Trying to decode the signals our bodies send us can feel like a giant puzzle sometimes. Why do we feel great some days and crappy on others? And what do those nagging symptoms really mean?
I know how frustrating this kind of uncertainty can be. You want (and deserve!) to feel great. And you can. It all starts with connecting the dots between your lifestyle choices—the foods you eat, how much sleep and exercise you get, the stressors you face on a daily basis—and your overall well-being.
Because the truth is, those internal and external influences have the power to nourish us, but they can also trick our bodies into thinking they’re under attack and send our immune systems into total chaos. That’s the root of chronic inflammation, which is exactly what I want to talk with you about today!
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.
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 major (and often unrecognized) factor in 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!”
The dangers of chronic inflammation
Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, which may lead 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.
But I’ve got good news! There are plenty of simple practices you can incorporate into your daily life to fight chronic inflammation. Here are my top 5 anti-inflammatory tips to get you started.
5 simple ways to kick chronic inflammation’s butt
1. Eat more whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.
Crowd out the foods that cause inflammation (refined sugar and flour, processed junk, animal products, etc.) by eating a beautiful cornucopia of whole, plant-based foods. Dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, berries (cherries in particular), olive and flax oil, hemp seeds, turmeric (or more specifically, curcumin, which is a naturally occurring chemical with anti-inflammatory properties), and ginger are all anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Eating them on a regular basis will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber and other goodies it needs to recover from chronic inflammation.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes with some of those inflammation-fighting ingredients:
- Turmeric Milk
- Classic Green Lemonade
- Antioxidant Boost Smoothie
- Tomatoes & Herbs
- Crazy Sexy Kale Salad
There’s more where that came from—my cookbooks, Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Crazy Sexy Juice, are both packed with delicious anti-inflammatory recipes!
Oh, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Proper hydration helps decrease inflammation and can even prevent it from happening in the first place, so drink up, buttercup!
2. Get down with your gut!
Your gut holds approximately 60-70 percent of your immune system, so it’s a great place to start if you want to reduce chronic inflammation. And if your gut is in bad shape, your immune system might be in some serious trouble. One easy way to start improving your gut health is by adding a high quality probiotic to your daily routine. The FloraMend Prime Probiotic from Thorne Research, Ultimate Flora from Renew Life and Jarro-Dophilus EPS from Jarro Formulas are some of my personal faves. And if you want more tips and resources to help you take care of your gut health, check out my post here!
If you’re experiencing prolonged bloating, gas or other digestive discomforts, taking digestive enzymes with meals can help you get more nutrition out of your food, as well as improving digestion and boosting your immune system. Check out my blog here for more info on digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics!
Another potential explanation for inflammatory symptoms could be leaky gut syndrome. This condition may occur if your intestinal lining is damaged, therefore allowing bacteria, undigested food and other toxins to literally “leak” into your bloodstream. The leak triggers an autoimmune response and a host of painful inflammatory symptoms. If you think you may have leaky gut, ask your doc to help you get a test done!
3. Find an integrative MD you trust, and work together to identify potential food sensitivities and chronic (or hidden) infections.
Speaking of doctors, finding the right one is a critical part of nipping chronic inflammation in the bud. A good integrative MD will take a holistic approach by looking at your habits and the way you lead your life, then helping you identify and address possible chronic inflammation triggers. Here are two in particular that they might be on the lookout for:
Food sensitivities: Gluten, soy, dairy, eggs and yeast are just a few of the common problem foods that might be wreaking havoc on your immune system every time you sit down for a meal. If you think you might have a sensitivity or allergy, start paying close attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. If your symptoms persist, fill your doc in on what you notice— they may suggest a blood test or elimination diet. You can find more info about food allergies and sensitivities here.
Chronic infection: Bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites—oh my! These guys could be hiding out in your body just under the radar and dragging your immune system down. If chronic infection is a suspect in your inflammation mystery, your doc may ask for blood work and/or a stool sample to analyze. Yes, your poop say has a lot to about what’s goin’ on inside, so listen up!
