What Is Inflammation And How Can I Reduce It?
Inflammation happens in all of us, whether we’re aware of it or not. It is the immune system’s natural response to injury and illness, playing a critical role in the healing process.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute is more thought of as the “good” kind of inflammation as it assists in the healing process, usually disappearing after a couple of weeks or less.
Chronic inflammation is more associated with chronic disease and illness, and is not so beneficial for our health, typically lasting longer than six weeks. It can occur even when there’s no injury and doesn’t always end when the illness or injury has healed. In fact, chronic inflammation has been linked to several health conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more.
How Exercise Affects Inflammation
Intense training and exercises such as weight lifting that cause the muscles to repeatedly contract and relax create tiny tears in the muscle fibres, damaging the muscle cells. Inflammation occurs when the body increases blood flow to the affected area to replenish oxygen, and the immune system goes looking around to clear out any debris and harmful waste products from the muscle cells.
This is known as acute inflammation, and with a little care and proper recovery this short term form of inflammation can be resolved, muscles repaired stronger than they were before, and any soreness subsided, leaving you ready to return to training.
If you neglect the recovery process and return to training too soon, you could potentially breakdown the muscle fibres and connective tissues, causing damage to the muscle, inflammation, delayed onset muscle soreness and general fatigue.
When it comes to more chronic forms of inflammation, exercise can be used as a powerful tool to help improve certain lifestyle factors that can cause it.
Regular exercise helps to reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce the risk of heart disease, all of which have been linked to chronic inflammation. Exercise also increases production of a molecule called Interleukin 6, which is know to improve the body’s anti inflammatory response.
Other benefits include increasing the vagal tone – activating the parasympathetic nervous system which helps your body to relax faster after stress and potentially leading to reductions in chronic inflammation.
So whilst exercise might cause localised inflammation in the moments following intensive activity, as a long term solution it can be beneficial to lowering your body’s level of chronic inflammation and improving the overall state of your health.
How Diet Affects Inflammation
As has been said before; you are what you eat. The food choices you make have an impact on your body composition, your energy levels and the levels of inflammation in your body.
Certain lifestyle factors, and more specifically the way that we eat can promote inflammation, affecting the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in your blood. Some foods like processed sugars cause the release of inflammatory messengers that can raise the risk of chronic inflammation. Other foods like fruits and vegetables help your body to fight against oxidative stress, reducing inflammation.
The good news is that eating in a way which reduces inflammation is reasonably simple once you’ve become aware of what to include and what to avoid.
Here is some simple guidance on anti-inflammatory eating:
- Eat more plants. Whole plant foods have the anti-inflammatory nutrients that your body needs. So eating a rainbow of fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes is the best place to start.
- Focus on antioxidants. They help prevent, delay or repair some types of cell and tissue damage. They're found in colourful fruits and veggies like berries, leafy greens, beets and avocados, as well as beans and lentils, whole grains, ginger, turmeric and green tea.
- Get your Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in regulating your body's inflammatory process and could help regulate pain related to inflammation. Find these healthy fats in fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, as well as smaller amounts in walnuts, pecans, ground flaxseed and sunflower seeds.
- Cut the processed stuff. Sugary cereals and drinks, deep-fried food, and pastries are all pro-inflammatory offenders. They can contain plenty of unhealthy fats that are linked to inflammation.
At SwoleFoods we have created a selection of meals using powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients to help you eat clean and heal your body at the same time.
By incorporating foods like turmeric, sunflower seeds, ginger, whole grains, legumes and colourful vegetables in to our meals we help to make anti-inflammatory eating part of your every day diet.