Have you heard that inflammation in the body can contribute to numerous health problems? Have you ever wondered how to know whether inflammation is an issue for you?
This can be challenging to figure out because chronic, systemic inflammation is silent in the body. So, it’s important to understand some of the early, physical symptoms that are commonly associated with inflammation so that you can address it early.
It’s important to note that acute inflammation is not dangerous, in fact, it’s an important part of the healing process for an injury in the body. That redness, swelling, heat and pain that you feel with an injury is your body’s mechanism for healing.
Problems arise when the inflammatory process is prolonged or not switched off. This can wreak havoc on the body and contribute to several chronic health conditions. It’s best to listen to the body and address the early signs of inflammation rather than waiting for a diagnosis of something more serious that can cause you a lot of pain and suffering.
Early Signs of Inflammation
Joint pain – Joints naturally start to wear out as we age, but the most significant factor that attributes to joint pain is the level of systemic inflammation. Normal wear and tear should not cause pain.
Digestive issues – Ongoing symptoms like heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, or bloating could be signs of inflammation in the GI tract. Don’t ignore or normalize these symptoms as reducing gut inflammation is often the first step in reducing systemic inflammation.
Fatigue – Lack of sleep is a big driver for inflammation. Melatonin is an important antioxidant providing anti-inflammatory effects on the body. If you are feeling tired despite getting sufficient sleep, you need to address it.
Sinus issues – the most common way the body signals a problem is through inflamed nasal cavities. Don’t assume it’s an environmental trigger as it may be coming from sources that are more controllable such as diet and lifestyle.
Skin breakouts – Internal inflammation can sometimes reveal itself externally. If you develop a rash, acne, dry skin, hives, or eczema, you may have internal inflammation.
Brain fog – Brain fog is a major signal of inflammation. Do you feel more forgetful? Have trouble focusing? Many times, when you treat chronic inflammation mental clarity will reassert itself.
Headaches – No one knows exactly what causes migraines or headaches, but they could be affected by neurogenic inflammation.
Mid-section weight gain – Chronic inflammation involves the release of cytokines that also interfere with the body’s insulin response. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, the pancreas releases more of it triggering the body to store more fat that tends to land in the mid-section
How You Can Reduce Inflammation Naturally
Reducing inflammation starts with removing the triggers that are causing it. Often, these triggers can be found in your diet, gut health and lifestyle choices.
Diet – It’s important to avoid excess consumption of foods such as refined sugars and flours and inflammatory fats. Eating these foods is a driver for increased acidity in the body which is a driver for pain. The mechanism of pain works through the acid sensing ion channel (ASIC) through which increased pain is triggered in an acidic environment. Examples of these problematic foods include:
- White flour products such as breads, buns, bagels, wraps, pasta, crackers
- Refined sugar products such as candies, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies
- Inflammatory fats such as processed meats, foods with processed seed or vegetable oils, deep fried foods
Gut health – Gut inflammation is often at the root of systemic inflammation and is driven by several factors including
- food choices – ie. eating processed or refined foods, inflammatory fats, or foods you are sensitive to
- unmanaged stress (see “Lifestyle” below)
- medications such as antibiotics, birth control, NSAIDs, acid reducers
Eating fast food on-the-go is a common routine in our society that exacerbates gut problems. Creating mindful eating routines, along with using bitter foods and herbs that stimulate digestion are examples of two strategies that can help. Determining the underlying reason for gut issues using testing is the most effective way to get to the cause.
Lifestyle – There are a few important lifestyle choices that can have a big impact on your levels of systemic inflammation.
- Stress – Managing our stress response is a key factor in managing inflammation because prolonged exposure to cortisol interferes with regulation of inflammation.
- Sleep – Sleep is a key factor in managing inflammation because our circadian rhythms regulate both and thrive on consistency. Both too little and too much sleep can contribute to inflammation.
- Toxins – Exposure to chemicals including food additives, pesticides, environmental pollution and phthalates or parabens in body care products are linked to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Nutrients – Supplements can support you with therapeutic quantities of certain nutrients that can help to reduce inflammation. Comprehensive testing through bloodwork or urine is the best way to learn what you actually need. Some common nutrient deficiencies I see in my practice that are important for reducing inflammation are B vitamins, vitamin D, and omegas.
Since systemic inflammation can silently wreak havoc on the body, it’s possible that it is the driver causing your unwanted negative health symptoms. You can avoid much-unwanted pain and suffering by educating yourself about how to recognize the body’s way of communicating inflammatory symptoms, asking your practitioner about which functional test is the best for you, and learning how to integrate the needed changes to your diet, nutrient and lifestyle routines to address it early.