When you hear the word inflammation, you probably think of the pain, swelling, redness, and heat that we are all familiar with in relation to inflammation. For example, when you twist an ankle, get a cut or a bruise, have an allergic reaction, or even when you get DOMS from a grueling workout.
These things all require inflammation to heal because inflammation is the body’s way of letting it know something needs a little TLC and attention. It is essentially our body’s immune systems response to stimulus, whether it be bacteria colonizing or a wound or splinter on your skin, and it happens when the immune system fights against something that has the potential to cause us harm.
So inflammation is a good thing, right? Right! But as with everything, it is only good in the right amount. Having chronic, uncontrolled, low-grade inflammation is a large component, and often the underlying factor, for most common diseases. Inflammation becomes chronic when it stops being acute and remains to be a constant physiological response. It is when your body no longer has the ability to turn off the inflammatory response and it starts damaging healthy tissue in your body.
It could damage the intestinal lining in your gut and cause digestive problems, it could damage the arteries in your heart and cause heart disease, or it could damage your joints and cause rheumatoid arthritis. So not only is chronic inflammation a catalyst for many health implications such as these, it also may be the very reason why you cannot drop those dress sizes you’re working so hard to do.
So what causes chronic inflammation? Well quite often, and put bluntly – you do. Poor habits like eating an unhealthy diet high in inflammatory foods (think refined grains, processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, wheat, alcohol, and highly processed foods such as low-quality cereals, chips, and snacks – to name a few), together with not exercising enough, can contribute to chronic inflammation.
Leading a pro-inflammatory lifestyle, and eating a pro-inflammatory diet means we switch the inflammation switch to the ‘ON’ position. This can lead us to become insulin resistant, and resistant to leptin (a hormone that helps with satiety – the feeling of being full from food). The relationship between insulin resistance and obesity is a strong one that has been proven many times in countless studies over the years.
Because chronic inflammation isn’t as obvious as a swollen ankle, some key symptoms that can indicate chronic inflammation are as follows:
- Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (like the joints or muscles)
- Allergies or asthma (especially when they keep getting worse)
- High blood pressure or blood sugar problems
- Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea)
- Constant fatigue or lethargy
- Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes
So how do you ensure your inflammation is low, and your fat loss efforts aren’t wasted? You can start by implementing the following steps:
Eat Antioxidants and polyphenols
This helps cut down inflammation by reducing ‘free-radical damage”. The body generates free radicals when it’s in a state of stress. The immune system becomes overwhelmed by free radicals, cells are harmed, and inflammation gets worse. Antioxidants and polyphenols are found in green tea, broccoli, kale, collards, turnips, and berries.
Avoiding inflammatory foods
It’s not enough just to eat anti-inflammatory foods; you also need to eliminate inflammatory foods. As mentioned above, these include refined grains, processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, wheat, gluten, alcohol, and highly processed foods such as low-quality cereals, chips, and snacks, and in some of us, dairy.
Consume essential fats
Getting a good ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is important for helping reduce inflammation. Most of us consume too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, so the key is to get this back in balance. Omega-6 heavy foods, like seeds, nuts, and their oils, as well as refined vegetable oils which are used in many snack foods like crackers, biscuits, etc, tend to stir up inflammation, while foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, flax, and chia seeds, avocado and walnuts dampen it.
Spices such as turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ginger have all been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory properties. Use them on your food and in your meals as often as you desire.
Certain types of exercise release anti-inflammatory proteins from the cells to the rest of the body – however, only in a moderate amount. Overdoing it with the exercise has the opposite effect and can become inflammatory, so sign up with a coach you trust to ensure they don’t have you over-training, under-recovering, and ramping up your inflammation.
Stress & sleep
Lack of sleep makes the body more susceptible to infection, and stress increases cortisol, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Ensure you make sleep quantity and quality a priority together with implementing some stress management techniques into your lifestyle – think walking, stretching, yoga and meditation.
Working on creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle is not only imperative to good health, but it’s also important to ensure all your hard work in the gym pays off. You could be following the perfect training program, but your results won’t show if your lifestyle and nutrition outside of the gym aren’t conducive to your goal and your training.
Contact OBF Gyms for a complimentary assessment to get started with one of our trainers today!