4. Relax and rest more.
Your body is hard at work repairing and restoring your glorious cells while you sleep. Most doctors recommend 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re cutting corners in the snooze department, you’re cheating your immune system, which means it needs to kick into high gear in an effort to keep you well (hello, inflammation!).
Stress goes hand in hand with a lack of sleep and a laundry list of demands in our daily lives. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed out all the time, you’re also producing more of the hormone cortisol—inflammation’s BFF. You can reduce chronic inflammation by focusing on stress reduction, whether it’s through more sleep, yoga, meditation, long walks, less technology or a much needed vacation. You know I love to take every opportunity I can to remind you to take a chill pill!
This article is just awesome. My chronic inflammation was as a result of environmental allergies which also meant i had food allergies. My body and immune system spent most of it’s time dealing with my allergies and little time on healing my body. My Naturopath recommended an allergy desensitization technique (AACT) for both my environmental and food allergies. We also did a lot of work on my gut using whole food supplementation. I feel healthier and my immune system is stronger. I no longer have the allergies : )
I battle inflammation from Hashi’s and Autoimmune Arthritis – Exercise and Diet help a BUNCH but also, in last year, I added a new supplement line (beyond my typical Fish OIl) and since taking it I have gone from taking 5 aleve a day to manage inflamed joints to NONE! I am almost pain free! I can’t believe what I difference it has made. Lifelong Vitality supplements are high in antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory – so much that I barely have the diagnosis anymore. My numbers look great! no signs of inflammation! So thankful I have been able to calm this fire.
I looked at the doterra website but am confused which you might have used for Hashi. Please give me more info if possible. Thanks
I very much recognize your situation. Have you tried PeaPlex from RS4supplements.com?
I totally get what you are saying. I know for sure that when I cut gluten, dairy, soy and sugar from my diet, my inflammation blood markers went down and my thyroid panel improved. I also had thyroid nodules, and have no other explanation for their disappearance on my recent ultrasound, other than changes to my diet.
One thing I really have to work on is the stress side of things. Just when you think you are managing it, something comes up and sets you right back. I guess its not about the amount of stress you have, it is how you manage it. Thanks for this info, it really reasonates with me.
Howdy Kris, You have inspired me to detox, stop drinking coffee, cut out process foods and sugars and up the greenery in my diet! At the moment I have a coffee hangover but know that will pass. I’m sure my stomach is smiling as I type…
I use eucalyptus oil and lemon as cleaning agents. This mix seems to work on most things; stainless steel gleams and the bath tub sparkles. In a spray bottle with the dash of eucalyptus oil add water and a good squeeze of lemon and voila!
Thanks Kris for all the information and the way you put it all together.
Great tip Lynda. Thanks!
I need to jump into this with both feet, I am currently suffering from yet another bout of diverticulitis, seems I have a flare up every 6 months at scan time. If I could just flip a switch to turn off the stress and then make myself eat better…
Hi Patty – I was in the hospital six times in one year with diverticulitis. I have been on an anti-inflammatory diet, and life style and the difference is amazing! Happy to share ideas with you. You can find me at [email protected]. It makes a world of difference.
thank you! i’ve shared this to my facebook page with my friends and holistic nutrition clients!! simple tips which everyone should consider and hopefully adopt in their diet and lifestyle.
I created my own cleanse last week and it was great! (one day raw, 3 days juice, followed by one day raw.) Already gluten sensitive, can’t eat dairy, don’t eat meat except fish, I depended on eggs A LOT before my cleanse. I also happen to have a funky GI tract that is tre sensitive!
After no eggs for five days during my cleanse, I have to wonder if those guys are a major source of body discomfort for me.
I see them now in my fridge and think I’ll keep them at bay. When I begin eating them again, I’ll be paying attention to how they affect any inflammation in my body – thanks for this reminder!
