More and more evidence is associating chronic low grade inflammation and long term health issues like heart disease, arthritis, lupus, diabetes… perhaps even depression. In this post we explain what inflammation is and how you can fight it without changing your daily habits.
How does inflammation work?
There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic.
Cut your finger, there will be acute inflammation, and that’s a good thing. Blood vessels get larger, more blood flows to the area, and that brings repairing chemicals and cells to start fighting bacteria.
But what if these repair cells stick around too long? In chronic inflamation, these cells they overstay their welcome and can cause harm. Their ability to cause leaky blood vessels, to release bradykinin to cause pain, to eat other tissues (macrophages), can all cause inflammation for unhealthy durations. Also they’ll keep releasing reactive oxygen species that are toxic to healthy cells. In fact, chronic inflammation is emerging as one of the most pervasive root causes of poor health in medicine today.
There is still much to learn, but managing inflammation in your daily life is a good idea. Here are a few tweaks you can make to everyday routines that can help fight inflammation.
Flossin’ Ain’t Just for Gangstas
Periodontal disease and gingivitus are both inflammatory diseases that have reach beyond the mouth. They are associated with elevated levels of systemic inflammation and are key markers of other inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease.
Brush your teeth, floss and make sure you see a dentist twice a year. If you are experiencing gum issues, ask your dentist about toothpastes or rinses containing stannus floride– an antimicrobial variant of the floride found in regular toothpaste. You can see a list of products containing stannous flouride that you can purchase without a prescription here.
Go with Your Gut
The food you eat has a direct effect on inflamation. A high processed food diet invariably leaves out some of the most potent inflammation fighters found in food.
Fiber, for example, not only helps regulate the body’s inflammatory response- it also has a positive impact on the healthy bacteria found naturally in the gut. And there is no better fiber than the kind in vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, legumes, nuts and dark leafy green vegetables, act to reduce inflammation. There also some spices that have anti-inflammatory properties like ginger and turmeric. If regulary added to one’s diet these have been shown to have powerful impacts on long-term health.
Sleep it Off
In a study of healthy adults, sleep restriction was associated with boosting levels of key inflammation factors. Though the mechanism through which sleep affects inflammation is unknown, lack of sleep has been shown to have a direct impact on the immune system.
Barring deeper sleep issues, the best way to improve sleep is by practicing good sleep hygiene. That is- go to sleep at a consistent time, try to draw down your light exposure as you get close to bedtime, and limit liquids (especially alcohol) in the evening. We wrote a more detailed post on sleep hygiene here.
Boost Vitamin D
There are many links between vitamin D and inflammation. Reasearchers are working on learning more about the cause of chronic inflamation resulting in low vitamin D.
You can naturally get more vitamin D by spending more time out in the sun, or getting more in your diet. Sun exposure on your arms and legs for 15 minutes can get you what you need. An interesting trick you can use comes to us from Dr. Cyrus Khambatta. You can use the mushroom’s natural ability to create vitamin D by placing shitake mushrooms (gills facing up) in direct sunlight for 6 hours. This boosts the amount of vitamin D present by + 100x. Learn more here.
Inflammation is emerging as a root cause of many health issues. Fight it by taking care of your gums, getting enough vitamin D, making sure your are paying attention to gut and intestinal health and sleeping well.