Inflammation is a popular buzzword these days. But what causes it exactly? How can you know you have it, and if it’s something your body does naturally to help you heal, then what’s the big deal?
We’ve all been there: It’s late, you’re tired, and you don’t feel like turning the lights on just to cross a room…then bam! Shin finds coffee table. The resulting egg-shaped lump is formed when blood flow increases to the area, bringing with it neutrophils and macrophages as part of the immune response.
Symptoms of this acute inflammation are typical: redness, swelling, heat, and pain. The swelling that occurs as fluid collects in the area is also called “edema.” The symptoms last for a limited period of time—minutes to days—as the body heals itself.
Acute inflammation vs. chronic inflammation
When the body isn’t given enough time, or if the body is unable to resolve the immune response due to deficiency of certain nutrients, it can lead to chronic inflammation. This can also be caused by untreated infectious pathogens such as bacteria or viruses, as well as the adverse effects of long-term exposure to pollutants or chemicals, including smoking.1,2 Stress and obesity are also known factors that lead to chronic inflammation.3,4
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
What can we do?While acute inflammation is one way your body can heal itself, chronic inflammation should be avoided, as a prolonged inflammatory response can cause damage to healthy cells and tissue.
Consider adopting a few simple ways to decrease inflammation. If you have been experiencing the symptoms described herein and are concerned you may have chronic inflammation, make an appointment with your healthcare practitioner.
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
Eat a healthy breakfast. It sounds simple enough. But what exactly does that mean?
While there is no definition of the “perfect breakfast,” it makes sense that there are ideal and less than ideal ways to energize your body. So let’s compare typical breakfast options to various types of fires and ways to fuel your morning right!
The Cooking Fire:
This fire is the equivalent of a stove range. It burns slowly, evenly and can literally last all day.
The breakfast equivalent? A breakfast that will keep you energized all day with stable blood sugar levels should always have lean protein as its base. Like seasoned firewood, lean protein is a slow burn fuel. It improves glycemic response, inhibits the secretion of the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates the secretion of the satiety hormones peptide YY (PYY), glucagonlike peptide 1 (GLP-1) and cholecystokinin (CKK). 11 The net effect? You feel more satisfied and have fewer food cravings, which may also help maintain a healthy body weight.
In addition to protein, some minimally processed fats, such as avocado, olive or coconut oil, not only add flavor but also further increase satiety. Carbohydrates should ideally be limited to whole food sources (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains)—as close to their natural form as possible. Think steel cut oats, rather than instant oatmeal.
Here are some examples of slow burn breakfasts and tips to get you started.
The Kindling Fire:
This fire burns hot and fast. It ignites quickly, then extinguishes once it has consumed its fuel: paper, leaves, etc. It’s all kindling, no logs.
Think of the typical bagel and juice breakfast as a kindling fire. The more processed, more sugar-laden your breakfast, the faster your body burns it. In the big picture of long-term health effects, within reason, any breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. True, it gives you some fast energy. But keep in mind, it may leave you hungry and needing energy by mid-morning.
Do you skip breakfast? If so, you’re in good company. In fact, according to a national survey, “breaking the fast” is not on the morning agenda of 31 million American adults. How might skipping the most important meal of the day affect you? Research supports the importance of breakfast for better energy and healthier food choices throughout the day, wins for everyone. But if you fit the following criteria, you may have even more to gain from breakfast 1,2.
What’s your excuse for skipping breakfast?
About Maribeth EvezichMaribeth Evezich, MS, RD is a functional nutrition and therapeutic lifestyle consultant. Maribeth is also a graduate of Bastyr University and the Natural Gourmet Institute. Whether she is in her kitchen experimenting, at her computer researching, or behind the lens of her camera, she is on a mission to inspire others to love whole foods. as much as she does. She lives in Seattle and is the founder of Lifestyle Medicine Consulting, LLC and the culinary nutrition blog, Whole Foods Explorer. Maribeth Evezich is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.
View all posts by Maribeth Evezich →
What’s Eating You?
Feeling overly tired, bloated, or achy? When dealing with these often stress-related concerns, there are a few questions you should ask yourself: Am I eating well? Am I getting enough sleep? Do I drink enough water and get enough exercise?
A healthy body handles daily stress better while an unhealthy lifestyle and daily stress can contribute to a deeper issue—chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to fighting off potential health threats, but unhealthy lifestyle choices can stunt the resolution of your immune response. In fact, chronic low-grade inflammation is often related to common chronic illnesses. But here’s the good news: There are a few ways you can help resolve your body’s inflammation response—starting today!
1. Ditch That Diet
Unfortunately, many of us do not receive our fair share of nutrients from food. You may feel tired and overworked, and rather than taking the time to prepare a healthy, well-balanced meal, you may often resort to convenient inflammatory trigger foods that are lacking in nutrients: refined starches, high-fat and processed red meats, fried foods, dairy, etc. These may cause an activation of the innate immune system and lead to excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
It’s time to break the cycle by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your day. A Mediterranean-style diet, for example, typically has a high ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids as compared to saturated fats, and more omega-3 to omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s also rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, which have shown anti-inflammatory effects in observational and intervention studies.
