Your body’s immune system has a very appropriate and proactive way of dealing with injury and infection. At the first sign of either, it sends pro-inflammatory hormones to the site that draw out white blood cells to take care of the damage. At the same time, the body sends anti-inflammatory compounds once the white blood cells have done their job to neutralize the threat and to begin the healing process. This response is known as the inflammatory cascade. Acute inflammation is a perfectly healthy response to injury and infection as your bodies way to remove any infection and repair damaged tissues.

Chronic inflammation, however, poses a huge threat to your health and well being. Chronic inflammation occurs when the body no longer has the ability to shut off the inflammatory response and begins to attack and damage healthy tissue. The inflammatory response gets stuck in the “on” position so to speak. This condition can damage the arteries in the heart leading to heart disease. It can damage the joints causing rheumatoid arthritis. It can also damage the intestinal lining leading to an array of gastrointestinal disease and digestive issues. Research shows that chronic inflammation is the root of many diseases but unfortunately early signs of it can be difficult to spot. They can include but are not limited to skin irritation and redness, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue and muscular soreness, high blood pressure, constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms are often treated singularly and the bigger problem is overlooked until it develops into a serious and sometimes life threatening condition.

Here are a few factors that can prompt an inflammatory response in the body:

-Stress
-Lack of sleep or recovery
-Lack of exercise
-Environmental toxins (such as air pollution, heavy chemical use, second hand smoke, etc)
-Poor nutrition

Eighty percent of your immune system is located in the guts and so it makes sense that chronic inflammation originates there. Making healthier nutritional choices and listening to your body can go a long way to improve your immunity and reduce swelling. Here are a few examples of how you can reduce inflammation:

-Eliminate or reduce inflammatory foods, such as trans fats, foods high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods.

-Avoid known food allergens and pay attention to your bodies response to foods that have a higher likelihood of sensitivity such as dairy, gluten, eggs, soy and nuts. If you notice a pattern of irregularities after eating any of these foods, practice moderation or eliminate it altogether.

-Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, rich in colours. The fibre and anti-inflammatory compounds will promote a healthy gut flora. Fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants that help stave off free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidative damage putting us at higher risk of disease and speeding up the aging process.

-Get moving! Being physically active is the cornerstone to your well being and longevity. Unfortunately the average person spends 10 hours a day in a seated position. One hour a day of regimented exercise is simply not enough to conteract the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Fitness trackers are a great way to ensure you are moving enough throughout the day. Taking at least 10,000 steps a day, as well as getting regular strength, cardiovascular and mobility work is one of the pillars to good health.

-Add more fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics (live bacteria and yeasts) that nourish the gut and fight inflammation. Probiotic supplements are also available to ensure you get a healthy dose of good bacteria on a daily basis.

-Whenever possible, reduce the stress in your life. Meditation, yoga, walking, reading… whatever your outlet is for stress, make sure to carve some time out for yourself to decompress. Sleep is an important factor to reducing stress and repairing and restoring cells so when you lose out on sleep, your immune system kicks into high gear to keep you well but also welcoming inflammation into the system.

-Consider adding an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplement to your diet. EFA’S assist in a lot of functions throughout the body, including the development of nerve and brain tissue, hormone production and stimulate the metabolism. They are integral to immune function and the production of hormones that govern inflammatory response.

As stated, it’s hard to pinpoint if you are living with chronic inflammation due to the vast amount of symptoms associated with the condition. Take ownership of your lifestyle and implement these steps to bring function to your immune system and improve your health!

By Diana Mitchell