Your immune system protects you from germs and other foreign substances that could make you sick by making parts of your body heat up and swell. Your body has that as its superpower. However, sometimes it goes too far. That’s when such inflammation become chronic as a response to stress, junk food, or other lifestyle triggers and it can lead to an overproduction where your body turns on itself resulting in an autoimmune disease.
May 20th is World Autoimmune Day and I hope to bring awareness to the autoimmune crisis in diseases like Lupus, Sjogren's, alopecia, Hashimotos, and psoriasis. As you likely already know, chronic inflammation is associated with many serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, arthritis, fatigue, and depression. To reduce your risk, you may need to change your diet and other lifestyle habits which can be really hard. But you can start with small habit changes that sound too simple, but can make a big impact.
Consider starting with these ideas for following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Eating to Reduce Inflammation:
Focus on plants. Most vegetables and fruits are rich in protective compounds like antioxidants and polyphenols. Load up on green leafy ones like spinach and kale, or berries and citrus fruit. Some vegetables like asparagus and sweet potatoes also serve as prebiotics that tighten your gut and lower inflammation. Meat-loving carnivores like me will struggle, but add them in as you can tolerate it.
Limit refined carbohydrates and processed sugar. Highly processed foods like white bread and snack cakes have been stripped of fiber and nutrients. They encourage chronic inflammation and weight gain. They also often contain gluten which can really unsettle your digestive system leading to inflammation and sometimes celiac disease.
Steam and grill. Your cooking methods matter too. Instead of frying with oil, try steaming with water or grilling with dry heat. I love summertime grilling!
Drink coffee. Small amounts of coffee also provide beneficial polyphenols. I have to drink decaf and avoid the stimulant factor. Steer clear of the flavored coffee creams that are full of artificial thickening agents and sweeteners.
Add garlic. Many natural seasonings have anti-inflammatory properties. Spread roasted garlic on bread or add it to mashed potatoes and homemade pizza.
Choose healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. Monounsaturated and omega-3 fats help to decrease inflammation. Good sources include olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish. By contrast, saturated fats aggravate inflammation, so go easy on the red meat and whole fat dairy products. Avoid trans fats.
Other Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Inflammation:
Lose weight. You can experience chronic inflammation even if you’re thin. Still, maintaining a healthy weight makes you less vulnerable. Easier said than done, I know.
Exercise regularly. Exercise has an overall positive effect on your body and your mood. While an intense workout may cause temporary inflammation, it enhances your health in the long run.
Drink water. Staying hydrated is essential. Quench your thirst with plain water and tea instead of soda and juice. Or try adding a sugar-free electrolyte blend.
Brush and floss. Bacteria from your mouth and gums can travel to the rest of your body. Aim to brush and floss for at least 2 minutes twice each day.
Use natural cleansers. Check the labels on your household cleaners and personal beauty products. You may be able to avoid potential toxins by buying organic brands or using plain vinegar and baking soda. Yes it can be more expensive but payoff in your health benefits.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol aggravate inflammation. Many adults need more than one attempt to become tobacco-free, and combining nicotine therapy with counseling may lead to success this time.
Check your medication. Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs have side effects that reduce inflammation. If your doctor recommends that you take aspirin daily or prescribes statins to lower your cholesterol, you can consider this a bonus.
Sleep well. Most adults need about 8 hours sleep to keep their minds and bodies strong. Go to bed and wake up on consistent schedule and keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
Relax and refresh. Managing stress plays a major role. Find a relaxation practice that works for you such as daily meditation or taking long walks.
You can reduce chronic inflammation by watching what you eat and drink and making other positive lifestyle choices. Protect your wellbeing and support healthy aging by bringing chronic inflammation under control and prevent autoimmune disease.