A stressful life, poor diet, and toxic people, we would all happily trade with a more balanced existence filled with nourishment, inner growth and conscious living. Sure, why not? But, our bodies simply weren’t designed to contend with the daily barrage of toxins, infectious agents and stress, seen and unseen, that our go-go lifestyles tend to encompass. And, the connection between diet and lifestyle, chronic inflammation and disease, is very real, and our daily choices all have either a pro- or anti-inflammatory effect.
What you eat, drink, and think can create a cascade of inflammation in your body. When your body hits an inflammatory overload, your defense system gets so overwhelmed and confused that your well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and, well, everything else too.
Chronic inflammation arises from an immune system response that’s out of control. When inflammation as an immune response is never “shut off,” so to speak, the constant production of immune cells can do permanent damage.
Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, leading to chronic diseases and other health issues, including cancer, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, asthma, autoimmune diseases (i.e., Crohn’s), allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, osteoporosis, and premature aging.
Causes of chronic inflammation are countless and numerous factors trigger them. But we are not helpless. Major risk to long-term health and well being remains within our control.
First, we can crowd out inflammatory foods by adding a variety of plant-based whole foods to your diet. These foods will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber it needs to recover from chronic inflammation. Meanwhile, foods to avoid like the plague include: Common Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats; Refined Grains; and Refined Sugar (and other foods with high glycemic values).
Secondly, listen to your GUT! With your gut holding approximately 60- 70 percent of your immune system, it’s a great place to start reducing inflammation. The promotion of healthy gut flora with probiotics is an excellent start.
Third, as we get older, foods that never bothered us before, like dairy and wheat, may trigger chronic low-grade indigestion or other seemingly minor symptoms that put our immune system on guard — with additional inflammatory concerns to follow. Common allergens like casein and gluten (proteins found in dairy and wheat) are quick to spark the inflammatory cascade.
Enough About Diet, What Else?
Rest and Recovery: Your body is hard at work repairing and restoring you on a cellular level while you sleep. If you’re exhausted, you’re cheating your immune system, which means it needs to kick into high gear — chronic inflammation.
Psychological Stress: Persistent stress takes a steady toll on your immune system, your adrenals, and your central nervous system. Stress also produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol directly influences your insulin levels and metabolism, also playing a role in chronic inflammation. With inflammation, painful emotional baggage, negative thoughts and internalized feelings are as harmful as physical stress, but often overlooked. Focusing on stress reduction and safe care, whether it’s through more sleep, yoga, meditation, long walks, less technology or a much-needed vacation could save you!
Toxins: Reduce toxins in your food, home and personal care products. Cut down your exposure by eating organic foods whenever possible and choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products.
Nicole Ann Gustavson
InForm Fitness, Owner
Leesburg and Reston, Virginia