Inflammation: The (Often Hidden) Causes
In the previous article in this series, I touched briefly on what causes inflammation. As the body’s first line of defense, it triggers a reaction that causes a cascade of symptoms. There are many reasons why this once-beneficial defense mechanism can turn harmful. Overly toxic lifestyles packed with stress, processed food, and negative thought-patterns start a cycle of inflammation that can be difficult to break. Luckily, by identifying its causes, inflammation can be an ally once again.
Many foods can trigger an inflammatory response. Common allergens like gluten and casein (a protein found in milk) are present in every aisle at the grocery store. Processed foods are often loaded with trans-fats, which contribute to high cholesterol and inflammation in the arteries. Consuming sugary sodas and snacks causes your body to produce cytokines, an inflammatory messenger. With so many foods setting off this response, it can be difficult to know what is safe to eat!
Eat These Foods Instead
- Lots of fresh vegetables
- Grass fed meats, ocean caught seafood
- Herbs and spices (many have anti-inflammatory properties, including turmeric, ginger, and garlic)
- Omega-3 rich nuts, seeds, and avocado
- Dark chocolate in moderation (be sure to watch for added fats and sugars)
Do you remember when you had that sore throat as a teenager that seemed to last forever? Or the time you were bitten by a tick and didn’t notice anything from it? Have you ever caught a flu and never felt quite the same since then? Hidden infections can become chronic in your body and also lead to inflammation. In Chinese medicine, treating infection properly means taking care of your immune system properly. This is so important that there is a huge 3000-year old text book about febrile illness. Some of the guidance in that book is just being proven scientifically in our present times. Many modern autoimmune diseases have an infection as the underlying cause of the problem. If you have suspected auto-immune disease, finding a doctor who will help you get to the root cause is the first step to better health.
Have you ever suffered from a pounding headache that seemed to disappear once you changed location or opened a window? Environmental toxins in the form of air fresheners, chemicals used for cleaning, poor air quality, and even scented candles can trigger an inflammatory response. Do your best to rid your home of any scented products that seem to set off an allergic response: this is a sure sign of inflammation. Indulge in fresh air daily by going for a walk in as natural a setting as possible. Try to take outdoor breaks during your work day, especially if you work in a space without windows. By limiting your exposure to toxins and increasing nourishment through fresh air, you can help decrease inflammation and increase immunity.
Stress and negative self-talk produce adrenaline and cortisol, which trigger the fight-or-flight response. When we experience these on a weekly, daily, or hourly basis, our bodies exist in a state of panic. Our inflammatory system is geared up to fight the source of our problems. Since these problems exist externally, these hormones have nowhere to go. Instead, chronic inflammation sets in, causing allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, chronic pain, and a host of other modern ailments.
Change Your Thought Patterns
The best way to combat these effects of negative thinking is to take charge of your thought patterns today! Start paying attention to any negative self-talk and stop it in its tracks. When you feel overwhelmed with stress or worry, take five deep breaths. Something as small as a five-minute break can change the entire course of your day.
Connect with Something Greater
If you find that you are still struggling, find ways to get outside, mentally and physically. Take a walk outside and admire the world around you. Spend time connecting with friends and family who bring out the best in you. If you notice negativity creeping into your conversation, steer it in a different direction. Revisit your spiritual self, whether this means attending church, connecting with a deity, or spending time in meditation. Consider donating your time to volunteer efforts that are meaningful to you. By contributing to the world and taking steps toward making it a better place, you’ll feel better about yourself and also improve your surrounding at the same time!
There are many causes of inflammation in our modern world. By living a life that minimizes these causes, embraces positivity and indulges in healthful habits, you set yourself up for much greater health overall. In the next article, we will examine different treatments for inflammation and will help you determine which is best for you.