Our bodies are complex machines capable of incredible things. But something that they were never designed for is to contend with the daily exposure of toxins and stress which we’re exposed to in our daily lives. Our lifestyles tend to place us in precarious positions where we are exposed to so much and make choices which expose us to more. A direct relationship between diet and lifestyle exists, and an even greater relationship between chronic inflammation and disease. Everything to which we expose ourselves – that which we eat, drink, breathe, and think – influences our physical selves; it’s either anti-inflammatory or inflammatory. When our bodies are inflamed the physiological response is defensive and confused. Our immune systems turn against themselves and begin destroying healthy cells, tissue, and the list goes on.
Chronic inflammation is the direct result of an overwhelmed immune system. Inflammation has a devastating effect on the body over time. It wears down the immune system leading to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, COPD, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, arthritis, and again: the list goes on. While we cannot shut off the inflammatory response from our bodies – which exists for a reason – we can counter the effects of an immune system run-riot.
Who is responsible for this?!
There are myriad causes and triggers of chronic inflammation. Though we’re not helpless in this battle, we do need to take ownership of the control to combat them.
First, we need to crowd out inflammatory foods by adding foods which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Plant-based whole foods have such an effect by providing our bodies with much needed vitamins, minerals, cancer-countering phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber which are all essential in fighting inflammation. These high-quality foods can all crowd out refined sugars, vegetable oils, trans fats, and refined grains which all have a devastating effect on our immune systems and promote inflammation.
Second, we must listen to our gut. Our gut contains nearly 70% of our immune system, and it’s the first step in fighting inflammation. Probiotics are an excellent way to promote a healthy gut through the proliferation of good flora and bacteria.
Lastly, as we age foods which never bothered us before may suddenly become problematic. Dairy products and wheat may begin to trigger indigestion and discomfort that immediately put our immune systems on the defense … leading to greater inflammation. Commons allergens such as casein and gluten (dairy and wheat proteins) are easy ways to start an inflammatory process which can cascade into much more severe consequences.
Quit with the food – what else can I do?
Good rest and recovery, to start. Our bodies are constantly at work repairing cellular damage and restoring cellular function. If we’re exhausted our immune system is the first to suffer, and it responds in the easiest way: inflammation. Ready for more?
We must examine the physiological stresses we expose ourselves to. One might say that we cannot change the demands in our lives, and in many cases that would be true. But we can change our reactions to them, and we can change how we manage them. Stress exacts a steady toll on our immune systems, our adrenal glands, and our nervous systems. Emotional baggage which we carry, negative thoughts we harbor, and unprocessed emotion are as physiologically harmful as physical stress, but we often overlook these influences. Good self-care is crucial to reduce and manage stress more effectively. Sleep more. Engage in exercise, meditation, yoga, walk the dog more, and spend less time on the devices. Even a much-needed short vacation can be the trick to saving you.
We must endeavor to reduce the toxic influences in our food, personal care products, and in our lives. By cutting down the exposure to these contaminants through better food choices whenever possible, making better choices about what we use on our bodies, and what we use to clean our environments we can drastically support our immune systems by making them work less and with greater resources.