Lucky me. I have a handy little signal to let me know when too much stress has triggered inflammation in my body. The challenge was that I didn’t know how to fight inflammation naturally.
My inflammation signal is psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system over-responds to inflammation. Basically, your immune system thinks your skin is under attack because of active inflammation and tries to repair it by creating excess skin cells; eventually leading to red, scaly patches.
When I’m overly stressed and not taking proper steps to fortify my body against that stress, my psoriasis flares-up. Heck, I see the signs within a day of not taking proper care of my reaction to stressors.
The Signs of Inflammation
How can you know if you have inflammation? Well, that’s not such an easy answer. (wow, finally a perk to having psoriasis!) For some, inflammation can show up as pain, redness, immobility, swelling, or heat spots. For others, you see it with fatigue, mouth sores, abdominal pain, rashes, or joint pain.
Yet, you can pretty much bet you have some level of inflammation if you’re suffering from ongoing stress, have indulged in a high sugar & junk food binge, haven’t exercised regularly, or have midsection/adipose fat. Heck… there are times in life where many of us could pretty much check off all of the above risk factors for inflammation. Right?
But if you have inflammation, how do you fight inflammation naturally?
What Causes Inflammation?
You’re almost always going to have some form of inflammation within your body. It is a key defense mechanism that helps trigger your valuable healing process to threats. However, stress can initiate this defense mechanism via the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
These small proteins are secreted during the initial stress response and continue throughout chronic stress conditions. The initial flow of cytokines is intended to support your flight or fight response. Yet, if your stress ’switch’ remains triggered, your body produces excess cytokines, which increase inflammation.
Why should you care? Chronic inflammation has been shown to be a common factor in many diseases. Including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. Got your attention?
How to Fight Inflammation Naturally
Good news is there are some super simple steps you can follow to help make a positive impact on your levels of inflammation.
1. Control: Get a Handle on Your Stress
I have to state the obvious here. Stress is a major driver of chronic inflammation. In order to positively impact your level of inflammation in the long run, you must begin to manage the level of stress within your life. Finding a sense of control over what’s happening ’to’ you is a major step in the right direction.
My favorite way? Here’s a process that helps me get a grip on my key stressors:
- Grab a piece of plain white paper (NO fancy journal or Trello board… keep it simple so you reduce the stress of the process)
- On the top of the page, write down the top 3–4 things that stress you out right now (I call it my ‘What’s Bugging Me’ list)
- Under each stressor, list: (1) WHY it is stressing you out, (2) WHAT you can do about it, (3) HOW you can best approach it
- Once you’re done, you’ve uncovered what’s stressing you out and given yourself a clear pathway to address it.
- Now, set a plan of action around all of the ‘HOW’s you listed. Sounds simple, but by facing these stressors/fears, you gain tremendous power.
2. Nourish: What Foods to Eat and Avoid
How do you feel when you eat a bunch of sugar or overly processed foods and wash them down with too much alcohol? Bloated, sore and tired? Well, you can blame the highly inflammatory nature of these foods. Removing these from your diet can be one of the easiest ways to fight inflammation naturally.
If you want to help avoid increasing inflammation in your body, you want to avoid the lot of them. To nourish your inflamed body and build resilience to inflammation, you should focus on increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits, good fats, green tea, turmeric, chocolate, and in moderation, red wine.
3. Recharge: Sleep Walking
You’ve got to snooze and move when battling chronic inflammation. Regularly getting a good night of sleep will help your body simmer-down the flames of inflammation via your natural restorative cycles. Late nights binging on Netflix will only increase the levels of inflammation in your system.
Exercise is key to your overall wellness. When it comes to fighting inflammation, simply walking for 30 minutes a day can make a positive impact. Think of it as a way to work those nasty inflammatory cytokines through your system via movement. Walk, listen to some good music, and enjoy some fresh air. Ahhhh…. can’t you just feel the flame of inflammation extinguishing itself already?
4. Grow: Lighten Up
Consistent with what I said up above under ‘Control,’ reducing your levels of stress helps calm inflammation. One of my favorite ways to do this is to make sure to laugh throughout the day. Laughing has been shown to reduce stress hormones and, in turn, fighting inflammation.
Shorting out your stress cycle will also reduce levels of inflammation. Go to a show, listen to a funny podcast, play with your kid. Overall… just lighten things up and don’t take everything so seriously. Learning to laugh throughout life and yes, even at yourself is critical. As is often said, ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’ …..
OK, you’re pretty much stuck with some level of inflammation on an ongoing basis.
Once I realized how detrimental to my health inflammation could be, I knew I needed to find ways to make a positive impact. My psoriasis signs were bad enough… knowing that diseases like cancer and heart disease were also on the table made matters even more urgent in my perspective.
You’re not going to be perfect every day, but knowing what can cause inflammation while understanding how to heal it can help you fortify yourself. Facing your stressors, eating right, walking regularly, getting enough sleep and learning to lighten up are just a few of the things you can try to fight inflammation naturally.