Inflammation: Discover your triggers and heal naturally
Combat chronic inflammation naturally with these simple diet and lifestyle changes
Article reviewed for content accuracy by Dr. Arti Ghattaora
Not all inflammation is created equal...
Like most aspects of the natural world, inflammation has its place - in moderation.
It’s the body’s physical response to any injury or attack our tissues, organs or systems may suffer. An in-built defence mechanism, which sets off a wide variety of helpful responses, including the rapid activation of white blood cells, increased blood flow to the affected area and a swathe of chemical and physiological activity designed to minimise harm and expel any foreign bodies. This works alongside the formation of protective bio-shields, damage repair and many other actions, which all in all makes human beings one of the most amazing self-healing machines out there!
These beneficial inflammatory responses play a leading role in creating symptoms such as pain and swelling in acute (short term) cases - both of which are essential to survival and self-preservation. However, if something in the body goes awry there are occurrences where the inflammatory response doesn’t switch off. As a result, it becomes longer lasting - a chronic condition - and instead of being beneficial to the body’s protection and recovery, it becomes quite dangerous, sometimes going as far as to attack healthy organs. In fact, it’s this sort of extreme, over-active inflammatory response that has sadly increased the mortality rate in some Covid cases, as the body becomes saturated with dangerous levels of inflammatory cytokines, overwhelming the patient and turning what should be a beneficial immunity response into something often more damaging than the disease.
As far back as the 1st century AD, the four cardinal signs of inflammation were described by medical writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus: redness (Latin rubor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor), and pain (dolor)
Chronic inflammation is a pandemic in and of itself…
Millions of people suffer from some form of chronic pain in their lives, with arthritis and joint pain being one of the most common expressions affecting approximately 350 million people worldwide. There are many contributing factors, but unhealthy external aggressors such as a diet containing high amounts of processed food, air pollution, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and smoking are perhaps some of the most common. Ongoing inflammatory responses have been also been linked to rise in a wide range of illnesses and autoimmune conditions including asthma and type 1 diabetes, alongside heart disease and even some types of cancer.
So, is there a way we can naturally help our bodies to reduce chronic inflammation?
Because the causes and affects of inflammatory responses are so individual and complex, there is no single ‘cure’ for chronic inflammation. But fortunately, there are many lifestyle changes and healthy practices that can be implemented to support its reduction, helping to alleviate the myriad of conditions and symptoms that arise as a result. The National Centre for Biotechnology Information lists the common and less aggressive symptoms of inflammation as:
Body pain, arthralgia, myalgia
Chronic fatigue and insomnia
Depression, anxiety and mood disorders
Gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhoea, and acid reflux
Weight gain or weight loss
“ Anti inflammatory drugs are suitable for short term use, but they are not tackling the problem of chronic inflammation. They have side effects and are problematic if you are taking them long term. So we do need to look for gentle lifestyle approaches to tone down inflammation. ”
Dr. Jenna Macciochi, Immunologist/ PhD from the Faculty of Inflammation, Repair & Development at Imperial College London
Let food be thy medicine...
The gut has often been referred to as our ‘second brain’ as it plays such important part in our mental and physical wellness. Unknown to many, it’s where many of our vital pain-reducing, wellbeing-enhancing neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine and GABA are first produced - hence the links to poor gut health and mental health conditions such as autism, ADHD and depression. And as such, gut issues are one major sign not only of inflammation, but also of stress and food intolerances which are often interlinked.
These feedback loops are intrinsically connected, feeding off each other and fuelling the fires of poor health and detrimental symptoms. But, by simply reducing or avoiding inflammatory foods (such as refined sugars and saturated fats), and increasing the consumption of proven anti-inflammatory foods (multi-coloured fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fibre and whole foods such as pulses, and nuts) we can start to regain control of our health.
Immunologist Dr. Jenna Macciochi explains the integral ties between inflammation, leaky gut and the body’s responses, as well as which foods we can eat to improve gut biome diversity and undo some of the damage in her podcast ‘Eat for Inflammation’.
Reduce oxidative stress to reduce inflammation
Eating unhealthy food presents the body with one form of physical stress, but mental stress can be just as harmful - and inflammatory. The past year has had us all facing unprecedented levels of stress, so if you’ve noticed that you’ve developed some form of chronic pain or become intolerant to certain foods it should come as no great surprise. Alongside eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, you may also help to rebalance and dampen excessive inflammatory responses through gentle, mindful practices such as:
During these stress-inducing times we need to find effortless ways to help our bodies and minds function in as optimal way as possible. And, because stress and an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to chronic inflammation, we owe it to ourselves to boost our wellbeing and immunity by making simple and gentle tweaks in our daily routines in order to be thriving, not just surviving.
And the beauty is, the only special bit of equipment needed to make these changes is YOU!
Article reviewed for content accuracy by Dr. Arti Ghattaora