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The human body is fascinating. Give it half a chance to heal itself, and it will. For the most part, its systems work together perfectly to do everything from grow to move and heal. One way the body helps heal itself is to create inflammation around an affected area. Inflammation is how your body responds to irritation, injury, or infection. It is a call from your immune system to release chemicals and proteins from your immune system and other cells to heal the area.
Simply put, these chemicals and proteins are sent to the affected area and heal it. Once they have done their job, the inflammation should subside. Some internal inflammation signs are fatigue, brain fog, feeling puffy, upset stomach, and more. Usually, you get inflamed when you ingest things like processed sugars, flour, grains, dairy, and fake sugars (artificial sweeteners). I'm writing this as a general rule of things you don't want to overload on. Bio individuality, a fancy term for what's unique to you, plays a huge role here because one person's food is another person's poison. Whole fresh foods can cause gut irritation in some people, but again as a general rule, no one, even if you can tolerate it, should live a life on processed foods.
Now I don't want to give the impression that inflammation is all bad. It isn't. In fact, without it, all the injuries and irritations that would cause it would get worse. It's a part of a fantastic process that helps heal the body. However, chronic inflammation, especially in the gut (because we can't see it), is what we should consider. After all the chemicals and proteins are released to heal the affected area, inflammation should shut off. The process is irritating to all cells in your body, good and evil (including fat cells). When inflammation is constant in your body, it has a tough time regulating itself. You can experience discomfort in many ways because as a result of it.
Your gut microbiome is home to thousands of different strains of bacteria; some of these strands are unique to you. The things that make them unique to you started with how you got into this world at birth, and the rest get decided by your lifestyle and nutrition habits. Creating an optimal environment for these bacteria to live by eating fresh live whole foods helps maintain good gut health. Chronic inflammation throws a wrench in the system and doesn't create an ideal environment for these bacteria. Therefore, the body can't absorb nutrients or digest properly, and what you get from that flawed process is poor gut health. Many new studies link poor gut health to problems with your immune system, skin, mental health, and even certain cancers.
Here is the good news if you do have chronic inflammation! If you give the body half a chance to heal itself, it will! You might be asking yourself, "how do I give my body this chance to heal!?" Great question! Let's explore some of the main ways to help your body flip the inflammation switch from on to off with these five tips.
Analyze what you put into your mouth and how you move/treat your body.
Create a detailed food, movement, and stress log for 5-7 days. By doing this, you will start collecting data containing what you eat, your workouts, your stress levels, and, most importantly, how you feel. This log will become your baseline. Once you have this data, remove all the high sugar foods (Google the glycemic index as a resource), processed foods out for a while, and fill the voids with fresh whole foods. Be sure to move your body intelligently for 30 min to an hour 3-6 times a week. Exercise helps your body move blood and create happy hormones. Evaluate how you feel in a new log for 5-7 days, and compare the two. Maybe you can even go back and try to live a day or two based on your last log. Listen to your body. It will tell you what works best and what doesn't. From here, you can identify a bit more clearly what foods and workouts (or lack thereof) can do to your body and mood. It would be wise to keep the irritating foods out.
Anti-inflammatory foods are not processed and have a low glycemic index. Foods with lots of antioxidants and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in reducing inflammation. A quick internet search will supply you with hundreds of food options in these categories. Remember, food diversity is the key to maintaining homeostasis in the body, so mix it up and try new foods.
Some of our favorite anti-inflammatory foods at Lifestyle Athlete are:
Exercise is proven to help you manage your weight and a wide range of other health benefits. This entire list of movement benefits aids the anti-inflammatory cause. Like I mentioned earlier, exercising 3-6 times a week is ideal.
When your body reaches its most profound sleep levels, it's referred to as a REM cycle. REM cycles usually cycle in 90 min intervals. It is during these cycles that our body does a bunch of healing and growing. When we do not get quality sleep and our REM cycles are interrupted, our bodies don't heal and reset efficiently. It can also cause the body to produce more cortisol, the body's stress hormone. Quality sleep combined with a diet full of anti-inflammatory foods will help the body regulate and reduce inflammation.
Try to eliminate any processed or artificial foods and sugars from your diet. Artificial foods and sugars throw a wrench in the body's system. Highly processed and sugary foods cause a spike in your blood sugar. Points in your blood sugar levels lead to a horrible crash in energy and, if done regularly, can increase your chances of type 2 diabetes. Processed and sugary foods also cause your body to hold fat and make it hard to maintain a manageable weight. Extra and unmanageable weight can cause inflammation throughout your whole body.
To sum it up, inflammation is a process that your body uses when there is trauma or irritation in a particular area. Without it, these problems would get worse. The idea of inflammation is that it's supposed to shut off after the site healed. Chronic inflammation occurs when the process won't shut off, and usually, the foods you are consuming are the problem. Fresh whole foods, quality exercise, limited processed sugar, and getting quality sleep is a great way to determine total body inflammation.
- Lifestyle Athlete
“Train like an athlete, heal like a hippie, and always trust your gut.”
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