In all the health information available today, inflammation doesn’t get a lot of attention. Yet, surprisingly, it can be the underlying root cause of many health issues. As a result of today’s modern lifestyle, the body is often inundated with inflammatory triggers and often lacks the ability to stay on top of the onslaught.
Taking a naturopathic approach to inflammation means looking at its causes, and exploring what changes we can make to avoid or reduce exposure to them.
Firstly, we need to recognise some common triggers to chronic inflammation, where the normal acute inflammatory response doesn’t switch off but rather stays with an ongoing exposure to inflammation.
Today’s standard diet is full of inflammatory foods like sugar, fried and processed foods, processed meats, gluten, dairy, corn and soy. In addition, we all have unique dietary triggers that can lead to inflammation. When addressing inflammation in the body, our diet and our individual needs have to be considered so that action can be taken to avoid any food that may be causing an inflammatory response.
The first step to this is, most importantly, ensuring you are eating an anti-inflammatory diet with the majority of your daily food intake including loads of green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and clean protein. Here are some tips:
- Focus on raw and lightly cooked rainbow colours of vegetables that are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants including dark greens, beetroot, carrots, onions, garlic and sea vegetables. Include a diverse range of fresh fruits that are a variety of colours.
- Choose whole grains rather than refined carbohydrates. Try rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat for some nutrient and fibre rich gluten free options.
- Enjoy fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring (or a good quality fish oil supplement if you don’t eat fish regularly). These fish contain high levels of omega-3 fats which are strongly anti-inflammatory.
- In addition to eating fish, good oils can be added to your meals, such as using extra virgin olive oil on salads. Aim to include other healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds – especially walnuts and freshly ground flaxseed – in your meals, too.
- Making a green smoothie regularly can be an awesome way to boost the nutrients you consume daily and optimise the anti-inflammatory properties.
It can be really easy to ignore but what we are exposed to in our environment can be a huge source of inflammation. This can include the products we use on our bodies and in our home, the air we breathe, the medications we take and what we choose to eat and drink.
Here are some ways we can reduce our environmental toxic load:
- Eat organic
- Filter your water
- Ditch plastics. Consider where these are in your life, water bottle, food storage, plastic wrap. Keep to a minimum when you can.
- Choose non-toxic beauty and cleaning products
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Keep alcohol to only special occasion or choose good quality spirits with clean mixers like soda and fresh lime.
- Minimise use of medications when possible
Most of us know stress isn’t good for us and here is one of the big reasons why. When we meet a significant challenge in life, the body responds with the natural process of cortisol release. This helps our bodies to kick start our fight or flight mode, which includes a level of natural and healthy inflammation that passes once the stress response turns off.
However, the issue is when stress becomes a part of your every-day (unhealthy relationships, poor food choices, sleep deprivation, financial issues, unrealistic work schedules) and the stress response and the related inflammation continues.
This inflammation can continue contributing to our inflammatory burden until the point where the body may respond by supressing the immune system, leaving you open to possible infection or even autoimmunity.
It’s important we don’t underestimate the far reaching impact of stress in the body. Learning to slow down and find your best approach to relieving stress levels should be a priority. Try daily practises such as meditation, yoga, breathing, running a bath or taking time out in nature.
Gut issues – Leaky Gut
A poor diet, medications and stress are some of the things that can trigger damage to the gut wall. This leaves toxins, microbes and other food particles free to cross over the gut lining and into the blood stream, where the immune system sees these particles as foreign invaders. This is when the inflammatory response occurs and, unless the leaky gut is healed, continues. This is a commonly unrecognised and underlying cause of inflammation that needs to be addressed.
Leaky gut can manifest in a multitude of ways and is dependent on the individual’s unique weaknesses or predisposition. It may be a case of a simple skin rash, food intolerance or more serious autoimmunity, all with the common thread of inflammation.
There are ways you can use lifestyle and diet to heal leaky gut, firstly eliminate the causes as mentioned above and then using healing foods, nutrients and herbal medicines like bone broth, healthy fats, gelatine, glutamine, marshmallow, slippery elm and licorice.
Learning about the possible causes of inflammation gives you the power to control your own health. There are many ways that you can take the matter into your own hands, such as knowing that you have the option to decide what you eat and drink and what products you choose to use on your body and in your home. It is these day to day decisions that help you to prevent and manage any health concerns that may be driven by inflammation.