Is inflammation just a buzz word — or..? — Klara Mudge
Is inflammation just a buzz word — or is it actually something to pay attention to? — written by Klara Mudge, of Both Sides Buttered
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or insult. It’s the swelling, heat and redness that happens immediately after you’ve hurt yourself, like when you stub your toe or burn your hand. The main goal of Inflammation is to keep harmful molecules out of your body when there’s been a threat or “unexpected incident”. White blood cells and other immune components rush to the site of the accident like a group of paramedics and restore order quickly, then leave again (the swelling and redness goes away after a while). Thank you, Immune System.
This inflammatory response sometimes occurs inside your body as well, in response to an internal ‘injury or irritation’. Here the same thing happens - redness, swelling and tenderness at the site of irritation- this time internally in places like our joints, skin, gastrointestinal tract (gut issues anyone?), or virtually anywhere in any internal organ that’s aggravated by one of several triggers, for whatever reason.
Acute inflammation is great and important, but chronic inflammation that persists without the normal regulatory control, can become destructive to our tissues and cause harm.
Joint pain, brain fog, mood disorders, eczema, acne, break-outs, and several other complex health conditions have inflammation as their common denominator and mediator.
When I work with clients individually or in groups, one of the very first things we do to get them feeling generally better overall, is to lower inflammation as a whole . To calm the immune system and get some regulatory control back. And by now, after much trial and error, I’ve found ways of doing this that are actually delicious and enjoyable, and obviously, easily maintainable.
one — UP THE PLANTS
Fruits, Vegetables, greens or any organically-grown edible plants are the ultimate super-healers. They contain an impressive and broad spectrum of synergistic nutrients and phytochemicals all in just the right quantities and ratios, for your body’s cells to recognize and use them to repair, reproduce and renew. Nature knows best, all we have to do most of the time is just get out of its way.
If you make plants the basis of all your meals, you’ll soon be feeling calmer and clearer overall - both in body and mind.
two — INCREASE GOOD FATS
Omega-3 and -6 fats work together in a remarkable way to lower inflammation and keep all our cells functioning properly. The key word here is "essential"—meaning we’re not good at making these fatty acids ourselves, we need to obtain them from our food...except we usually don’t. When was the last time you ate walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, wild sardines, mackerel, mungo beans, and hemp oil all in one day? I know, me neither. Let’s be better ; )
three — LOVE YOUR GUT
Your immune system lives mostly along the lining of your gut, so if you want a strong immune system, one way to get it is to take really good care of your gut. Your gut is not a fan of processed foods and other ‘less-natural’ molecules, most commonly gluten-containing wheat products and casein-containing dairy products. Shortly behind gluten and dairy as the top gut- irritants are soy, sugar, alcohol, artificial additives / preservatives and often also peanuts and eggs (for some).
Steer clear of these for a while (or longer) if your body is feeling particularly inflamed, and see how you feel after around 3 weeks of being off. Other ways to support gut health is to make sure you’re chewing your food properly or to take some digestive bitters (or apple cider vinegar) with your meals to support digestion. Also include some fermented foods into your daily diet ( kimchi, kombucha, sauer kraut, miso, etc ).
Note: if you notice that these foods cause an increase in bloating, gas or constipation, please seek professional medical advice. While they are an excellent source of healthy bacteria, eating them can worsen conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
four — INCORPORATE SOME ANTI-INFLAMMATORY “SUPER-FOODS”
Technically all natural, organic, unprocessed foods are both ‘anti-inflammatory’ and ‘super’ ( sorry Superfood industry ) but there are a few foods that have been proven to have potent inflammation-lowering properties. Turmeric is the most famous ( Golden Milk Lates FTW ). Red grapes and Green Tea are way up there as well. Berries (especially açai- and blueberries) are all-stars too. Add turmeric to stir fries, salad dressings, curries, soups, tea, lattes. Get fresh ginger in on the regular by adding it to hot water every morning, or in smoothies, tea, and everything else. Eat fresh berries as snacks, on oats, and in smoothies. Replace your afternoon coffee with a cup of green tea with mint. Also, omegas. (See point #2.)
five — THE BEST FOR LAST, MANAGE YOUR STRESS WITH MINDFULNESS AND RELAXTION EXERCISES
Your brain (particularly your HPA axis) is the Master Control Centre for all the important processes in your body - digestion, detoxification, metabolism, inflammation control, reproduction, repair, you name it.
If your mind is occupied with worry and flooded in stress hormones - if it thinks it’s in danger constantly, - it goes into panic mode and eventually becomes less efficient, less in control of overall processes.
When we are stressed and in danger, digestion is not a priority, reproduction is not a priority, calming the immune system is not a priority, only immediate survival is, which is obviously not a sustainable state to be in at all times.
Researchers recently successfully showed, for the first time, that mindfulness meditation not only lowers the stress hormone cortisol, but can also decrease inflammatory markers ( inflammatory proteins IL-6 and TNF-α, which usually ramp up when the body is fighting illness).
Thankfully, the world (and the internet) is coming on board with mindfulness in a big way! My favorite meditation apps are Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm. Yoga and Thai Chi are other sure-fire ways to lower stress hormones and increase happy hormones. Stress-reduction, as with most things, is personal and it’s important to find out which activities / environments / rituals ground you.
Write to me if you need any help or encouragement. I’m looking forward to hearing how you get on.
"With a degree in personalized nutrition, a certificate in NLP coaching and a deep love of good food, Klara is steadily healing the manic modern world one overworked urbanite at a time. She is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist and the curator of Both Sides Buttered, an accessible, digestible health blog with an accessible, less-cheesy approach (all puns intended). Born and raised in the Namib desert of Southern Africa, Klara has lived in Cape Town, London, Luxembourg and New York, working at Parsley Health alongside Functional Medicine MD Robin Berzin. Klara helps people from all over the world, and writes for a number of leading wellness sites. Get her guidance on Both Sides Buttered.