What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural process; it is the body’s way of responding when we are sick or injured and commences the healing process. In the case of an injury or illness, the body responds by sending white blood cells to protect the body and promote repair. You may relate to experiencing inflammation as swelling or a fever. However inflammation can become problematic when chronic inflammation develops and white blood cells attempt to treat something that does not require a response. In this circumstance, the immune system begins attacking healthy tissue and producing chemicals that damage cells. This is when autoimmune diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, acne and other skin related problems can occur.
What causes inflammation?
There are different things that cause inflammation, but some of the main causes include diet and stress.
Considering much of the immune system resides in the gut, it stands to reason that dietary choices can greatly affect inflammation. Some of the biggest triggers include sugar, refined carbs, processed food and alcohol. There are diets that can help reduce internal inflammation.
Another key trigger for inflammation is stress. Like over consumption of sugar, stress encourages increased production of cortisol. This increased production of cortisol fosters a more toxic environment and encourages inflammation. Unfortunately stress is unavoidable, so it is important to manage it on a regular basis so it is not exacerbated.
Sleep, or rather lack of sleep is closely linked to inflammation and chronic inflammatory diseases. Therefore ensuring you invest in 8 hours of sleep a night is critical to a productive and healthy lifestyle.
How does inflammation affect the skin?
When we consider the skin, collagen is one of the first things that can be affected by inflammation. Inflammation breaks down collagen and also prevents it from forming. This enhances the visual signs of the ageing in the form of wrinkles and sagging skin.
Likewise there are many skin disorders that are quite literally a visible response to inflammation including acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis; often red and angry in appearance.
Reducing inflammation – The golden rules
Diet: Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory properties can prevent excessive inflammation and quench free radicals. Healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 found in oily fish like salmon, avocado, chia seeds and coconut are great options. Antioxidant rich foods can help manage inflammation and cortisol levels including berries and dark leafy greens.
Reduce stress: Managing stress levels are one of the most important ways we can help with inflammation. Creating a lifestyle or ways to release stress will greatly affect the way the body is able to manage stress hormones.
Sleep: Sleep is when the body has the opportunity to restore and recuperate. We know that performance, production and general well-being is greatly enhanced by sleep. There is also a direct correlation between sleep and reduced inflammation (including chronic diseases caused by inflammation).