Updated: Jul 7, 2021
As a health coach I’m often reading up on issues to help my clients. About 12 years ago I surmised that inflammation is a key issue with aging. Maybe one of the BIGGEST keys for aging well. It’s associated with many aspects of our health and wellness.
What Is Inflammation?
Defining it simply, it is…redness, swelling, heat, pain and you probably do less when you’re feeling it! There are two generic types…acute and chronic. We’re interested in the chronic type, that is ongoing and disruptive to our lifestyle. Acute inflammation is the bodie’s response to trauma and is temporary. If you want proof that you’re inflamed there is a blood test called C reactive protein that your doctor can order for you.
Where/how does inflammation effect our bodies?
It is the wearing away of bone so that bones eventually rub together, minus any kind of cushion. The result is irritation and inflammation anywhere in our skeletal system.
If we have a poor diet we can irritate the lining of our digestive tract which can develop into leaky gut and other issues. Food particles escape into the blood stream, which knows they shouldn't be there, so the body mounts an inflammatory response.
A situation where the immune system accidentally attacks the body in some way.
Inflammation in the arteries creates swelling which can restrict blood flow. Blood pressure is raised by the resistance of pressure trying to travel through the blood vessels.
Any other chronic disease
Will have inflammation associated with it.
From depression to dementia there is an inflammatory component.
In general can affect any organ or system in our body. Chronic stress = chronic inflammation.
This is the short list…but head to toe, in our bones, blood, organs, muscles, joints its
inflammation causing us problems and pain.
My experience with inflammation
Quick story: I had a recent knee surgery and was looking at some internal pictures of my knee joint. I said to the doctor, “What are those pink things?” He said they were my bones - inflamed! I didn’t know that could happen – pink bones from the inflammation!!
If you’re in pain you’ve probably tried lots of things to alleviate it. The best idea is to treat the cause, not just the symptoms and then you can feel better long term and won’t be popping pills every few hours. Soooo… lets address inflammation.
How to get rid of inflammation?
The good news is that lifestyle factors can play a big role – specifically diet, exercise, sleep and stress.
Meat, grain, and dairy tend to be inflammatory while fruits and vegetables tend to be much less so. Try eating less meat and more veggies at dinner. If your meat is grass fed, wild or pasture raised the ratio between omega 6s (which are inflammatory) and 3s (which are anti) is better too. You can load up on omega 3s with fish oil as a supplement either in capsules or from a bottle. I take a swig from my lemon-flavored enteric bottle of fish oil every morning. (Enteric means you won’t experience nasty fish burps.) I personally like Carlson’s or Nordic Natural brands. (European or Canadian brands tend to be better regulated and tested than American.) Alcohol is also inflammatory but a bit of dark chocolate is anti-inflammatory! Who knew? Other factors that are linked to inflammation are blood sugar and weight. These are huge topics for another time, but eating more veggies can help with both of those also.
Here are 10 easy behavior/diet changes to switch up your lifestyle and reduce inflammation:
Add raw spinach in your breakfast smoothie
Instead of a bun with that burger use lettuce or cabbage
Buy fish oil and ‘habit stack’ it. That means stack your new habit right on top of an old habit – something you always do like brush your teeth or eat breakfast e.g.
Make soup. Its low in calories and an easy way to clean out the fridge
Make either lunch or dinner vegetable-centered (aka salad or stir fry)
Use frozen vegetables – they’re harvested at peak freshness
Buy fresh foods – processed has more inflammatory factors
Eat healthy fats – nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil, olives (small amounts)
Drink lots of water – it lubricates our joints
Be nice to yourself. Start with a couple changes; they will add up
One of the brain’s most important jobs is movement – but in this case not too much. Gentle yoga, swimming, walking, biking. If its walking, take your phone along for pictures and to know how far you walked. Nothing like a little inspiration to walk farther! Do what you like but do something, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Please don’t overdo it, as you’ll elicit a stress response. Better to do more at a reduced rate than do too much in trying for quick results. Remember to wear supportive shoes and how about meeting a friend?
You body restores and repairs while you sleep. I know older people sometimes have issues falling or staying asleep. Here are a few tips:
1) Stay away from screens an hour before bedtime – even your Kindle
2) Try taking magnesium before bed (Mg glycinate is the most absorbable)
3) Keep your bedroom cooler than the rest of the house
4) Have a bedtime ritual – same bedtime, wash face, brush teeth – u got this!
5) Think of 10 things you’re grateful for…a great habit to send you off to dreamland feeling good and relaxed
We’ve sure had our share this past year and a half, and we pretty much were helpless! Which brings me back to what we can control. Stress is prevalent in our busy lives so I think balancing stress is a good goal for which to shoot. You can do things like learn to meditate, practice yoga, be mindful, slow down. My best suggestion is to make a list of things you like to do and go do them. Maybe even try something new – photography, a painting class or volunteering?
In summary although there are environmental factors we can’t control that contribute to inflammation, the ones we can control deserve our attention. Stick with it and you’ll start noticing a reduction in pain and stiffness, your numbers will improve and you’ll feel better!
Claire Denise is the founder of Positive Aging and takes pride in promoting lifestyle as a tool to improve your health/resilience. She has 20 years of experience as a personal trainer, nutritionist, health coach, and yoga instructor. Her classes are easy, informative, and fun.
If you would like to increase your potential lifespan, have healthier activities, and feel younger again, then join the Positive Aging Community today and get your first BrainEx session free!