What the chickens eat and what they may be medicated with (antibiotics) will be passed on to you. Same for all foods, really, but mostly animals…
I truly appreciate the consistent reminders and support I receive in my inbox from you on a regular basis. This is a great post! Is there a way to be super healthy and also “cheat” a little sometimes? In regards to inflammation? I am a HUGE fan of juicing (just finished some fresh beet, carrot, ginger, mint, grapefruit from a Parisian market) and I used to work as a raw vegan chef in San Francisco. I did feel amazing when I was 100% raw, but at this point in my life as I travel constantly I find it a little less stressful when I don’t get uptight about eating 100% clean. Is there a way to awesomely balance a healthy life with some flexibility especially when under a hectic schedule or living situation?
Thank you so much for being you!
You are one of my role models!!
Of course Aliza! Let this way of living be your overall compass, but you don’t have to stick to it perfectly all the time — especially if you don’t have health issues. Many ppl are in constant pain and they really need to stay true to this advice until they feel better. After which point they can explore. For some there’s more wiggle room than for others. We’re all so different and we come to the party with our unique strengths and weaknesses. Your body will tell you when it’s time to clean up if you’ve drifted too far.
This post came at just the right time! I am day 6 into my new vegan lifestyle. I’m lactose intolerant and I’ve never eaten much eggs – plus I have been vegetarian for two years – so the difference isn’t that big. However, I woke up today with a really icky belly and at first I couldn’t understand why. However – after reading this post – I think it might be the soy chai I had yesterday! I hardly ever drink soy, so it makes sense. Thank you for raising my awareness and focus on food allergies and sensitivities.
A great start!
Hi Kris. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and after I finished treatment in 2011 I changed my diet and my lifestyle. I started eating plant based with very little gluten and soy, and I switched out any as many environmental toxins as I could. (Inspired mostly by Crazy Sexy Diet!) Before doing all of this I got sick with viruses and bronchitis several times a year, and had regular flare ups of diverticulitis.
After eating plant based for about 5 months I saw a naturopath. She did lots of testing and she told me that I had one of the lowest levels of inflammation that she had ever seen!!
I have not been sick with anything – not even a sniffle – for almost 2 years, and have had no evidence of cancer for over 3 years now!!
These changes make a difference!!!
What urine test checks for leaky gut? I need to know what to ask my doctor for since he i not holistic. Also what is your opinion of iodine deficiency?
What a great wealth of info to find on a MONday (MOON) morning !!!!!!!
Your the best Kris – I will share with many people that I love and that
need this information – I myself am in the middle of getting all my test back
from what is causing the attack on my immune system – IT”S a PUZZLE
All i know is that by following Dr Terry Wahl ‘s diet – which you can also
view her TED talk online – I fell in 3 months – a whole new me – Like you say
It is exciting – the natural high we can produce VS. the burned out over
productive drained self !
Thank you from my deep heart for helping so many
and last night I viewed the TED Talk by Robyn O’Brein = WOW !!!!!!!
WOW WOW a must see for your fans xoxooxoxoox
Happy Spring xoxoxo and full moon energy xo
Is your autoimmune problem still doing well?
Wow!! Kris, you’ve done it again! You are always spot on with your info. You have an incredible talent for pulling together a treasure trove chocked FULL of extremely valuable info and sharing it in a very understandable and enjoyable way. I always look forward to your highly informative and motivating emails.
Just a quick mention: Speaking as a now-retired dental hygienist (holistic mostly), I would like to highlight the impact of oral-systemic conditions. I am very happy to learn some healthcare professionals are now connecting the dots between oral problems (root canals, mercury in silver fillings, tooth decay and periodontal disease) and the rest of the body and their important role in chronic inflammation. YEA!! Yep, the same blood that flows through our brain, kidneys, gut, heart, fetus, etc. flows through our teeth and gums and can take bad boy bugs along with it if they are living and thriving in the mouth. And, unfortunately, many people are unaware of the presence of oral disease (even oral cancer) because most oral diseases are so sneaky and don’t cause a lot of ruckus until they have progressed past the early stages. So, I would encourage all to take the bull by the horns and keep your kisser clean and healthy! Makes for better smooching too—HA!
Lana! Such a great point and important topic! I really need to do a post about this. Thank you, thank you.
