Inflammation is the body’s natural response to irritation, infection or injury, and can occur in any organ or system. We all know the acute symptoms – pain, restricted movement, swelling, or redness. Where inflammation occurs deep within the body, a feeling of unwellness or discomfort may prevail. Conditions such as asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and irritable bowel syndrome are thought to be strongly related to chronic inflammation.
Lifestyle factors play an important role in determining the level of inflammation markers within the body. While chronic conditions may require additional medical treatment or supplements, looking after yourself is key in any case.
Light to moderate exercise for just 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week, lowers your baseline inflammation markers for your whole body. This is due to the added release of the protein cytokine while you sweat. Regular yoga practice is also a great way to lower overall body inflammation by easing stress and keeping your body supple (and less prone to injury).
Packing your diet full of anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce your pain and discomfort over time. In particular, seek out foods rich in omega-3 and antioxidants and find creative ways to enjoy them daily:
● Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel – these are all delicious grilled, panfried or lightly crumbed.
● Flaxseed – add this to muesli, home-baked
● Walnuts – simply enjoy these by the handful!
● Some brands of eggs and dairy products are omega-3-fortified for an extra boost.
● Berries of all types – enjoy these fresh, stewed, baked into desserts or dried. These are also high in vitamin C, another important anti-inflammatory agent.
● Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collard greens – add these to your smoothies, salads, or casseroles.
● Avocado – this creamy fruit is a perfect toast topper or addition to a fresh salad. Why not try some in your smoothie too?
● Dark chocolate (yes!) – enjoy a small amount of high quality, 70 per cent (or above) cocoa chocolate for an antioxidant hit.
Supplement these anti-inflammatory superfoods with an array of your other favourite fruits and vegetables for a well-rounded diet. Avoid large quantities of red meat and high-inflammatory foods and drinks. These include anything that is made with refined sugar, high levels of fat or is ridiculously processed. In short, if you can’t read the ingredients – it’s probably not good for you!
Spice up your fresh meals with aromatic anti- inflammatory spices. One of the best-known is turmeric, valuable here for it’s high curcumin content. Turmeric is an amazing spice that is readily available in powdered or paste form. Add it to your savoury dishes for a warm flavour and incredible yellow colour. Include a pinch of black pepper wherever you use turmeric to boost the body’s absorption of curcumin. Black pepper itself is also a fantastic anti-inflammatory addition to your diet.
Ginger is another spice to use liberally in the kitchen. This one is wonderful for use in drinks, warming desserts or added to savoury dishes. Fresh is best if you can find it, but ginger is readily available in powdered form from the supermarket.
Other lifestyle considerations
It probably goes without saying, but indulging in smoking, alcohol, and sugary drinks is not going to do you any favours. Do your best to cut down on these and your body will thank you.
If inflammation is a part of your life, try some of these lifestyle tips and see how you feel. As always, if symptoms persist or you are just not feeling right, consult a healthcare professional for advice.