2. Stay Hydrated
This one is obvious. It’s always important to drink enough water throughout the day and ensure you are properly hydrated. Water makes up a large percentage of our bodies to keep all our physiological systems working together smoothly, and it helps flush out toxins and unwanted chemicals we may pick up from the environment.
Tip: Bored with plain water? Add in fresh fruit slices to liven up your H2O. Antioxidant-packed green tea is also great for afternoon sipping.
3. Put Stress to Rest
In our fast-paced modern culture, you may find yourself working too much and not getting enough rest. The initial stress response can be positive, but when left unchecked, it can lead to chronic stress and become pro-inflammatory. This is when getting extra sleep, practising yoga, or taking on leisurely activities you love can make a world of difference.
Catching those Zs at night is especially important because it’s your body’s time to rest and recharge. Lack of sleep can make you feel sluggish, unmotivated, and irritable, which only compounds a stress problem; and increased stress disturbs the quality of your sleep. Research has also linked higher levels of inflammatory proteins to getting fewer hours of sleep at night.
In addition to getting proper rest, taking time to move and exercising are helpful stress relievers, as they release “feel-good” endorphins and can reduce your body’s levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones).
It’s never too late to make positive life changes!Eating a nutrient-rich diet, ensuring proper hydration, and taking time for relaxation, exercise, and healthy sleep habits are some simple ways you can support your body’s best health today.
If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, counting sheep may be as important as counting the carbs on your plate or weight repetitions at the gym. Because, while physical activity and a balanced diet are key factors, sleep may be the most overlooked aspect of your weight management plan.
Can you sleep your way to your dream body? Perhaps not. But if you are sleep deprived, more sleep may help you reach your weight goals. Here’s what you need to know about the sleep-weight connection.
Are you sleep deprived? The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults 24-64, slightly more for younger adults and a bit less for those older.1 But due to electronic gadget lights, chronic stress, habitual caffeine, shift-work, and many other reasons, few folks get their target rack time. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is a public health problem2 with serious concerns for our productivity, safety, and health—including your waistline.
It’s not just when you’re sleep deprived and find yourself battling the bulge, you’re in good company. Studies have found consistency in the sleep-weight connection; sleep deficiency is linked to weight gain. The largest study of its kind involved over 200 participants and simulated a sleep-restricted workweek. It compared the effects of restricting sleep to only four hours per night compared to unrestricted sleep, up to ten hours per night.3 After only five days, the sleep-restricted subjects had gained about 2 pounds. In contrast, the control group, allowed to sleep for up to 10 hours a night, gained virtually no weight.
If sleep restriction can cause you to gain two pounds in just five days, what can happen on the scale long-term?A lot, according to women tracked for 16 years in The Nurses’ Health Study. Women reporting six hours of sleep per night were 12% more likely to gain at least 30 pounds during the study compared to the women who slept seven hours per night. But those women who were even more sleep deprived, reporting no more than five hours per night, were 28% more likely to gain at least 30 pounds during that same period!4 Apparently, with the sleep-weight connection, every hour counts.
How does less sleep = less svelte? There are several underlying factors behind the sleep-weight connection. But a common thread is our own chemistry, which almost seems to revolt when restorative sleep is intentionally or unintentionally withheld. It’s you against them—and it’s not a fair fight.
Getting to know your hunger chemistry. There’s more than your sensation of fullness and stomach-brain communication involved. Rather, when it comes to hunger regulation and sleep, we have several chemical messengers at play. And when it gets complicated between you and the sandman, those messengers are not on your side. So get to know them:
As you can see, proper balance of ghrelin and leptin is very sleep-dependent. And for the caveman, perhaps these hormones were key to survival during the shorter, sleep-heavy but food-poor days of winter. They also played a part in the ability to capitalise on the longer, lighter sleep and more food-abundant days the rest of the year.
Today, our sleep-deprived bodies are prone to having too much ghrelin and not enough leptin. The result is that the body doesn’t feel satiated, thinks it’s hungry, and needs more calories—and squirrels away those calories for the long winter. In short, ghrelin and leptin kept the caveman alive, but they may be making you heavy.
What to do?
That depends. There are two main reasons behind sleep deprivation. Either you have a sleep hygiene issue (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep), or you have a scheduling issue, in that your lifestyle is interfering with adequate sleep.
For sleep hygiene issues, the typical recommendations always merit consideration: limiting caffeine, avoiding blue light before bed, creating a cool and dark environment, etc. But, when you have a scheduling challenge, getting adequate sleep requires some lifestyle restructuring. It’s worth the time to re-engineer your schedule to slowly go to bed earlier or rise later to increase your sleep time. But in the meantime, can you catch up on sleep on the weekends?
Weekend catch-up sleep: Is it a real thing?Of course, you can get extra sleep on the weekend. But can it potentially reverse your Monday-Friday sleep deprivation? Perhaps. In a study of over 2,000 people participants, those who slept longer on the weekends, nearly two hours longer on average, had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t. Further, it appears that the sleep:BMI relationship was dose-dependent in that every extra hour of weekend catch-up sleep was associated with a significantly lower body mass.8 So catch-up sleep can indeed be a good strategy. That is, if your overall average sleep for the week puts you out of the red and into the black, as in you’ve paid back your sleep debt.
Sleep more. Weigh less. Not convinced? Sleep on it…