News flash, guys: we are more inflamed now than ever before. What is inflammation? Inflammation can actually be a good thing. Our bodies use it as an immune barrier. It’s a natural physiologic response to environmental exposures or injury and it is regulated by internal and external factors. It’s our body’s way of recognizing something harmful and removing it so we can stay healthy and safe. Inflammation can be short-term or chronic and it can be in one small part of the body or all throughout, and you can’t necessarily feel it.
But, like, what’s the big deal? Per usual, you can have too much of a seemingly helpful thing. Chronic inflammation wreaks havoc on our bodies. It’s considered to be one of the worst contributors to chronic disease and premature aging. Things that we are exposed to daily like certain foods (sugar! red meat! processed foods!) in high amounts, environmental pollutants, stress, lack of sleep, even caffeine can cause increased inflammation.
Sooooo what can we do about it? Sometimes you can’t help your exposure. You’re going to have a little stress every now and then and you may have to walk past a smoker once in a while. Luckily, there are several things you can do to help calm inflammation and reduce chronic exposure to stressors. Some of them are as simple as eating really great anti-inflammatory foods!
1. check your sugar intake
You’ve heard this. Foods that are high in refined added sugar cause increased inflammation. These foods have a higher glycemic index, meaning our bodies have a higher insulin response to them. Need help curbing your sugar craving? You’re not alone, but I can help!
2. avoid excess caffeine and alcohol
This one is probably harder than the sugar thing. we all love our coffee and cocktails. But notice I said EXCESS. Because 1 cup of coffee and 1 glass of red wine per day could actually be a healthy thing. But 3 cups of coffee, your diet coke addiction, and going hard at happy hour may cause you some intense inflammation.
3. focus on including more plant protein
Diets heavy in saturated fat and red meat (think steaks, hamburger, hot dogs, sausage, bacon) have been associated with increased risk of inflammation-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. Not saying these things need to be avoided altogether, though. Having a more Mediterranean approach to eating by including more plant proteins such as nuts, seeds, and legumes and less animal protein has shown to improve health outcomes without feeling deprived. ~balance~
4. stock up on anti-inflammatory foods!
There are so many of these! Nuts, seeds and legumes (as mentioned above) are included. Berries, green and black tea, citrus fruits, cruciferous veggies, and dark chocolate are anti-inflammatory as well. Herbs and spices that have been shown to help with inflammation include turmeric, ginger, garlic, red chili peppers, onions, basil, rosemary, cloves, fennel, and cumin. These are just a few of the things you can fill your diet with and feel great about it. Need help fitting these in your diet? Contact me and we’ll meal plan to calm inflammation!
5. get your sweat on- just not too much
By now we know exercise has many benefits, including regulating inflammation and stress. But also take note of how exercise makes you feel. Overtraining or working out when you’re exhausted can increase your inflammation and your risk for injury. And never sacrifice sleep or eating a healthy meal to fit in a workout! FYI, yoga has been shown to be great for relieving mental and physical stress, even calming inflammatory digestive disorders like IBS.
Bottom line: you can help reduce the inflammation and daily stress on your body by taking great care of it. Drink red wine, but don’t go overboard. Have your coffee, but maybe stick to 1 cup and then try some green or white tea. Fill your plate with cruciferous vegetables seasoned with ginger and garlic. Try dark chocolate and citrus fruit for dessert. Try some goat yoga. I mean…. this all sounds good to me?