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—and your overall well-being.
Because the truth is, our daily habits can nourish us, but they can also trick our bodies into thinking they’re under attack. This sends our immune systems into total chaos—the root of chronic inflammation. That’s 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—my chronic inflammation decreased, and my body started working with me to heal and rebuild.
Are you ready to start connecting the dots in your own life?
Before we learn about how to reduce inflammation, let’s talk about the difference between acute and chronic inflammation, and the different roles they play in our health.
What is inflammation?
Acute inflammation is your body’s natural and helpful immune response to tissue damage. For example, 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. What you eat and drink, the thoughts you think, toxins, smoking, booze and even being a couch-potato can all trigger a fiery cascade of inflammation throughout your body.
When your body hits 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 autoimmune diseases and other health issues, including cancer, asthma, heart disease, 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. These may provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but don’t get to 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 add to your day that will fight chronic inflammation. Here’s how to reduce inflammation in 5 easy steps.
How to kick butt & reduce inflammation
1. Eat more whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.
Certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response including processed foods that are high in refined sugar, flour and trans fats, fried foods, and animal products. The easiest way to clean up your diet is to add before you subtract. Crowd out the foods that cause inflammation by eating a beautiful cornucopia of whole, plant-based foods.
Build your next meal around anti-inflammatory powerhouses like dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts, berries (cherries in particular), olive oil and flax oil, hemp seeds, turmeric (or more specifically, curcumin, a naturally occurring chemical with anti-inflammatory properties), green tea, and ginger.
Eating these foods on a regular basis will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber and other goodies it needs to reduce inflammation. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to tap into those anti-inflammatory effects:
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 inflammation. 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 possible cause of inflammatory symptoms is leaky gut syndrome. This condition occurs when your intestinal lining is damaged, allowing bacteria, undigested food and other toxins to literally “leak” into your bloodstream. This kind of leak triggers an autoimmune response with a host of painful inflammatory symptoms. If you think you may have a leaky gut, ask your doc to help you get a test done!
3. Find an integrative MD you trust.
Finding the right doctor is a critical part of nipping chronic inflammation in the bud. A good integrative MD takes a holistic approach by looking at your habits and the way you lead your life. Then you can work together to identify and address possible chronic inflammation triggers. Here are two in particular that your doctor is 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 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 has a lot to say about what’s going on inside, so listen up!
And if doctors make you nervous, here are some helpful tips to face that fear and get the care you deserve. You’ve got this!
4. Get more rest and relaxation.
Your body works hard to repair and restore 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 inflammation by reducing stress. Get more sleep, try yoga or meditation, take long walks, use less technology, or take a much-needed vacation. You know I love to take every opportunity I can to remind you to take a chill pill!
5. Reduce toxins in your food, home and personal care products.
Your body’s alarm system goes off when you absorb toxic chemicals and pesticides through your digestive tract and skin—inflammation station, here we come! Luckily, there are some small, simple changes you can make to start protecting yourself right away. And please don’t feel like you’ve gotta throw out everything in your house and start from scratch—each and every baby step goes a long way.
First, check out EWG’s Clean Fifteen/Dirty Dozen charts before your next trip to the grocery store. It will help you prioritize which produce to buy organic (and when it’s OK to go with conventional). Those lists change yearly, so be sure to check back often. EWG also has you covered with their Skin-Deep database of non-toxic personal care products. Finally, I put together this resource to help you steer clear of yucky chemicals in your household cleaning products.
Remember, small steps lead to big change! That’s especially true when it comes to fighting chronic inflammation. Start connecting the dots to better health by trying one of these suggestions and see how you feel.
I bet you’ll start to notice a difference and want to build from there! Now, I’m about to go sip on my leafy greens, how about you?
Your turn: Do you struggle with chronic inflammation? Which one of these tips will you try? Or, if you have inflammation fighting tips of your own, tell me all about them!
