If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder or have an injury, you may be deal with inflammation.
Merriam-Webster defines inflammation as “a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, and pain and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.” The inflammatory response is, in healthy people, a good thing, because it means the body is healing, fighting off germs and sending cells to heal damage. But inflammation has drawbacks as well. People with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, face chronic inflammation as their immune system mistakenly attacks their otherwise healthy joints. Chronic inflammation can lead to joint damage and potentially to heart attack and stroke.
There are several strategies for dealing with inflammation. A lot of it has to do with what we ingest, be it food or medicinal products. But there are also lifestyle suggestions that are shown to help reduce inflammation.
An easy step to take to reduce inflammation is to construct an anti-inflammatory diet. The Arthritis Foundation put together a set of guidelines. Most of the foods on this list are also part of what’s called the “Mediterranean diet.” You’ll notice that it includes fish, nuts, produce, and olive oil. These foods are packed with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and good fats. A study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science noted that green tea has shown to significantly reduce inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis–although the patients treated in the study drank a lot of it: 4 to 6 cups a day for 6 months. An antioxidant in green tea blocks the production of molecules that cause joint damage.
Just as there are foods that minimize inflammation, so are there foods that have been shown to exacerbate it. Some foods you should avoid even if you don’t deal with chronic information. These include processed foods with saturated fats and lots of sodium. You should also cut back on salt. And while an anti-inflammatory diet recommends olive oil, it warns against other oils, many of which contain omega-6 fatty acids, which, although the body needs them, shouldn’t be over-consumed. And although a little red wine can reduce inflammation, too much alcohol makes it worse.
Some people claim nightshades (like eggplant and tomato) increase their inflammation, but there hasn’t been much scientific evidence to back up that claim. Other people say that their symptoms reduced when they cut out gluten. While the gluten-free diet is certainly a bit of a fad, people who legitimately have celiac disease undoubtedly find that foods with gluten cause them sickness and pain. Those who can eat gluten should avoid refined carbohydrates in favor of whole grains. Refined carbs have a high glycemic index, which leads to the production of products that can increase inflammation.
For someone with an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, diet becomes even more important, especially during a flare-up. Certain foods can trigger flares. While the trigger foods are specific to the person, they may include some of the foods on this list. Overall, avoiding low-residue foods are the best way to go.
It’s alright to turn to synthetic drugs to aid in inflammation, especially if the payoff is healthy joints and organs. One of the most common ways to treat inflammatory diseases is by use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include some of the most prolific over-the-counter painkillers, like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil). Others are available by prescription only. Some doctors may prescribe steroids. If the inflammation is related to a specific condition, then a doctor may prescribe other medications to block the development of the disease.
There are certain supplements and natural remedies that people with chronic inflammation turn to. One popular remedy is turmeric, which patients take either by adding to their food or taking in supplement form. There are also excellent supplements that contain curcumin, the bright yellow antioxidant found in turmeric. Products like curamin and CuraMed Superior Absorption Curcumin are designed to deliver curcumin so that it is well-absorbed by the body.
Staying at a healthy weight is imperative for lots of reasons, one of which is that it’s a cause of inflammation. An overweight person who loses weight will likely notice less pain. Obesity in young people can actually send signals to the brain that something is wrong, which will elicit the inflammatory response.
Doctors advise getting enough sleep–aim for 8 hours a night. It should be good sleep, too. Studies show that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night and people who don’t get good sleep have higher levels of the markers of inflammation.
Keep stress levels low. We all face spurts of stress from time to time (known as acute stress), but when that stress is spread out over a long duration (chronic stress), it begins to have a negative impact on our health. Cortisol, the same hormone that gets released when feel stressed, also regulates inflammation. But if we’re constantly releasing this hormone, it starts to lose its regulatory power. Stress can also cause the creation of inflammatory white blood cells. Therefore, it’s a good idea to incorporate relaxation practices in your day and week. Mindful moments in the morning or evening, a yoga class twice a week, or even dedicated “unplugged” time is essential for your physical health as well as your mental health.
And if you are lucky enough not to deal with chronic inflammation, take these recommendations to heart anyway. They can help prevent inflammation and pain in the long run.