Inflammation: why it is not all the same
You have probably heard the word inflammation associated with acute injuries but that is only part of the story. You are right in thinking that acute inflammation is one of the ways that the body is engaging in active healing. That’s when inflammation acts as a signal to promote a cascade of events that eventually enable healing.
However, chronic inflammation is a hidden condition that is often overlooked when certain diseases and treatments are concerned.
What the research says
In the last few years, research has connected chronic inflammation with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.
Chronic inflammation has been also associated with asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases. Research is still ongoing, but changing your diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation is a great investment in your health.
Brains health and inflammation
Here’s how you have to look at it. When we’re healthy, there is a well-established balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds that work at maintaining our state of health. However, when inflammation does not recede, there could be a higher risk of chronic diseases, as well as mood disorders.
Most of us tend to separate the brain from the rest of the body when it comes to …well, bodily issues. But everything is connected in our bodies. When our lifestyle promotes a low level of chronic inflammation, the brain will experience that as well.
Chronic inflammation is multifaceted in both causes and symptoms
Chronic inflammation could be caused by many factors: nutritional imbalances due to poor nutrition, stress, environmental toxins, and lack of exercise. The gut is intricately connected to the brain and we are seeing the results of this kind of research more and more these days. Our microbiota which we get to influence with our chosen diet, stress level, and amount of physical exercise, influences the brain and in general our health, in a more profound way than previously thought.
Where to start
We hope you’re curious about improving your health by tweaking your lifestyle. That can help reduce and/or prevent chronic inflammation, so here’s where you could start as early as today:
Reduce refined sugar products and in general the amount of processed food in your diet. Aside from raising your blood sugar levels, most processed foods have a reduced amount of fibre, if any. Plus, they are often loaded with salt too, and contain preservatives.
Reduce the amount of dairy and meat products. They come with more saturated fats than you need and that can present a risk to your body (and yes, brain too). Eat them sparingly unless you ditch them altogether and opt to be fully plant-based. Word of caution: do not switch your diet overnight. Go slow and steady, assessing your body’s response to various plant combinations you are trying. It’s not just you giving the thumbs up but the millions of bacteria that you are hosting in your gut.
Move – Whatever it is you choose to do, and no matter what your start point is. As long as you don’t get injured that is. Save some time every day for physical activity. When you choose to spend even as little as 30 minutes in nature every day you can drastically improve your mood and motivation to keep being active. Your very own positive reinforcing loop.
Sleep – If you have ever found yourself saying ‘OK, starting tomorrow I will fix my sleep…’ please try to keep your promise. Getting enough sleep (most people need at least 7 hours) means your brain has a chance to dis itself of toxic metabolic buildup. One example: the amyloid beta proteins, which are found in plaques in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Create a nice restful oasis in your bedroom without any screens and give yourself the gift of therapeutic nightly rest.
Stress management – A lot has been written on the topic and yet we’re still not doing it right. A little stress keeps us going but long-term stress is damaging to our health. Stress increases the number of free radicals which can wreak havoc in our bodies, and it also reduces our motivation to eat healthy and exercise. Wondering about a simple stress buster? Try proper breathing. You may have come across it accidentally. When you’re stressed, you breathe in deeply a few times and you feel incrementally better. there you go! That’s because you are taking your foot off the accelerator for a bit and allowing the brain to slow down, which causes the body to relax.