It seems like almost everything causes inflammation, from simple sugars to just not getting enough sleep. For this reason, almost every new lifestyle that is marketed in the media boasts its "anti-inflammatory" aspects, claiming that whatever they sell is the BEST to combat inflammation. In the following article, we'll break down exactly why inflammation occurs and some practical long term life changes that can prevent inflammation before it even begins.
Why does inflammation occur?
First off, inflammation isn't always necessarily bad, it's part of your body's natural defense system. For example, when you fall and scrape your knee- the wound gets red and swells up as an attempt to quickly heal. But long term inflammation could result in or worsen chronic health conditions. This is the kind of inflammation we'll be discussing today, going through the main ways to work towards reducing it with simple changes you can make in your daily routine.
The most common suggestion when it comes to reducing inflammation is increasing your intake of nutrient dense foods. And while this is true, the majority of Americans aren't super well versed on what that means. For this reason, I've included some examples in the graphic below. In simple terms, the highest nutrient dense foods are those who have the highest ratio of nutrients with the lowest caloric load. This includes leafy greens, berries (fresh or frozen) and any other fruits and vegetables with a particularly high water content.
Stress also encourages a state of inflammation in the body in a pretty significant way. According to the Brain, Behavior and Immunity Journal, people who have a strong emotional reaction to stressful tasks experience a much greater increase in circulating interleukin-6 (an indicator or inflammation) during stressful times than those who handle stressing tasks in stride. Stress increases your heart rate and blood pressure, making your blood vessels work harder- which is creating damage in the long run, worsening inflammation.
For this reason, it is especially important to have a wind down routine or breathing exercises that work specifically for you to de-stress as quickly as possible. Some ideas include setting an hour aside before going to bed to develop some steps that de-stress you and get you prepped for a good night's sleep (which is also a factor in relieving inflammation).
The body's natural healing processes are encouraged when oxygenated blood is circulating the body at a healthy level, pushing nutrients through to where they need to be used. There are several ways to encourage this, the main two being regular exercise and electrical muscle stimulation. During exercise, the heart pumps large amounts of oxygenated blood through your circulatory system- actively working towards lowering inflammation in the long run.
Electrical muscle stimulation units (TENS or EMS) work a bit differently but ultimately have some of the same effects. These units have electrode pads that are placed on areas of low circulation (typically these are areas with light to severe pain). By sending out small painless electrical waves, these units encourage the body to send more blood to the area of inflammation. These units also promote the production of serotonin, which is one of the body's natural pain killers and anti-inflammatory chemicals.
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