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Chronic Inflammation and Disease.

When making lasting change to our health, it pays to be realistic. We all have vices, and when certain comfort foods and behaviours have been with us since childhood it’s not always easy to let them go. In stressful moments we tend not to crave wholefoods (our ‘everyday’ foods), but rather the high sugar, high fat and high caffeine foods that really should be a ‘sometimes food’. Unfortunately, these ‘comfort foods’ also tend to be ‘inflammatory foods’.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation can either be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation actually enhances the body’s healing potential. Chronic inflammation, however, offers no benefit to the body. It hinders healing and causes further damage.

It’s most easy to recognise the signs and symptoms of inflammation when they’re on the surface of our bodies; things like localised redness, swelling, heat and soreness in response to a cut, abrasion, pimple or injury. But it’s trickier to recognise inflammation when it’s happening inside of us.

What happens when chronic inflammation is left unchecked?

Research reveals that chronic internal inflammation is behind many of our modern-day illnesses, such as:

  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cardiovascular disease (including stroke)
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Musculoskeletal problems (arthritis)
  • Atopic conditions (asthma, eczema, allergies)
  • Digestive complaints (IBS)
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

Which foods exacerbate inflammation?

Common reactions to inflammatory foods include: bloating, low energy, nausea, bowel and mood changes. Cramping can also occur up to three days after ingestion of a particular food. (Diet diaries are brilliant for keeping check on what foods provoke an inflammatory reaction.) The main offenders:

  • Refined sugar, carbohydrates and fats
  • Caffeine: coffee, black tea, energy drinks, coca cola
  • Alcohol
  • Wheat and gluten rich foods
  • Dairy products
  • High intake of animal protein especially red meat
  • Peanuts
  • Rancid nuts and oils

Which foods have anti-inflammatory properties?

In terms of specific diets or cuisines, think Mediterranean, Asian or SLOW (seasonal, local, organic & whole) food. These food plans include:

  • Herbs: turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cumin, onions
  • Enzyme rich fruit: pineapple, papaya, kiwi
  • Oily fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines
  • Green tea
  • Organic raw honey
  • Pre & probiotic foods: fermented vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, miso, yoghurt
  • Colourful variety of organic vegetables
  • Berries: blueberries, raspberries
  • Medicinal mushrooms
  • Raw cacao

Which behaviours exacerbate inflammation?

The following behaviours cause our nervous system to over or under-produce stress hormones, which eventually activates an inflammatory response:

  • Overeating
  • Unmanaged stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Over exercising
  • Poor sleep quantity and quality
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Excessive emotions: anger, anxiety, over-excitement

Anti-inflammatory behaviours to embrace

These behaviours calm the nervous system, thereby reducing stress and inflammation:

  • Balance of exercise/activity and relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Practicing yoga
  • Breathing deeply
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Smiling!

Which environmental factors contribute to inflammation?

We can’t all live in a bubble, but aim to minimise exposure to the following:

  • Pollution
  • Pesticides
  • Plastics and packaging
  • Commercial cosmetics and perfumes
  • Cleaning and household chemicals
  • Over or under exposure to the sun

How do I make the necessary changes?

The key to lasting change lies on those hundreds of small decisions we make every day. Next time you’re about to do something that you know isn’t good for you, pause and ask yourself: ‘What do I really need right now?’ The answer may surprise you! You may find yourself answering ‘I really need a hug’, or ‘I just need to chill out for ten minutes’. Don’t waste energy feeling guilty about what you need. There can be many ups and downs as we make changes in our lives – even positive ones. We need to show ourselves loving kindness until we settle into a new way of being.

My best advice? Focus on what you can eat and do, instead of what you can’t. The results are worth your efforts!

Don’t struggle alone. Call Belinda 0400 225 771 today to book a naturopathic consultation or secure your place in one of her 10 week gentle yoga/mindfulness programs.

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