Recognizing symptoms of inflammation and managing it is crucial to your overall wellness journey. There are so many common, chronic symptoms we all experience from fatigue, headaches, and even congestion/runny nose that may actually be a symptom of inflammation rather than allergies or a cold. Most often we associate inflammation with an injury or arthritis, but it can warn us about other health issues. If your body has excess inflammation, it’s trying to signal you that something is off in your system.
After researching this more in depth (from WebMD.com, Healthline.com, Medical News Today and Harvard Health), I’ve learned that there are two types of inflammation: Acute and Chronic.
Acute Inflammation is what actually happens at the onset of an injury, such as a sprained ankle or wrist, that actually helps us heal. The swelling, and oftentimes heat, are our bodies reaction to an injury; these symptoms are fighting the injury and signal us to rest that area as the swelling goes away.
Chronic Inflammation is serious, and if this isn’t treated, it can start a domino effect in our bodies of other issues. Here are a few signs of chronic inflammation:
- You’re tired all of the time. Can you believe that too little or too much sleep can lead to inflammatory reactions in your body? Irregular sleep patterns can cause cells in your body to respond as if you’re dealing with an illness.
- You have aches and pains that cannot be attributed to an injury. If you experience pain at either end of the range of motion, you could be dealing with inflammation or arthritis. Either should be checked out with your doctor, just to be safe and to keep you on the right track.
- You’re experiencing digestive problems. If you’re dealing with ongoing excessive gas or diarrhea, this could be caused by inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract. Chronic digestive issues should never be ignored! This could be inflammation from food allergies, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis, etc. These definitely need to be checked by your doctor.
- Your lymph nodes are swollen. These are located in your neck, armpits, and groin area. Swelling in your lymph nodes is a definite signal that something is wrong with your immune system. A viral or bacterial infection will cause these to swell, but as the infection heals, the swelling decreases. If your lymph nodes stay swollen, this should be checked with your physician as well to determine if there is something more serious going on.
- You have a stuffy or runny nose. The obvious sign for allergies is inflammation in our nasal passages. At the onset, we believe it’s all due to seasonal allergies or a common cold. However, since inflammation is the body’s way of fighting a foreign substance and protecting itself, a stuffy nose that persists could be a sign of something else.
- You’re experiencing skin irritation or break outs. Internal inflammation can sometimes make itself known by breaking out on our skin. If you’re experiencing a new rash, dry skin, eczema, etc., it could be a sign of internal inflammation. If it becomes a chronic issue, having a doctor check is always a good idea.
- You’re having problems with focus or are noticing “brain fog.” Inflammation can definitely affect us mentally. We become a little more forgetful, have trouble focusing, lose track of what you’re saying during a conversation. If we treat internal inflammation, mental clarity improves. Our nutrition plays a huge part in this! Fast foods, processed foods, convenience, and restaurant foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Our brains, and entire body, operate at optimal levels when we are fueled appropriately!
Chronic inflammation, untreated for an extended period of time, can lead to any number of health concerns. These include:
- cardiovascular disease
- Arthritis and other joint diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
So, what can we do? Can we avoid chronic inflammation? The answer is YES! At the very least we can minimize our risk. Here are a few factors that typically lead to this type of inflammation:
- Older age
- A diet that is rich in UNhealthy fats and added sugars
- Low hormone levels
- Sleep problems
You likely already know that I’m headed straight to the nutrition and exercise fix, right? Because proper self care is ESSENTIAL for our health and wellness right now, as well as our long-term health, wellness, mobility, and longevity. Wouldn’t you prefer a better quality of life as you age?!
So let’s look at nutrition. First, there are so, so many foods that can not only lead to inflammation, but actually cause it. These are:
- Processed, refined carbohydrates (white bread, donuts, etc.)
- Fried foods (french fries, tater tots, etc.)
- Sodas and all sugar-sweetened drinks. This includes Gatorade!!!
- Red meat that is fatty (always choose the leanest possible) and processed meats (sausage, hot dogs, bacon, etc.)
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
Now onto the good stuff! Please DO NOT PANIC! You will not be giving up flavor or enjoying your foods, I promise. In fact, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by how good you feel without the “crap” foods listed above in your system. Here are some examples of ANTI-inflammatory foods:
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts like walnuts and almonds
- Salmon and tuna
- Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
- Coffee (Yup! Without the sugary creamers and sugar)
Not only will these foods help decrease any inflammation in your body, a diet rich in these can also help prevent inflammation! This can also help control your blood sugar levels, decrease body fat, and increase your energy.
Movement and getting in an adequate amount of exercise can also tremendously decrease inflammation. If working out only reduces stress for you, you’re still ahead of the game! We all know there are more benefits than that.
The bottom line here is to cut back or eliminate the foods that are unhealthy and cause inflammation. Eat a diet full of the anti-inflammatory foods, and get moving. You will feel so, so much better! If, of course, you are dealing with any of the signs above of chronic inflammation, go ahead and see your doctor. If there is a problem, you can be on your way to resolving it. If not, you’ll have peace of mind and a direction (healthy nutrition and exercise) to go.
As always, if you want or need help with nutrition and/or a workout plan, please feel free to contact me at Fitteachermom@aol.com, or through the Contact Me tab on this web site!