Forest fires are unbelievably powerful, capably dangerous, and yet necessary. They clear forests of dead trees, break down and return nutrients to the soil, remove weak or disease-ridden trees, and ultimately improve wildlife habitat. Inflammation within our bodies parallels this act of nature in nearly every way. It is a physiological response with stigmatically negative connotations similar to a forest fire, yet it is a response that’s absolutely necessary for protection and healing. Without an inflammatory response, a tiny cut or cold could become deadly, and without a forest fire, a forest could become plagued with disease and stagnant germination. However, not all inflammation is good and a fire in the forest is not always necessary. Acute inflammation may be rolling your ankle or having a sore throat, more of an immediate response. while, chronic inflammation could be your daily stressors from work, lack of sleep, or a poor diet, more long-term exposure.
How do we control inflammatory responses? The solution may vary between acute and chronic. With acute inflammation, most people will resort to high strength, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS). While effective, NSAIDS have strong side effects that can wreak havoc on the microbiome of our gut (healthy gut bacteria), and damage the lining of our stomach and intestines. Instead, we suggest trying more natural remedies such as CBD (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid), alternating heat/ice, and compression with pain free movement can all be effective with little to no side effects. In addition, for sickness like a cold, taking medication sparingly while supplementing with homeopathic remedies such as herbal teas and foods high in Vitamin C and Antioxidants like elderberry to help combat the bug.
With chronic inflammation, however, we have to be a bit more cognizant. Unlike the immediate response of acute inflammation, chronic inflammation keeps the immune system turned on in a sort of fight or flight mode that can lead to dangerous maladies such as heart disease, periodontitis, certain cancers, and obesity. Moreover, when our body is in this inflammatory state, it cannot proficiently heal minor ailments elsewhere. In other words, the firefighters can’t spare any of their company because of the large fire at hand, and although the other fires are minor in comparison, they’re still menacing and adept at becoming much larger with time. So, what can we do to combat chronic inflammation from running amok through our bodies? While there are many solutions, here are a few of our favorites:
1) Improve Your Diet
By increasing your omega-3s (a natural anti-inflammatory) and reducing your omega-6s (a known inflammatory). An easy way of doing this is by eliminating processed carbohydrates i.e., tossing out those chips and crackers, buns and bread, (especially those made with soybean, sunflower, and canola oils) and increasing foods that are high in omega-3s such as salmon, walnuts, eggs, chia seeds, and/or a fish oil supplement. Decreasing sugar and alcohol, adding in a variety of vegetables and lean proteins, and hydrating are also crucial. Oh, and when cooking, don’t forget to steam or bake those veggies and meats!
2) Reduce Your Exposure to Stress
While combating stress may be necessary, decreasing the stress you can control (environmental and mental stress) is critical, like watering the grass to prevent a fire. Throughout our day we are constantly thrown in and out of fight or flight situations, whether it be induced by traffic or a hiccup at work. Taking the time to ‘destress’ in the small windows of time we have through our busy lives is key, using exercise or meditation for instance. With regards to environmental stress, reducing exposure to toxins such as perfumes, scented soaps, unfiltered water, and deodorants (check for BHT, Oxybenxone, Phthalates, Octinoxate, and Musk Ketones) amongst many other cleaning and cosmetic products that disrupt our hormone production and also reduce chronic inflammation.
7-8 hrs/night at the bare minimum in our opinion. Sleep is time for our body to recharge, reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone), and rebuild. Yet many of us get stuck in the vicious circle of slamming coffee or some other stimulant only to ultimately deplete our body’s energy further (adrenal fatigue), making it even harder to fall and stay asleep. If you’re fatigued, your immune system running on empty and fighting inflammation is simply lackluster. There are many ways you can improve sleep quality: don’t touch your phone 30 minutes before bed, keep the lights dimmed or off near bedtime, stop eating at least an hour before bed, and reduce other external stimuli near bedtime. Using melatonin, magnesium, herbal teas, and white noise are other techniques you might consider.
Stress is inevitable, and in fact a vital part of our natural response. However, learning to manage both acute and chronic stress with natural remedies can help reduce pain and inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, and help you feel more rejuvenated.