Thursday, June 12, 2014

How To Reduce Inflammation Naturally

There are several "anti-inflammatory" drugs (aspirin, NSAID's, statin's or steriods) used today for inflammation, but they only address symptoms. They don't help the body to heal the root causes of the inflammation. These medications can also cause many serious problems in the body. In general, avoid these drugs (I understand emergency uses, just always be cautious). 

There are several ways to reduce inflammation naturally. This post will discuss important lifestyle changes, which hopefully you've already been making. Next week I'll focus on combating specific causes of inflammation.

Lifestyle changes that will help reduce inflammation:

- Eat healthy!
I know you hear it often, but what you eat really does determine the state of your health. Most importantly, say no to sugar! By "sugar" I mean refined, white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other added sugars in all those packaged and processed foods.

(Healthy sweet substances, in moderation, include fruit, honey, and high quality maple syrup. You may need to avoid even these healthy foods for a time depending on the severity of your situation. But in general these are good additions to a healthy diet.)

Another inflammatory food is white flour. This converts to sugar in the body quickly after eating it, so it's very similar to eating sugar. Also, today's white flour has all kinds of problems, including being stripped of nutrients, contaminated with pesticides, often bleached, etc. Here's an excellent article that explains the problems with white flour today. 

While some people feel better by going completely gluten-free, I think many people can find healthy organic, whole grains that are ok for their body. But regular white flour products are definitely not a good thing for anyone's health. 

Sugar and white flour are some of the worst inflammatory foods. The good news is that many other foods help fight inflammation, including vegetables, fruits, olive oil, various spices, etc. 

What you eat is a very important lifestyle choice that will either slowly drag down your health, or consistently build it up. So, if you haven't yet, take stock of your everyday diet and look for ways you can cut out inflammatory foods and add in healthy foods. 

- Exercise regularly.
I know, this is another thing you hear all the time. That's because it's so important! Your body was designed to MOVE. Lack of regular movement results in many different health issues. 

I think the main thing is to find what kind of exercise works for you, then plan time for it in your schedule, get some accountability, and switch it up from time to time so you don't get bored. 

- Get proper sleep.
This is so important! Healthy and adequate sleep is absolutely vital to good health. I wrote a whole post about ways to improve your sleep here. Again, evaluate what factors hinder good sleep and look for even one way you can improve it.

- Relax!
Everyone is so stressed today, and stress is a major cause of inflammation. So we have to be intentional about finding ways to relax. 

Try doing regular stretches and deep breathing. These help improve circulation, help oxygenate and relax the body, and help the body release the accumulated tension caused by stress. 

Also, relaxation exercises can be very helpful. Once a day, close your eyes and picture yourself on a quiet beach, with a cool breeze, and fresh, salty air. Breathe deeply and feel your whole body relax. (Or if you prefer, picture a cool mountaintop with a beautiful vista...whatever scene helps you relax.) 

Taking moments here and there throughout the day to stop and acknowledge things you're grateful for, is another good way to step off the stress treadmill and help you relax.

Along with these lifestyle changes, certain supplements may help you to deal with inflammation temporarily. Vit. D, Vit. C, quercetin, herbs like ginger, and certain essential oils may help. Getting your omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio balanced is also important. (Butter contains the correct ratio of 1:1, so it's good for this.)

Just don't start taking supplements randomly. Either work with a trusted health provider, or learn how to muscle test these things for yourself. (I'll write more on muscle testing in another post.) 

One more thing to mention is the importance of keeping a healthy insulin level. This is mainly done through diet (no sugar or grains) and exercise. The reason this is so vital is that unhealthy insulin levels cause inflammation and lead to all kinds of health problems. (There's a longer article by Dr. Mercola about insulin and inflammation here.)

I know that's a lot of information. Just break it down and start where you can. Do something today to invest in your health. =) 

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