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Most of us think of joint problems when we hear the word inflammation.
It brings up images of swollen, painful knees and stiff, hard-to-move fingers and hands. In short, we think of inflammation as being synonymous with arthritis.
But, inflammation is so much more than just a joint problem.
In fact, inflammation is behind a number of serious health problems – ones that could be waiting in the wings right now, ready to attack and rob you of your well-being.
Here are the top four health risks beyond your joints caused by inflammation and what you can do to stop the cycle and live a longer, healthier life.
#1 – Gut Issues
Inflammation, which is actually your immune system’s response to stress or a foreign invasion (think germs), can show up in your gut.
You see, your gut is the home to trillions of tiny little bacteria – bacteria that digest the food you eat, help you process nutrients and keep you healthy.
But, sometimes your body’s immune system reacts to those healthy bacteria – attacking them and your digestive tract itself. When this happens, a cycle of chronic inflammation occurs and you end up with an autoimmune condition known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
This can lead to cramping, ulcers, diarrhea and sometimes even requires the surgical removal of part of your intestines.
#2 – Heart Disease
When fatty plaques build up and clog your arteries, it can set up a cycle of inflammation that affects your heart and blood vessels.
In fact, studies have shown that people with autoimmune disorders caused by inflammation, like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis have a higher risk of heart disease.
#3 – Diabetes
Inflammation has also been linked to insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. So, if you’re experiencing blood sugar problems, the inflammation in your body could be to blame.
#4 – Obesity
Worried about your weight?
Higher levels of the proteins associated with inflammation in your body have been shown to be a predictor of future weight gain.
In other words, the more inflammation you have, the more likely you are to pack on the pounds.
Now that you know the dangers that come with inflammation, let’s take a look at what you can do to stop it in its tracks and reclaim your health.
Here are the 4 steps to ridding your body of inflammation.
Step #1 in the process is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
This includes eating inflammation-busting foods like:
- Olive oil
- Nuts (including walnuts and almonds)
- Green leafy vegetables (like kale, spinach and collard greens)
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel)
- Fruits (like blueberries, strawberries, oranges and cherries)
You should also avoid foods that promote inflammation. These include:
- Fried foods (like French fries)
- Red meat (such as non-grass fed steak and burgers)
- Refined carbs (like bread and pasta)
Step #2 in combating inflammation is to get more omega-3s in your diet. You can do this through the fatty fish mentioned above as well as by adding chia seeds to your meals.
But for most people, food sources alone just aren’t enough – you’ll need to take a high-quality omega-3 supplement as well. My all-time favorite is krill oil (no fish burps!).
Step #3 in your anti-inflammation plan is to lower your stress levels.
This may surprise you but it’s been scientifically proven that stress destroys your body’s ability to regulate and fight the inflammation that’s making you sick.
To help with your stress levels, try practicing deep breathing for five minutes. It’s best if you can find a quiet place and close your eyes. And, be sure to be intentional about your breath.
It can also help to take a quick walk or get in a round of golf. The activity itself isn’t important just the fact that you’re getting some exercise.
And finally, step #4, try eating a piece of dark chocolate or drinking a cup of green tea since both have been shown to help calm your nerves.
Don’t let inflammation destroy your health and leave you overweight, diabetic and at risk for heart disease and gut problems. Use the four steps above to reduce the inflammation in your body and start reclaiming your health today.
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- Interleukin-6 receptor pathways in coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 82 studies — The Lancet
- The Increased Cardiovascular Risk in Patients Affected by Autoimmune Diseases: Review of the Various Manifestations — Journal of Clinical Medicine Research
- Obesity, Inflammation, and Insulin Resistance – A Mini-Review — Gerontology
- Inflammation-Sensitive Plasma Proteins Are Associated With Future Weight Gain — Diabetes
- Foods that fight inflammation — Harvard Women’s Health Watch
- How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit — Carnegie Mellon University
- Dark chocolate can improve stress, mood, memory and immunity, studies claim — USA TODAY
- L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses — Biological Psychology