When I started connecting the dots between my diet and lifestyle, chronic inflammation and disease, I felt empowered to take charge of my health. Why? Because our daily choices are the root of chronic inflammation.
Over the past decade, I’ve renovated everything from my grocery cart to my makeup bag to my mind in an effort to upgrade my immune system. And as I moved from a stressful life full of fast food, toxins and bad boyfriends to a more balanced existence filled with plant-based nourishment, inner growth and conscious living, I started experiencing the perks—chronic inflammation decreased and my body started working with me to heal and rebuild.
Want to start connecting the dots in your own life? First, let’s learn about acute and chronic inflammation, since they play very different roles in our everyday health. Then, we’ll cover the causes of chronic inflammation and how to reduce its impact on your health.
What is inflammation?
Acute inflammation is your body’s natural and helpful immune response to tissue damage. When you fall off your bike, the cut swells, reddens and feels … inflamed! These are all signs that your immune system is busy at work sending white blood cells to the site of your injury to repair the tissue. In this situation, inflammation is our friend—we couldn’t live without it.
Chronic inflammation is your body’s confused and damaging immune response to a barrage of environmental, physical and mental invaders, which come in the form of things like poor diet, toxic chemicals and stress. I’ve written about chronic inflammation in all of my books because it’s such a huge piece of our health challenges. It’s also the type of inflammation we’re focusing on today. Here’s chronic inflammation in a nutshell from my cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen:
…There’s a silent (yet violent) kind of inflammation that can take place without you even knowing it. What you eat, drink, and think (stress!), environmental toxins, smokin’, booz- in’, and even a couch-potato lifestyle can create a fiery cascade of inflammation in your body. When your body hits an inflammatory overload, your defense system gets so overwhelmed and confused that it literally doesn’t know the difference between the invader and you. As a result, your well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and everything else in its wake. It’s like when Al Pacino played Tony Montana in Scarface. He mows down everything in sight, yelling, “Say hello to my little friend!”
Some of the causes of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is triggered by numerous factors, but most of them are within your control and can be avoided or replaced. Take a look at this list. Anything sound familiar?
- Poor dietary choices: processed foods, too many animal products (factory farmed are the worst offenders), sugary drinks, trans fats and certain unhealthy saturated fats, and excess alcohol.
- Gut health issues
- Food sensitivities
- Chronic infections (bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites)
- Stress and exhaustion
- Sedentary lifestyle
There are countless other causes of chronic inflammation, but these are some of the biggies. If you don’t think that these things are a risk to your long-term health—think again. Next stop, the toll they take on your well-being.
The results of chronic inflammation.
Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, leading to chronic diseases and other health issues, including cancer, asthma, autoimmune diseases, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, osteoporosis and even (gasp!) appearing older than your years. Unfortunately, these challenges are often only treated with drugs and surgery, which may provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but do not treat the root of the problem. In addition, these drugs (and their side effects) sometimes only add to your health problems.
Could it be that many of the pills in your cabinet are just band-aids and that the key to health lies in your daily diet and lifestyle choices? That’s certainly what I’ve found to be true.
The integrative MDs I know and trust are helping their patients identify and address their health issues by looking at the way they lead their lives and nipping their inflammation-happy habits in the bud. If possible, find an integrative doctor who can help you along the way and target your unique needs. They can also test your blood for inflammation (make sure your doc requests a CRP—C-reactive Protein test).
Although this may seem overwhelming, it’s actually the opposite. The following tips will empower you and help you reduce inflammation over time. Try a few (or just one) of these suggestions on for size and see how you feel. As always, slow and steady wins the race (or in this case, puts out the fire!).
How to reduce chronic inflammation.
1. Eat more plant-based, whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Crowd out the inflammatory foods we discussed above (refined sugar and flour, processed junk, animal products, etc.) by adding a variety of plant-based whole foods to your diet. These foods will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber it needs to recover from chronic inflammation. Need recipes? I’ve got you covered! Check out the KrisCarr.com recipe page, Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Crazy Sexy Juice. Watch some of my cooking classes, get the lowdown on what I’m eating (morning, noon, and night) and find out what I’m cooking up in the kitchen—Vegan Penne a la Vodka anyone? Isn’t fighting chronic inflammation delicious?