You do an awesome job of a write up on a complicated system but extremely critical to our health. I would love to see you write about the need for dental awareness and mouth health. Here is an extremely interesting YouTube on mercury and fillings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9ylnQ-T7oiA#! I thought because I had “gold caps” I was safe from the mercury stuff but come to find out it’s in those too! bummer for sure.
I understand Dr. Oz just touched on mercury in fillings and he got slammed by the ADA, no surprise there. I remember hearing the joke told in dental school “drill them, fill them, bill them”. How sad is that?
You have such a wonderful platform for creating awareness and this is another great one for you to spread the word about and as a fellow health coach I will happily forward to my small group.
Yes, I too would LOVE to see you do an article on the dangers of Mercury Fillings! 3 years ago I was diagnosed with MS. I started to take the meds, and felt they werent helping so stopped them and started down the holistic route. Turns out I had Mercury Posioning!!!
I now realize how very important it is what I put in my mouth!!……….xx
I’ve heard this before. But what is the solution for all the dental work that’s already been done? I’ve had almost all of my metal filling removed but what about root canals? How do I get rid of them? Have the teeth pulled out? Please advice what the solution to this would be. Thanks a lot. I’ve been wondering about this for awhile.
As you might guess, the mouth is a very complex area of the body and it would be impossible to make recommendations for anyone’s oral treatment without fully examining and evaluating their condition. However, there is a great book, “Mouth Matters” by Carol Vander Stoep, RDH, BSDH which I have found to be invaluable in assisting people in locating and learning how to work with a good biological dentist. Carol has been recognized and interviewed by Dr. Joseph Mercola, who is an alternative MD. I hope you will follow up with your desire to have a healthy mouth. Your body will certainly benefit from it! Good luck!
I would like to know this too 🙂 Thanks!
Good question. I’d like to know the answer.
Thanks so much for discussing this topic!! It never gets any attention and is rarely talked about. Oral cancers are becoming more and more common these days. I know this because I was diagnosed last year. I am about 1 year post surgery. I now have a prosthetic mouthpiece to fill in for the chuck of my mouth that had to be removed. The care and maintenance of my mouth is now such a huge part of taking care of myself. Oral care is so important and so many issues can be avoided with the area if we paid more attention to it
Thanks so much for this information. I have been dealing with swollen eyelids on and off since October and been to several docs they can’t tell me what is causing it. I have cut out dairy etc I will be cutting out more as well as changing my cleaning products . And I will change the probiotics I am taking to ones you have recommended. Also do you know if any integrative MD’s in houston?
I have dealt with this issue too. It started 3 years ago when my immune system and allergies took a steep deep due to stress and on set of inflammation. I would say I rarely get it anymore. I can give you couple of things that helped.
I changed my eye make up, Dr Haushka (if spelt right) as my only eye make up. So you save on allergens there, I get a lot less irritation.
Another great tip, when they do start swelling, blink your eyes a lot and tighten them closed. Do it than look in the mirror a second after you blinked and tightened, you will see the swelling is down. Even short nap will help. It just means you are low on hydration and your body is exhausted.
Supplements give me the swelling too, so I don’t take them. I remember supplements really irritated my eyes. I eat a healthy variety.
Also, I became more strict on no gluten, soy, etc…. Daily exercise (big helper), no stress, smile a lot.
Believing you deserve good, daily affirmations of well being…
Drink more water. Smiling and laughing hydrates your eyes, so you will notice a positive difference there.
If this helps 🙂
Also, what help me A Lot is cleaning my eye make up with Aragan oil and q tip. So I time my mascara and than wipe off with aragan oil. And big one, I only wash my eyes with bottle of water, never tap water. This is the best I have done for my eyes, especially if you live where there are hard water.
I find the swellin to do with dryness of the lids for what ever the cause is (foods, allergens. . Etc).
staring at the computer screen a lot can dry them and irritate them too.
I hope you find the success I found 🙂
Thank you so much for this! I love when you write about health issues. You have a way of breaking complex info into the understandable!
