What is Inflammation?
“Inflammation is a condition in which a part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and painful, often due to a reaction from an injury or infection!”
Inflammation is commonly looked at from the outside as a bruise or a swollen joint, muscle etc. Which can also be known as acute inflammation! However, inflammation is also working from the inside out and affecting your entire body. When you have acute inflammation, it is not necessarily all bad as it is your body’s natural response to protect itself and help it begin the healing process.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation:
Acute inflammation can go away. However, “chronic inflammation” is what you have to look out for. Chronic inflammation stays within your body and is the cause of long term effects and diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, crohn’s, asthma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and many more.
Being one who suffers from a chronic inflammatory disease, I have always thought that besides taking Advil to reduce my inflammation from the inside, everything I did was working on the outside! If my joints were inflamed I would ice or add heat to my knees. Also, take an Epsom salt bath, massage the joint, rest, elevate, physical therapy…repeat. It wasn’t until the last couple of years I realized reducing inflammation internally is as important if not more important than what you are doing on the outside.
(This is also what my mom did when I was younger. But I’ll explain that in a separate post on the beginning of my RA journey.)
Whether you experience acute or chronic inflammation or not, creating a healthy environment free from culprits of inflammation (i.e.; stress, trauma, and disease) is the best way to fight off symptoms. Also, it helps keep that inflammation dormant so your body can function at its greatest potential!
How To Reduce Inflammation In The Body:
As I stated before learning from my own experience working on your body from the inside out can really help in the long run.
First and foremost, it begins with the awareness of what you are putting into your body. More often than not it is what you’re eating that is stirring up all the issues. Which is why I want to provide insight on what foods cause inflammation and what foods can help fight off any acute episodes and chronic exacerbations!
For this post, I am focusing on Inflammatory foods and next week I will post anti-inflammatory foods.
Whether you have an inflammatory disease or not everyone is prone to have some sort of sensitivity or allergy to certain foods! If you don’t it is still good to be aware so you can be proactive and preventative…. (Look out for your future self)!
Below is a basic list of inflammatory foods and substances that you need to be cautious of and consider limiting or even eliminating from your diet if necessary!
Dairy has a way of disrupting our gut by reducing the levels of good bacteria we have which are important in fighting off inflammation! Gut health is another topic in itself, but a clean gut is crucial for a healthy body! Dairy is also a common allergen, whether it is a severe reaction or not. If you feel bloated, fatigued, or swollen after consuming dairy, that is the inflammation causing those symptoms. It is your body’s way of telling you it cannot digest it properly.
I recently found out through blood tests that I have no reaction when it comes to dairy.
However this was not the case a couple years ago! I try to always eat nondairy foods items as it is better for you anyways. Although I remember one summer eating more diary than normal and towards the end of summer, I was breaking out on the left and right side of my cheeks. I had never broken out on my cheeks before so this was really weird for me! I did a lot of research and was then introduced to face mapping. (Side note, if you are having more break outs than usual or in areas you’re not used to, check out face mapping online too see what those areas are trigged by).
Anyway, I found that, the area on my cheeks was inflammation and it was trigged by dairy!
Totally making sense, I cut it out and within a month my acne was gone. Going back to my blood test, I believe it says I have no reaction to it now because aside from my occasional pizza indulgence and ice cream cones, dairy is excluded from my diet. I wanted to touch on this one a little more as inflammation doesn’t always have to be in your gut or joints. It can be through break outs or redness on your face and skin. Our bodies are designed to adapt to change. So the good news is food sensitivities can come and go! As you see it did for me and I am currently showing no signs of it! However, to prevent it coming back I will still continue to limit my dairy.
luckily we have so many dairy free ice cream options now!!
Sugar is an obvious inflammatory food and comes in so many variations such as processed, additive, and refined carbohydrates. These forms of sugar make it difficult to avoid considering they are in just about everything premade, packaged and jarred. Sugar can weaken our immune system in many ways. The common sugar rush causes psychological and physical harm without ever being recognized. All forms of processed sugars should be greatly reduced in everyone’s diet but especially in those who suffer from an inflammatory disease. Because their immune system is already weaker than most, it is important they consume foods that will heal it, not weaken it!
With some studies saying a glass often can lower disease etc. Alcohol produces toxic by-products that can be very harmful. For example, it can cause liver damage and inflammation, reducing the overall performance of the immune system. For someone with RA or anyone living with an auto-immune disease, their immune system is already less efficient than that of a healthy immune system. So, as I mentioned above, constantly putting something in your body that will only contribute to those harmful consequences isn’t the best idea! Of course, you need to live a little so if you’re going to choose wine or other spirits, avoid pairing it with a sugar-loaded meal, dessert included. A small tweak can make the biggest difference!
