By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
When we think of inflammation we often think of it as an external issue — like a bug bite or a rolled ankle and the swelling that ensues. It’s hard to grasp the concept that inflammation can happen on our insides too, but it does. Inflammation is the leading cause of disease, ranging from heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc. It can be a major playing factor in a line of issues that can make us sick. Whether you’re already suffering from an inflammatory disease or focusing on prevention, there are steps you can take to lower the risk of inflammation. Here are some of the best.
This is one of the most important things you can do for wellness, energy, focus, productivity and overall health. Most of us often skimp on sleep when we have other things to attend to, and truthfully we shouldn’t. It’s key. Sleep and rest allow us to restore balance and equilibrium both mentally and within our bodies. Aim for about 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. Learn more about the importance of sleep: How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health.
Exercise and movement are so crucial for health and wellness, but there is a balance of how much is too much, and that more is not always better. Instead of aiming to give it 100% in your workouts daily, try to select a few days a week to practice more intense exercises and the rest to be more mindful, quieter exercise or stretching like yoga or Pilates. I can guarantee that you’ll have a better workout as a result. Our bodies are resilient but they’re not invincible, so know when to listen to the cues that you’re sore and tired. If you like what you hear, read more about the magic of minimum exercise.
Colorful foods like fruits and vegetables are chock-full of healthful nutrients that can help to fight inflammation. For example, anthocyanin, a nutrient found in deep red colored produce such as cherries and beets is a potent anti-inflammatory nutrient; another is bromelain found in pineapple. In short, the more color, the more exposure to healthful nutrients. By replacing processed foods with more fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s easier to support a healthy weight, which alone can help prevent inflammation. Here’s a colorful infographic that explains the benefits of each color family.
As mentioned above, maintaining a healthy weight can help to fight inflammation in the body that can contribute to other diseases over time. A few key practices include eating regularly (no skipping meals!), moving more, cutting back on processed foods, and getting more sleep. Here are recommended daily habits that will help you keep the weight off for good.
We think a lot about what we put in our mouths as being key for health, but we often forget that what we put on our skin is so important too. Our skin is our largest organ and what we put on our skin is absorbed about 40-50% of the tim. That means that what’s on our skin is ending up inside our bodies. Scary, right? I urge you to cleanse your skincare cabinet and throw out anything with these ingredients on the label. Instead you can look to your kitchen cabinet for skincare (and haircare) products like these:
Fat (the healthy kind) is another key nutrient that can help to fight inflammation both inside our bodies and on the surface of our skin too. Fat is key for processes like weight loss (shocking, huh!), satiety, blood sugar control and more, so it’s definitely not something to skimp on or leave out. The other major positive is that healthy fat is super anti-inflammatory, like that found in avocados, nuts and nut butter and cold-pressed and unrefined plant-based oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
Plastic dishes, tupperware, utensils and cups are often overflowing in many kitchen cabinets, but unfortunately the chemicals within the plastic may contribute to increased risk for certain cancers, hormonal disruption and more. It’s a good idea to choose glass or other materials for dishware and storage containers. At the very least it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re not putting that plastic dishware through the dishwasher and heat cycle as the heat exposure can affect the seal on the material that prevents chemicals from getting into our food. Read more about how plastic can harm your health.
Cleaning products can either be completely green or totally toxic, and most of the time I find that people are using super toxic products with terrible ingredients. Try to clean up your cleaning products and swap for more natural products or you could even try to make your own. Here’s our top ideas for how to clean your home: 18 Chemical-Free Green Cleaning Tips.