Inflammation is becoming an increasingly common health issue for many people. It’s also making a big buzz among the health and nutrition community. Inflammation is an important function of your immune system—the swelling that occurs from inflammation is a natural phenomenon that helps fight off injury and infection. However, when the immune system reacts in this way when there is nothing to heal, it can actually cause injury to healthy organs, joints, and arteries. This response can occur for many reasons ranging from poor diet and exercise to vitamin deficiencies or food sensitivities.
Typically in its early stages, chronic inflammation shows up as mild and vague symptoms. You may find yourself suffering from more frequent headaches, fatigue, or sore joints. These symptoms are common for other illnesses as well, so it can be hard to differentiate what the source of your symptoms are. However, over time, inflammation can contribute to several other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other debilitating health conditions. The best way to help your body fight off these illnesses in the future is to do your best to take care of your it now.The choices we make every day affect our bodies in ways we can’t see on the surface. We may be consuming foods or drinks that are making our bodies primed for future chronic illness (we’re talking about you, processed foods). One of the best ways to help ourselves along our health journey is to focus on limiting and reducing inflammation as much as possible. This post will help you evaluate your lifestyle and diet and look for ways that can improve inflammation in your own body.
Swap #1: Remove Gluten
One of the most common inflammation culprits is gluten. Due to the way that wheat is processed in modern times, the human body doesn’t digest gluten as well anymore. Modern wheat products can cause inflammation big time, and cutting this out has huge potential to improve your health. Here are my favorite swaps:
- Swap traditional sandwich bread for Sourdough bread.
- Swap flour tortillas for Siete Almond Flour Tortillas
- Swap regular flour for Arrowhead Mills Organic Oat Flour
- Swap plain pancake mix for Simple Mills Organic Pancake Mix
- Swap Frosted Flakes for Nature’s Path Honey’d Corn Flakes
If you think you might have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, ask your doctor to test you for Celiac Disease. It’s also worth noting that even if you don’t get a positive result for Celiac Disease, your body can still have sensitivities to a variety of different strains of wheat. One way to see how wheat/gluten impacts your body is by taking a Wheat Zoomer test. If you’re hesitant about cutting out gluten, this test is a great way to see just how much it might impact your body.
Swap #2: Remove Dairy
Dairy can cause major inflammation if you have an unknown dairy allergy. Different body functions can be disrupted when dairy is a a part of your diet, and inflammation can be caused by immune responses. Try these swaps to cut dairy out of your diet:
- Swap dairy butter for Miyokos Cultured Vegan Butter
- Swap sour cream for Kite Hill Sour Cream
- Swap cream cheese for Kite Hill Cream Cheese
- Swap mozzarella cheese for Miyokos Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella
- Swap greek yogurt for So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative
- Swap vanilla ice cream for So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Swap #3: Increase Omega-3, Decrease Omega-6
Research has found that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids leads to reduced disease activity in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. However, high amounts of Omega-6’s can actually inhibit this healthy benefit of Omega-3! Try these swaps to increase your Omega-3 intake without any of those pesky Omega-6’s:
- Swap vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil
- Swap traditional whole milk for Horizon Organic Grass-fed milk, or a non-dairy almond milk
- Swap margarin spreads for ghee or grass-fed butter
- Swap traditionally raised beef for Teton 100% Grass Fed Beef
- Swap battered fish fillets for Trader Joe’s Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon
Swap #4: Less Sugar, More Fiber
Excessive amounts of sugar can cause an array of health problems, and one is increased inflammation. Reducing sugar can reduce inflammation markers in your blood. Fiber is also a huge contributor to blood sugar. Fiber is essential for your body to be able to process sugars properly and keep them from lingering in your blood stream. Here are some swaps to both decrease your sugar and increase your fiber:
- Swap traditional soda for Olipop Soda
- Swap jelly on white toast for avocado toast made with Dave’s Bread Thin-Sliced 21 Whole Grains
- Swap Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal for Bob’s Red Mill Organic Oats (top with berries, apples, or ground cinnamon for a little bit of sweetness!)
- Swap bagged kettle corn for homemade popcorn (try an air popper to make it ultra easy and add garlic powder and rosemary for a savory treat)
- Swap traditional vanilla pudding for organic chia seed pudding
Swap #5: Lifestyle
Since diet isn’t the only contributor to inflammation, it’s important to look at all aspects of our life and find small changes we can make that will eventually make a big impact. We know that stress, lack of exercise, and poor sleep are all huge contributors to inflammatory responses from our immune system. These problems are cause by a variety of choices we make throughout the day, so I have a few tricks for you to improve your health by making little tweaks:
- Constant stress
- Stress takes a huge toll on our mental and physical health. If you’re suffering from stress it’s important to try and make time for yourself. Try deep breathing exercises, physical activities, laughing more (the perfect excuse to turn on your favorite sitcom), and meditation.
- Another way to help manage stress is by turning to herbal supplements. My Organic Ashwagandha supplement can help support your body during tough times. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that can help boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Poor sleep
- Getting consistent sleep is easier said than done, but it’s absolutely crucial to our wellbeing. A consistent bedtime, calming herbal teas, magnesium, and decreased blue light at nighttime can all help you improve your sleep health—and lower inflammation!
- If you’re having a hard time prioritizing sleep, falling asleep, or staying asleep, here’s a full guide to help you get back on track.
- Constant stress
- Sedentary habits
- If you struggle with getting enough movement, getting a smart watch to track your steps is a great place to start. Start with a feasible goal of 2,000 steps a day and add 100 a day. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel just from adding walks to your daily routine.
- Try to spend time outdoors in the sunshine with friends. Going on hikes is a great way to get exercise and sunshine (as well as build relationships).
Questions for You and Your Doctor Regarding Inflammation
It’s so important for you to keep your doctor in the loop with big changes you make in your diet or lifestyle, especially if you take any medications or if you have any medical conditions. Here’s a handy list of questions you can go over with your doctor. These will help you analyze your lifestyle and diet choices to determine if you need additional testing or information about how inflammation may be affecting your body.
- Do my joints always hurt or ache?
- Should I get my cholesterol tested since high levels of LDL can lead to inflammatory responses?
- Do I get exercise every day since it can help manage and protect against chronic inflammation?
- What is my diet like? Do I eat a lot of sugary foods? Do I get enough anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, leafy greens, turmeric, red grapes, etc.?
- Should I get tested for chronic inflammation via a blood test measuring C-reactive protein (CRP)?
- Do I experience brain-fog and/or headaches regularly?
- Should I be taking a high-quality magnesium supplement since low magnesium status is associated with increased inflammatory and oxidative stress?
- Should I get tested for unknown food allergies since gluten and dairy can be very inflammatory?
- Do I eat too many foods with processed and inflammatory oils in them?
- Would meditation, yoga, and/or adaptogenic herbs help me reduce the stress in my life?
It may seem intimidating to make changes to your lifestyle, but remember that you are in control of what goes into your body. When you realize that, it can be easier to make choices that will nourish your body rather than aggravate it. Remember, it’s okay to start small! One healthy choice can be the domino that triggers a much healthier lifestyle. Choose one thing to change up and add on from there.