A little Fact about me and wine currently:
For me I LOVED wine, a nice glass of red or a sparkling rosé, and I was a happy camper. Also, I cooked with it a lot so I would enjoy a glass or two every night with my meals. It was heaven to me!
#roseallday was my motto.
Rewind 2 years ago when my RA got really bad again, my doctors recommended me limiting my sugar intake. And as you know, wine is very sugary. I knew I needed to reduce my wine intake. But, I was more willing to give up other sugars and bread before wine (lol)! However, when nothing else seemed to work and I had to get back on medication after 15 years without it. In addition, I knew I had to make changes if I wanted to get off medication again one day! Most doctors encourage medication but with the long term and even short-term side effects. Also, I was determined to make a deal with my doctor and give the medication a try for one year and if in one year I was showing fewer signs of inflammation then I would get off my medication.
Honestly, I knew I needed to make some dietary changes, and on Feb 1, 2017 I got on my medication and started to make huge dietary changes. That included cutting back on my wine intake. Every once in a while, I drank it, and on special occasions however I realized even cutting back made me feel better. In October, (8 months later) I found myself not caring about wine as much and loving how I felt so much better without it even.
Getting up in the morning was easier
My skin never looked better, I lost weight etc. It then hit me that why would I put something in my body that doesn’t really agree with me at the moment. Wine didn’t always used to affect my body as my arthritis was in remission for many years. However, I’ve learned from all this you need to listen to your body and really be in tune to what is says and does. Your body’s condition constantly is changing and like I said before it can change over time which unfortunately means you gotta give up some things you love for awhile.
also bye bye hangovers haha
So finally, realizing that and knowing Its more important to feel good I really tightened up on my diet and completely cut out wine. The next month Nathan and I even did a month free of all sugars, so no salad dressings, breads, crackers cakes etc. (similar to whole 30) and I felt such a difference in my body.
I truly think this was a huge factor in helping reduce my inflammation along with other changes. I am happy to say Feb 1st 2018 I was cleared to get off my medication as blood work showed little to no signs of inflammation. Before I got on my medication I was well above a 3.0. To give you better insight the inflammatory factor scale is 0.0-3.0, 3 being extremely high for inflammatory factors so I was off the charts.
When I got my lab tests back in late January, I was a 0.1. So change can happen! When you decide you want it bad enough, with hard work, discipline, patience and consistency you will get results! I have to say a lot of it is mind over matter and breaking habits that don’t benefit you, and it can be done!
ONE DAY AT A TIME!!!
The biggest thing with red meat is it is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and that can convert to inflammation. It is important and recommended that people with an inflammatory disease stick to a low-fat diet, which brings me to my next trigger.
Vegetable oil/ Fried Foods:
Vegetable oil is high in Omega 6 fatty acids the same as red meat actually, which as I stated above is inflammatory! So staying away from fatty foods and fried foods will help!
Gluten is the protein found in many types of grains and can contribute to inflammation. If you have an inflammatory disease especially those with celiac, when ingesting gluten your immune system attacks the gluten and your intestines. This can cause a whole disruption in your body and can cause fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, and more. I try to limit my gluten a lot. I actually like the taste of gluten free pizza and if I am craving pasta I eat that gluten free as well. Luckily stores have so many gluten free options for all the foods we like. Try switching your favorite foods out for gluten free options every once in a while.
Lastly one nonfood inflammatory factor, but I think one of the biggest if not the biggest is…
Auto immune diseases are quite common in most people and can it can be triggered by environmental factors. Stress is a huge contributor to most diseases especially auto immune. Stress takes a toll on our bodies and what people don’t realize is it is something that ignites the disease. From experience and logging when I have had my episodes of inflammation, they have all been triggered during a stressful time.
I was born with RA and struggled with it most of my childhood. But through medicine, dietary changes and physical therapy I was able to go into remission and stay in remission until I was 22. When the first signs of arthritis started coming back, and coming back in my eyes I got Iritis. Iritis is inflammation of the iris.
So I continued to have episodes of it through the next couple years always around the same month year after year and always when stresses may have added up.
I’m someone who considered myself pretty stress free and carefree but then realized I was only internalizing the stress and thinking it wouldn’t ever get to me but it adds up. Also, I’m an overly sensitive person I realized through out the years.
Managing stress is so important, as stress in life is inevitable. However, if you can better understand what makes you stressed and then understand what helps you cope you will be better off and your body will thank you.
The biggest thing I learned was that because stress is inevitable if you make sure you create as healthy as an environment internally , when stress comes your way your body can at least have a better chance of fighting it off.
I am going to be doing an entire post on stress and what I do to help later! I hope you all are enjoying what is left of the weekend! Please comment below if you are struggling with an auto immune or inflammatory disease and want to share I would love to hear from you :]