammation?
Anything that puts your body in a state of prolonged stress like a chronic infectious disease, an autoimmune disorder, weight gain, poor diet, psychological stress and exposure to pollutants etc. triggers our immune system. Our immunity responds and stays in a constant state of high-alert. It is gradual with subtle to no tell-tale signs at all. Over time, it starts damaging our healthy body tissues which eventually affects the health of our organs. As a result, it can cause non-communicable diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. So, chronic inflammation is the bad guy we need to eliminate.
Chronic inflammation may or may not be silent. You might be having low-grade chronic inflammation if you notice persistent signs like low energy, poor digestion, chronic fatigue without physical exertion, unexplained weight gain, body pain, and unhealthy skin.
Ways to beat chronic inflammation
- Eat This, Not That! Many studies have shown that some foods have anti-inflammatory effects and including these in your diet can help prevent onset of inflammation, and even reduce the impact of existing inflammation.
- Plant based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs are full of ‘phytonutrients’ which act as antioxidants to fight free radicals (harmful substances formed in body’s cells as a result of metabolic waste, environmental pollutants, and by accidental intake of toxins). Antioxidants boost our immunity and also keep inflammation in check.
- Some herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and peppers are well known to inhibit inflammation.
- Processed foods, refined carbohydrates, high-sugar beverages lack necessary nutrients and fibre, and also cause instant rise in blood sugar. These are major contributing factors for inflammation.
2. Sweat it out! Regular exercise is very effective in stimulating an anti-inflammatory cellular response. A scientific study has shown that as little as 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can significantly reduce markers of inflammation. There are 2 mechanisms through which physical activity leads to reduced inflammation.
- Exercise reduces visceral fat (a type of abdominal fat that surrounds organs). Visceral fat actively releases some substances called cytokines, which increase low-grade inflammation. Visceral fat is a major risk factor behind diseases like hypertension and heart disease.
- Exercise also induces release of a special protein from contracting muscles into the circulation. This further suppresses inflammation.
- To start with, work out for at least 30 minutes everyday. Studies have proven that something as simple as a regular walk shows its anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
3. Take it easy! Chronic psychological stress causes dysfunction of hormones and immune system, leading to higher inflammation.
- When you are psychologically or emotionally stressed- your body goes into “fight-or-flight response”. This causes the release of hormone Cortisol in your blood. Cortisol actually suppresses inflammation. But, when you’re chronically stressed in your day-to-day life, cortisol levels remain constantly elevated. In this case, cortisol is no longer anti-inflammatory. So, chronic stress increases low-grade inflammation and leads to several diseases.
- So, it is important to manage stress not just for your mental health but also to alleviate its ill effects on physical health.
- To manage day-to-day stress, indulge in regular exercise, mindful deep breathing, making time for hobbies, listening to music, and spending quality time with your loved ones. These activities boost release of feel-good chemicals that help you feel positive and joyful.
4. Sleep it off! Sleep deprivation is associated with markers of inflammation which are elevated and found in blood circulation.
- According to Harvard Health, “When sleep is restricted, blood pressure doesn’t decline as it should , which could trigger cells in blood vessel walls that activate inflammation”.
- Getting a good quality of uninterrupted sleep for 7–8 hours is essential for health- it strengthens your immune system, helps you maintain healthy weight, and lowers stress and anxiety. So, it can help to deal with most of the contributing factors of chronic inflammation.
- To sleep better, you can follow some simple and healthy sleep hygiene habits. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. Put your screens away at least an hour before going to bed.
So, the secret to prevent chronic-low grade inflammation lies in your everyday lifestyle choices. Over time, all these measures, if followed consistently, yield good results leading to better energy levels, improved immunity, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Remember, the only person who can keep YOU the healthiest is YOU!
DISCLAIMER: Dr. YOU aims to bring you the latest evidence-based science, and our content is for informational purposes only. The content is not medical advice or guarantee of an outcome. You should always consult a doctor or qualified healthcare professional if you need further clarification and before making any changes to your treatment plans and lifestyle, or that of others.
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