Inflammation is one of the body’s most basic survival instincts. Inflammation is a healthy process that comes to the body’s aid when it’s injured - think about when you cut your finger while making dinner, the inflammatory response sends an army of white blood cells to the scene to destroy bacteria, mend tissues. You’ll see physical signs of inflammation like heat, soreness and swelling and the cut is probably well on it’s way to healing. Or when you tear your muscles through exercise, the inflammatory process is involved in the repair and rebuilding of lean tissue to be stronger in order to withstand potential, repeated future stress in the same area.
Like a houseguest who overstays his welcome, inflammation sometimes hangs around too long and refuses to leave. When the inflammation switch refuses to turn off, the body operates as if it is always under attack. White blood cells - as well as a cascade of other molecules and hormones - flood the system for weeks, months and even years. Chronic inflammation is a concerning problem and is linked to the development of nearly all health conditions - heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, gut disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s and even allergies.
We hope you develop habits that reduce the overall systemic inflammatory “load” on your immune system by including these strategies in your health routine.
Eat plenty healthy fats
Your body uses fatty acids found in food to make hormones that control inflammation. Meals can contain pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory fatty acids depending on which oils you choose to cook with and the quality of food you choose to buy.
In general, you’ll find pro-inflammatory fats in industrial seed oils such as corn, soybean, cotton, sunflower and safflower oils in processed and packaged food products. You can guarantee that pro-inflammatory fats are found in all restaurants that serve fried foods because they are so cheap and versatile to use. If you’re serious about reducing inflammatory “load” on the body, read food labels, avoid foods that come in bags and boxes and make your food at home more often than not.
Omega-3, anti-inflammatory fats are found in fatty cold-water fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Cooking with extra-virgin olive oil, and adding walnuts and flax to your food routine can provide an anti-inflammatory boost as well. You can get healthy, anti-inflammatory fats in dairy products from grass fed cows - think butter, full fat yogurt, heavy cream or cheese from grass fed cows. And eggs from pasture-raised chickens have a higher omega-3 fatty acid than conventional eggs.
Embrace your inner herbivore.
Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Choose brightly colored fruit and vegetables such as blueberries, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli. Reduce the inflammatory load on your body by making swaps in your food choices like spinach and kale over iceberg and romaine mix; or frozen mixed berries for your smoothie over a banana.
Take days off.
From CrossFit. Yep, we said it.
Exercise in itself produces inflammation in the body. Your typical post-workout sore muscle feelings are a product of the inflammatory process - the immune system repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue to become bigger and stronger to meet potential future external stressors. And while being active lowers overall inflammation over time, CrossFit can be particularly stressful when the body is already over-stimulated and inflamed due to other lifestyle factors. You’ll do yourself no favors if you’re battling inflammation in the form of un-managed food sensitivities, eating a nutrient-poor diet, sacrificing sleep, or failing to manage stress in your personal or professional life.
Know when to take days off and take them. There’s absolutely no benefit in lifting heavy and undergoing a brutal met-con when you’re immune system is already running ragged battling other factors.
We recommend choosing other, lower impact and gentle forms of exercise if being active IS what helps you “de-stress”.
Find ways to relax.
Think about the last time you missed your alarm and were late to an important event - increased heart rate, flushed skin, adrenaline raging. This is another example of the inflammatory process in action. For some people, this reaction does not let up and from the moment they wake up to the moment they [try to] go to sleep, their day is in overdrive, their to-do list is never-ending and it feels like it’s impossible to breathe deeply.
Care for yourself by finding ways to manage stress, preventing this ongoing, systemic reaction. Reference our previous blog with simple tips to start relaxing today, and if needed, seek professional help in this area.
Ditch trigger foods.
You might be adding to systemic inflammation by eating foods to which you are sensitive. We know refined sugar, alcohol, cheap industrial seed oil and refined grain products create a cascade pro-inflammatory events in the body for everyone - so it’s recommended to limit these and balance your eating pattern with anti-inflammatory, nutrient rich foods most of the time. However, many people are sensitive to dairy, wheat and a number of other foods and can go many years without knowing. Pay attention to nagging symptoms such as achy joints, problems with your skin, gastrointestinal distress, or stubborn fat (particularly around the midsection) that does not seem to go away despite your otherwise healthy lifestyle.
Imagine your immune system like the engine of your car. Revving your engine without letting up would damage your car just like un-managed food sensitivities trigger your immune system into action and cause damage to your body. Consider eliminating potentially triggering ingredients from your eating pattern for a few weeks to see if your symptoms subside.