Excellent topic to share! I learned about inflammation 7 years ago when my doctor told me that my chronic inflammation would mean that I would never know my grandchildren. I was only 40 years old at the time. I was so confused, as it wasn’t like I had cancer or something. She explained that it was like microscopic razor blades running through my circulatory system and that over time the cumulative damage would be felt. My doctors tried to help heal my chronic infections, but traditional medicine only exasperated the problem. My life changed when I brought the adequate nutrition into my life. I started taking a very high quality, food based nutritional supplement. Within 2 months I was feeling better. My annual blood work showed improvement in all markers, and the best news was that my inflammation marker was finally in the healthy range. My lifestyle continued to change to include more whole foods and healthy choices. I believe this shift saved my life, and now I will know my grandchildren.
what test do they do to measure your inflammation?
My doctor used a test called Sed Rate to test for inflammation.
They check your c-reactive protein in your blood work.
A great resource for blood work especially in your area? Check out http://www.labfinder.com
Which supplements did you take Kathy please
Thank you for posting this! Lots of valuable information. You hit it all on the nail and I look forward to checking out the other links 🙂 I decided yesterday that I was going to put my blinders on and for 1 day (and hopefully more) I’m going to nourish my body so I can feel better. I don’t have any major issues to speak of, but lots of pesky little things that I know are from inflammation… ‘sinusitus’ (junk in my sinuses), a lump in my breast that benign of anything, but obviously shouldn’t be there, a clogged saliva pour that comes and goes on the roof of my mouth (yes, ew) and I’m pretty sure it appears after I eat like crapola, etc. etc. I’m going to be 30 in less than two weeks and though I won’t be super proud of where I’m at besides the fact that I have THEE best family on earth – amazing husband and 5 girls!!! I want to be on the road to health and get rid of my sugar addiction. I REALLY like learning that it’s real and I’m not just crazy and have no discipline whatsoever. Thank you thank you thank you! Keep up that good work Kris. I hope when I learn to walk the walk that I can share this message too. Truth is beautiful.
Hey Kris thanks for sharing this empowering info. I was recently told that I needed to be treated for MS but I disagree. What I need to be treated for is food sensitivity and inflammation. Which I can pretty much do myself with help from great resources like yourself. Thank you for sharing your wonderful spirit and advice with us. I eat pretty clean now. But I started a few years ago by eliminating processed foods just because I knew they were not healthy for me and my family.
But it’s really been a process getting to where I am today. I didn’t just wake up and eat clean. And I still have days when I don’t. But I’m a lot further ahead and I feel 10x better than I did a few years ago when I was eating total garbage.
And I still don’t have the luxury of eating all organic fruits and vegetables but I eat them anyways. I know for a fact that they’re a lot better for me then boxed foods any day.
NO QUESTION of the truth here! A touch of arthritis is my litmus test for inflammation – a bit of gluten here, a touch of stress there, and I’m in pain. Live life with the checklist you show, and I live beautifully pain free. I’m actually grateful my compass is subtle and not acute. But I do take it seriously as I want each day to be incredible! Thanks for all the fun recipes and spirit – indeed healthy is yummy.
Love your post! I continue to battle severe IBS and need to eat a grain free diet plus no sugar/eggs/dairy/soy/alcohol to reduce the pain. I’ve done lots of changes which have put my inflammation markers in “normal” range and that is eliminating the above, eating fermented foods with each meal, JUICING veggies regularly and eating a diet of 50-80% veggies and 50-20% meats plus yoga. I would love one day to eat less meat and more grains for protein. I would love more than anything to liberalize my diet and have a cocktail once in a while! I am going to check out those labs you recommended as I’ve asked my ultra-reputable, NY GI doc to put me on anti-parasitics but he has refused, as well as the GI doc before him. I’m convinced there’s a parasite component so I will now take matters into my own hands and hopefully get more answers…thanks so much for the recommendation. Hugs!
Hey Ali, did you have any luck finding a good doctor in NYC to do the tests that Kris mentions? I too see a reputable GI doctor and general doc but neither really believe that parasites, yeast, inflammation can be causing a host of health issues I’m going through. You would think it would be so easy to find a good alternate doctor in NYC but I’m having no luck. You can email me too at [email protected]