Inflammation in the body can be a good thing or a bad thing. Unfortunately millions of Americans have chronic inflammation, which causes disease. Functional medicine practitioner and health coach, Jenna Witt, NP, shows you 8 easy ways to keep inflammation under control.
Dang it. I just got a paper cut. As I’m watching the small trickle of blood ooze through the band aid, I thank God for inflammation. Right now as I awkwardly peck away at the keyboard with one of my kid’s Paw Patrol adhesives, my blood is clotting. That’s the first stage of wound healing. It would be neat to see the second stage of wound healing under a microscope: inflammation.
The inflammatory process begins right after an injury. Right this very instant, my blood vessels are leaking a mix of water, salt, and protein called transudate that causes swelling. (Hope I’m not geeking out too much here. Sometimes I can’t help it. After all, I am a Nurse Practitioner.)
Right now, inflammation is a good thing. It prevents infection and stops bleeding.
So why does inflammation get treated like a dirty four-letter word?
The inflammatory response is good when you’re a klutz like me and you’re constantly banging into things and getting beat up by your four frenzied young kids.
But when there’s chronic inflammation in the body, your health can go downhill fast. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it was roughly 20 years ago that researchers discovered that high levels of inflammation were associated with an increased chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
So what causes chronic inflammation? And why is it bad?
Erin Michos, M.D., is the associate director of preventive cardiology for the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. She explained to Johns Hopkins Medicine that sustained inflammation irritates your blood vessels and can promote the growth of plaques or loosen plaque in your arteries and trigger blood clots.
These are the main contributors to heart attacks and strokes.
And how can you tell if you have chronic inflammation? Obesity and type 2 diabetes are diseases that have systemic, chronic inflammation as their root cause. Also, if you have conditions associated with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, chalk it up to excess inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can also cause poor energy levels (chronic fatigue), mood disorders, gastrointestinal problems and low libido, to name just a few other symptoms.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Researchers have identified about half a dozen main causes. Here are the most prevalent I see:
- Your body can’t get rid of a parasite, fungus or other infectious nasty critter.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals. One example is Roundup weed killer spray. It’s got a chemical called glyphosate. Over 125,000 people filed lawsuits claiming their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caused by this chemical. Another example is asbestos, which is blamed for thousands of cases of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer in contaminated talcum powder cases.
- An autoimmune disorder: but this is like asking, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” Did chronic inflammation cause the disease or did the disease cause chronic inflammation? Food for thought and the subject of a future article…
- Exposure to too many free radicals. I’ll give you one example: if you love barbecue, the charred meat causes the build-up of substances in your body called advanced glycation end-products, or AGE for short. AGE leads to inflammation, which leads to aging!
The Best Tips For Controlling Inflammation In The Body So You Can Restore Your Health
If you’ve had chronic inflammation in your body for years, following these tips won’t work overnight. But when you follow these easy, actionable items, you should notice positive results quickly.
And if you feel intimidated going at it alone, that’s what I was put on God’s green earth for. As a functional medicine coach, I will be your guide, friend, shoulder to cry on … whatever you need. Read these 8 quick tips below and then give me a call!
- Eliminate processed foods.
What exactly does that mean? Stick to foods that only have a handful of ingredients and ingredients you can pronounce. Here’s an example: sweet potatoes, brown rice, fish, salad. And if selecting what you should eat is confusing, I’ll help you pick the perfect foods for your unique body chemistry.
- Avoid added sugars.
Start reading food labels. Since 2016, the Nutrition Facts on packaged foods lists the amount of added sugars. Try to get this number as close to zero as possible!
- Eat more fiber.
Poor gut health is linked to inflammatory diseases. By eating more fiber, there will be more friendly bacteria in your gut to keep inflammation in check. Not sure what foods are the best sources of fiber for you? I’ll create a shopping list for you!
- Eat 6 Servings of Veggies Every Day
Do this and you’ll meet the requirement for getting enough fiber. Plus, you’ll be flooding your cells with antioxidants that help normalize your body’s inflammation response.
- Eat 1 Serving of Dark Berries Every Day
Like #4 above, the reason for doing this is getting more antioxidants. Antioxidants kill free radicals like AGE. (Remember: take it easy on the barbecue. The one exception a year: July 4th!)
- Eat Lean Protein
Most Americans have no problem getting enough protein. But the protein most people eat is too heavy in fat. When you have a toxic metabolism, your liver can’t make enough bile to break down fat.
That undigested fat manifests as inflammation. For protein, choose fish, lean turkey, bison and plant-based proteins. My nutrition services will tell you exactly which are the best protein sources for your unique self.
- Minimize Saturated Fat
Sorry if you love steak. The good news is that after you bring your body back into balance (with my help), you can re-introduce healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised beef.
Several studies have demonstrated that saturated fatty acids stimulate inflammation in fatty tissue of the body. So for now, until you and I work together to find out the root causes of your health concerns, take it easy on the animal products that contain lots of saturated fat like dairy, pork and beef.
- Exercise 30 Minutes A Day 5 Days a Week
But what if you hate to exercise? And what if your body is in too much pain to twist yourself into a pretzel in a yoga class? Well, hopefully you enjoy being active in your garden. And when you’re watching TV, just march your feet in place while you’re sitting on the couch. Or better yet, if you can, stand up and march in place while getting your Netflix on! I’ll share with you some other ways you can get more active to lower inflammation in your body.
- Drink More Water
I recommend drinking more water to flush toxic metabolic waste from your body. How much should you drink? Try consuming half your body weight in ounces. A 200-pound person should drink 100 ounces of water which is the equivalent of 12 and half cups. (100 divided by 8.) If you think water is too boring to drink, try adding fresh lemon or lime juice.
You deserve to live your best life and no longer be burdened by chronic inflammation. I look forward to connecting with you.
Jenna Witt, NP