Lifestyle Implementation Against Inflammation
A properly functioning immune system is the body’s greatest defense – a well oiled-machine. This system is made up of cells that, when working synergistically, fight off any infection or disease process set out to harm it. However, for many, this system is dysregulated, therefore making their body more susceptible for attack.
Part of this attack is inflammation, your body’s natural way of protecting itself. Inflammation can be thought of as a fire. When controlled, a fire keeps us feeling warm and protected. When uncontrolled, it can cause destructive damage. When on-going, it can keep the body’s tissues from repairing itself and start to destroy organs and vessels.
However, what if I told you that lifestyle does matter; that lifestyle choices of diet and exercise can help reduce the severity of these attacks, and potentially slow progression of diseases? This is exactly what I tell my patients. It is so important for them to know that their choices can contribute to healing. I lay it out for them in 3 categories: diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle, and that's exactly how I’m going to navigate this journey for you.
Eating to reduce inflammation is not a one-size fits all. One of the most-researched ways of eating is following the Mediterranean diet. This diet includes incorporation of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, nuts, and olive oil with moderate consumption of eggs, fish, and white meats. Rather than individually, it is a combination of these foods that will produce favorable effects in the body. Some key aspects include:
High omega-3-fatty acid consumption: tuna, salmon, sardines, fish oil supplementation (approximately 3-5g)
Low omega-6-fatty acid consumption: crackers, chips, seed oils
High fruit and vegetable intake; at least 4.5 cup serving per day
High fiber consumption, 32g/day: whole grains and legumes
Simple carbohydrate consumption that is easy to digest, avoid refined carbs: white flour, white rice, and white bread
Now that you’re on the road to eating right, it's time to move right. Movement is another key aspect in the well-being of your body. So many of my patients use their arthritis diagnosis as a reason not to exercise. Well, drum roll please….it has been shown that people who exercise regularly have lower levels of inflammation in the body. In fact, I tell them, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Exercise strengthens the muscles around joints, helps control weight, and improve balance among other reasons. A goal minimum of 30 minutes/5 days per week or 150 minutes per week of low-impact moderate intensity exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming, and bicycling, can help. You may report soreness after exercising, however, I encourage you to ease into movements during activity, utilize ice, and evaluate how long you are sore for. If it persists for more than 2 hours after exercising, then they may be too vigorous. If you still need extra support, I urge you to check with your local health clubs, hospitals, and doctors offices about exercise programs tailored for arthritis.
Tying it all up, managing stress and sleep will keep your body in a state of peace. Imagine if you were totally stress free, what a wonderful way to live. However, we all know it’s not realistic, so how about controlling it as best as possible? Well good news, both diet and exercise have contributed to stress management. Some other options include breathing exercises, carving out time for a hobby, finding a support group, reading a book, and getting enough sleep. Concerning the latter, sleep is one of the most important things to keep the mind and body healthy. Sleep aids in the body’s ability to heal, repair, and grow tissue, as well as manage hormone levels. Aim for about 7-9 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep.
So each of these pieces will help aid your body in putting out the ongoing fire that is inflammation. You don’t need to do it all at once, but incorporate it at a pace that will serve you well long term. Your body is a temple, so be patient with the process, but know that working hard to maintain these lifestyle changes will be a blessing to your body.
Casas, R., Sacanella, E., & Estruch, R. (2016). The Immune Protective Effect of the Mediterranean Diet against Chronic Low-grade Inflammatory Diseases. Bentham Open Access. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871530314666140922153350
Diet review: Anti-inflammatory Diet. The Nutrition Source. (2021, October 22). Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/anti-inflammatory-diet/
Houghton, T. “S. (2021, July 22). Autoimmunity and Diet: Is there a connection? Center for Nutrition Studies. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://nutritionstudies.org/autoimmunity-and-diet-is-there-a-connection/
Manzel, A., Muller, D. N., Hafler, D. A., Erdman, S. E., Linker, R. A., & Kleinewietfeld, M. (2013). Role of “western diet” in inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-013-0404-6