The lovely things that come with Summer are warmer weather, outdoor adventures, enjoying friends and family, time spent at the beach, and in general, we find ourselves moving our bodies more.
However, with the busy-ness of this time of year, we know it can be harder to keep on top of your wellness routine.
To really look after and nurture your wellness and get the most out of Summer, we thought it would be a good time to dive into inflammation and how it is connected to your gut health, hormones and everything else!
First, let’s look at the signs of inflammation:
- Aches and pains
- Period pain
- Low mood
- Brain fog
How is inflammation linked to everything else?
As we know, when it comes to wellness, everything is interconnected. Inflammation is an essential piece of the puzzle, as we need it on a day to day basis to repair injuries, induce an immune response and start the healing process.
Our bodies love balance; more is not always better.
Issues arise when inflammation remains in our body for a long time which is called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly all disease, and many people aren't aware of the fact that the gut is the biggest potential source of inflammation in the body. When our gut health is compromised, our hormonal system can get out of balance too.
So, what is inflammation?
Inflammation is our protective defence mechanism against damaged cells, pathogens or irritants. It alerts our immune system, telling it that something is wrong, so that antibodies can be sent to the area to repair the damage. The trouble is that the immune system creates a lot of collateral damage in the process.
What’s the difference between acute and chronic inflammation?
A good example of acute inflammation is sunburn.
When the sun burns your skin, it turns red and is raw to touch— a classic symptom of inflammation. The cells inflamed by the sun cause an immune system response. The immune system comes bustling in, clears out the damaged cells and stimulates the body to heal and repair—resulting in the painful welts or blisters on your skin.
Acute inflammation is necessary and beneficial as it warns us that we are being burnt and allows us to repair and rebuild. However, it’s a completely different story when it comes to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can be thought of as the root of all chronic disease. If you imagine inflammation as sunburn happening where you can’t see it; in your gut, in your blood vessels, and in your brain, then think about all that collateral damage that’s created by the immune system in these locations over long periods of time.
"Chronic inflammation can be thought of as the root of all chronic disease."
Chronic inflammation means our immune system is constantly reacting and it will eventually cause the immune system to overreact or become dysfunctional. Long term, a dysfunctional immune system can lead to autoimmunity—immune system attacks its own cells. Common examples of autoimmunity include eczema, arthritis, Grave’s Disease, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s Disease.
What drives inflammation?
Drivers of chronic inflammation include:
Inflammation specifically in the gut can be driven by:
Gluten and dairy, in particular, are common culprits we see at the BePure Clinic
- Bacterial infection
A diet high in refined sugars
Insulin is released in response to high blood sugar levels and has a strong proinflammatory effect throughout the entire body!
- And stress gets a mention again!
What’s the big deal about stress?
It is a two-way street when it comes to stress.
Inflammation = stress, stress = inflammation.
Ongoing stress can actually alter the balance of our microbiome and drive leaky gut. When the junctions of our gut lining become leaky, our immune system kicks in.
When we experience ongoing, or chronic stress, our immune system is suppressed and we experience increased inflammation throughout the whole body. Often, when we experience prolonged stress, inflammation arises in the form of a cold or flu, or in the form of chronic disease.
You might have experienced this yourself—feeling overwhelmed by life, work, family, friends, money, health, and then to top it all off, you get taken out by the flu or a nasty cold.
So now that you have an idea of what can contribute to inflammation, and how you can identify signs of it in your own body, here are simple, but powerful ways to begin managing the levels of inflammation to enjoy good health and wellbeing.
8 Simple (but Effective!) Ways to Support and Manage Inflammation:
1. Manage your stress
“You can't control the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Our bodies process all forms of stress in the same way—whether it is real or perceived. Not all situations that we find stressful can be avoided, but we can take action on balancing that stress by making time and space for relaxing activities. Or examining the story we are telling ourselves about the situation, and then reframing our perception into something less stress-inducing.
Unfortunately, the modern world exposes our bodies to high levels of environmental toxins. As a result, we tend to turn to stimulants to get through the day, including alcohol, coffee, refined grains and sugars. However, these place stress on our gut and liver, so it’s best to avoid these where you can.
Exercise at the right intensity level for your lifestyle is a great example of exposing your body to the positive levels of stress. Even by taking a daily walk you can make a healthy change!
However, when we are overloaded with stress in our lives, strenuous exercise actually becomes too much for the body. Many people will get more benefit from a walk or yoga instead of high-intensity exercise.
2. Eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods
Omega-3s are particularly anti-inflammatory; some common foods rich in this nourishing nutrient are:
- Oily fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies)
- Chia seeds
Eating a variety of Summer fruits and vegetables such as berries, and broccoli, also have anti-inflammatory properties, ideal during summer; think colourful salads and smoothies. And speaking of colourful, turmeric is also a potent anti-inflammatory. Turmeric latte, anyone?
3. Add in a powerful omega-3 fish oil supplement
DHA and EPA are the active omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Together, DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and your risk of diseases stemming from the body being chronically inflamed.
Not only do these incredible omega-3s support inflammation, DHA alone, has been shown in particular to support the brain, eye, joint and heart health. While EPA supports good cardiovascular and brain blood circulation, good immunity, and healthy joint mobility.
4. Quality Sleep
The circadian rhythms—our sleep-wake cycle—regulates our immune system, and with it, our levels of inflammation. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, so is normal immune function, and we become more prone to inflammation. Getting quality sleep supports our immune system, and in turn our inflammation levels.
5. Keeping on top of your water intake
Hydration is vital for flushing toxins out of your body, which can help fight inflammation. Especially important at this time of year, when alcohol consumption tends to increase.
6. Spending time in the sun
Making sure you get safe sun exposure to top up your levels of vitamin D is a great way to support your inflammation levels. Vitamin D is widely thought to play an important role in the modulation of our inflammation system.
With longer days and warmer weather, Summer is a beautiful time to be getting outdoors and moving your body. During movement or exercise, hormones are released which support inflammation on a cellular level.
Ever felt more clear-headed after going for a walk or a run?
8. Rest, Relax, Restore
Give yourself a break this Summer! Book in for some time just for you. Whether it's 10 minutes while the kids play, having a cup of tea by yourself, or practising some deep belly breathing or legs up the wall before you go to sleep to calm your nervous system. Centrally controlled increase of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity is a basic response to inflammation.
We’ve given you 8 tips to nurture your whole body wellness this summer, but we know it can be overwhelming trying to do all of the things! So instead, we invite you to choose your top 3 and put them in priority order.
For example, your top three might be:
- H2O is my friend—I’m going to focus on staying hydrated
- Make sure I get safe sun exposure for vitamin d!
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in omega-3s
- Rest, Relax and Restore by deep belly breathing when I wake up
- Manage my stress by being mindful of environmental toxins
- Take a high-quality omega 3 fish oil support
Making sure you set yourself up for success is a crucial part of your wellness routine! Remember that it’s the little things done consistently that have the biggest influence on your state of wellbeing.