What is inflammation?
We’ve all heard the familiar word inflammation and how it’s the secret source of most chronic disease – which stems from low-grade levels of hidden inflammation. The truth is, our bodies actually need inflammation (seems to be sort of a catch-22, right?). Acute inflammation, categorized by its protective effects and role in healing injury, is the beneficial type of inflammation our body’s need to aggressively fight acute infection and injury. On the hand, chronic inflammation is the detrimental type that is linked to things like heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. Some refer to chronic inflammation as the “silent killer” because you may not particularly see or feel chronic inflammation happening, but it can manifest in a multitude of ways over time – including those mentioned above that can be destructive to your health and wellbeing.
Inflammation is a buzzword thrown around a lot in the wellness and medical world. By definition, inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and substances they produce (such as cytokines and neutrophils) protect us from infection against foreign bacteria, viruses, and other bacteria.1 Chronic inflammation can result from a variety of key factors, including failure of your body to eliminate harmful bacteria and virus, exposure to low level or irritating chemicals and toxins, autoimmune disorders, and increased production of free radical molecules, advanced glycation end products (AGEs), oxidized lipoproteins, and homocysteine.2 The latter are likely the result of environmental factors, such as diet, stress, sleep, exercise or lack thereof, and others. In fact, studies have shown that those who consistently eat foods high in pro-inflammatory such as vegetable oils, refined carbs, and processed sugars have higher amounts of disease incidence due to chronic inflammation.3And vice versa – those who consistently eat higher amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, vegetables, and high fiber foods have lower amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1, TNF-alpha, and IL-6.3Working towards an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is imperative if you want to prevent chronic disease, maintain a healthy weight, prevent the development of chronic pain, and reduce oxidative stress. Here are a few easy tips to incorporate into your lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing disease and pain from chronic inflammation.
1. Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds
Research has shown that omega-6 eicosanoids, primarily from vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, and safflower (found in most processed/packaged foods) increases the production of cytokines IL-1, TNF-alpha, and IL-6 that cause inflammation and exacerbate painful symptoms. On the other hand, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish, fish oils, walnuts, and flaxseeds curb the production of these eicosanoids and are associated with lower pro-inflammatory cytokine production.3This is the foundation of the anti-inflammatory diet. Include more of these beneficial fatty acids from fish, fish oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives into your diet to prevent or reduce chronic inflammation.
2. Decrease refined sugar
It’s no secret that sugar is the main culprit behind many diseases – from diabetes to obesity and even non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.4 The hard part – sugar is found in almost everything these days! Between drinks, cereals, and snacks, it’s almost impossible to avoid it completely. However, being mindful of ingredients in packaged products and choosing whole foods as much as you can will make it easier to avoid added sugar and provide you with powerful nutrients to detoxify and balance your body – rather than burden it with added stress.
3. Enhance your supplement cabinet with things like turmeric, alpha-lipoic acid, and CBD
Never underestimate the power of high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade supplements to enhance your health! Things like turmeric, alpha lipoic acid, and CBD among many others are great for lowering inflammation. Turmeric, with it’s active ingredient being curcumin (link to meriva on website), is not only effective in greatly reducing inflammation but is proven to help with the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia,5 especially when combined with piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper, because it increases the absorption of the curcurmin.5 Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is made in the body and it’s involved with cellular functions like energy production. Alpha-lipoic acid also serves as an antioxidant and is known to greatly reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) at 800mg/day – three chief inflammatory markers, according to a meta-analysis of 18 randomized control trials.6 And then there’s CBD… a hot topic in the field of medicine. Although the study of cannabinoids is fairly new, the results are promising. Cannabidiol (CBD) is proven to help with neuropathic pain and help with healing process by greatly reducing inflammation… from a chronic and acute standpoint.7This is great news for those who suffer from pain as a result of chronic inflammation. CBD is also known to help with anxiety, stress, and sleep! Try it out for yourself to see how you like it. (Insert link to our ecommerce shop)
4. Increase consumption of leafy greens
All vegetables, but especially leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and arugula, are nutrient powerhouses. They’re loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and many other preventative compounds that help aggressively fight chronic inflammation. In one study specifically, spinach was found to prevent high cholesterol induced by a fat and cholesterol rich diet because of it’s high carotenoid (a potent antioxidant) properties.8This is just one of thousands of studies that prove leafy greens have such high amounts of antioxidants and fiber that help fight diseases which result from chronic inflammation. It really is as simple as that – eat a diet high in vegetables and you can easily prevent a multitude of diseases.9
5. Pick up a consistent stress management practice
Mindfulness-based practices such as yoga, t’ai chi, and meditation have received considerable public interest in recent decades as substantial healing modalities for emotional and mental wellbeing. Mindfulness is the practice of experiencing and attending to the present moment, and is touted as being beneficial for stress relief. In fact, after sifting through 19,000 meditation studies, researchers found 47 trials that concluded mindful meditation is helpful in easing psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.10 Furthermore, chronic stress is intimately linked to cortisol dysfunction, chronic reactivation of the HPA axis, and chronic pain and inflammation. HPA axis and cortisol dysfunction from chronic stress may directly facilitate pain transmission via impaired modulation or repeated nociceptor activation by inflammatory mediators.11 If you suffer from chronic pain or chronic disease as a result of hidden inflammation, it’s definitely in your best interest to find ways to manage stress!
1. What is Inflammation? Web MD website. https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/about-inflammation#1. Accessed August 22, 2019.
2. Pahwa R, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2019 Jun 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
3. Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, food, and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge. Psychosom Med. 2010;72(4):365–369. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181dbf489
4. Della Corte KW, Perrar I, Penczynski KJ, Schwingshackl L, Herder C, Buyken AE. Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):606. Published 2018 May 12. doi:10.3390/nu10050606
5. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
6. Akbari M, Ostadmohammadi V, Tabrizi R, et al. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on inflammatory markers among patients with metabolic syndrome and related disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018;15:39. Published 2018 Jun 5. doi:10.1186/s12986-018-0274-y
7. Bruni N, Della Pepa C, Oliaro-Bosso S, Pessione E, Gastaldi D, Dosio F. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478. Published 2018 Sep 27. doi:10.3390/molecules23102478
8. Ko SH, Park JH, Kim SY, Lee SW, Chun SS, Park E. Antioxidant Effects of Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) Supplementation in Hyperlipidemic Rats. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2014;19(1):19–26. doi:10.3746/pnf.2014.19.1.019
9. Hossain A, Khatun MA, Islam M, Huque R. Enhancement of Antioxidant Quality of Green Leafy Vegetables upon Different Cooking Method. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2017;22(3):216–222. doi:10.3746/pnf.2017.22.3.216
10. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018
11. Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014;94(12):1816–1825. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130597