Peace & immunity,
My Crazy Sexy Reset: 3-Day Plant-Based Cleanse is designed to help you get back on track quickly and address the challenges that often come along with unbalanced eating (I’m talkin’ bloating, fatigue, mental fog—you name it). Click here to get started for just $25!
The pills in your medicine cabinet are not just a band aid but are part of the problem. All pharmacuetical drugs cause an acidic environment in the body, which in turn promotes chronic inflammation in the body. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the only way to longevity.
Kris, what do you think about acidophilus pearls as a probiotic? I can’t seem to get any of the brands you mentioned in the UK without it costing much more than I can afford.
What about gastric bypass people? We r supposed to eat protein no carbs. Thz protein drinks are full of all kinds of stuff so are the protein bars. We have to keep sugar under 7 grams per serving as well. Seems hard to eat really healthy now. Suggestions?
I’m so glad I’ve come across your blogs. I think you give amazing and spot on advice. I especially enjoyed your article on adrenals. I feel as though I should fill you in on a little secret. Most people don’t know much or anything about it and others think its witch craft and quackery. Those that experience it know the benefits of it, but may not understand it very much. It has to do with how well your body functions, even if you’re doing everything right. It’s simple really. What do you think would happen if your nervous system had interference that restricted how well the brain and organs and immune system communicate? Have you ever thought of this concept? Most haven’t, I was one if them. So how do we find out if we have interference? How do we get rid of it if we have it? See a chiropractor and get an adjustment. Yep, those guys locate subluxations and remove them so the body can work right. If the nerves that lead to your adrenals are getting squished from a misaligned spine how well do you think your adrenals would work. Not as good as they could if there was no interference. Make sense? If you want to know more or need a referral to a chiropractor that believes in an eat well, move well and think well philosophy (unfortunatly not all chiropractor are created equal) let me know!!!! I work for an amazing chiropractor that refers all over the country and can help make all this make sense, even though I know you get it, you’re a sharp girl!!!! Hope this is helpful and take care! In Health, Shannon
I was so leary about reading your book when I was first diagnosed with Lymphona. There is nothing sexy about cancer, I thought! Well, there is something crazy and sexy about me, I learned (or remembered). You have helped me to continue my health journey, live it with my husband, and share it with my kids. It is such an exciting way to live. I am a passionate juicer, and my kids will even taste test what I make. It has brought excitement into our home at a time that could have been scary and intimidating!
ALL of this is so important Kris! What awesome information. A few months ago my doctor suggested I might have food allergies so I went no wheat, sugar, alcohol, dairy and caffeine. After three days of headaches BLAMMO! I felt a thousand times better – no foggy brain, no stiff joints. All of these suggestions are so so great. Thanks so much for writing about this! I feel like I learned about inflammation just in the nick of time.
ps- I phased back a little caffeine and a little dairy on occasion 🙂
you bet it resonated. I have been ill for over a year, and not one Dr. looked beyond the immediate symptom. I stumbled upon your blog, and have been slowly coming back to life.
It wasn’t easy starting from scratch but I’m not one to give up. Thanks you, Crazy Sexy Lady!!!
Thank you, Kris! This is totally helpful but I am sort of freaking out about all the bad stuff in products my family uses on a regular basis. How did you weed it all out? Where is a good place to start?
I have found that there are lots of eco products out there to choose from. It can be hard though as some of them don’t clean as well. There are also completely natural ‘recipes’ for cleaners like lemon juice and water, vinegar and lemon, lemon juice with bicarbonate of soda for tough stuff, or bicarbonate of soda and water as a soaking or cleaning solution. A quick search has brought up this website for instance http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm. I have generally found that if I avoid things with bleaches, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, parabens and petrochemicals, that has had a big impact on the health of my skin, and the amount of respiratory colds and sinusitis, I and my partner have got. Ecover is the brand I use in London, so I am not sure if this is available elsewhere. Or you could go the whole hog and replace everything with an upright steam cleaner, which is what we are considering. It still does not avoid the need to use cleaning products in some areas, but certainly I think is a real toxin free solution
I am not Kris obviously, but having battled sinusitis and candida for years, found lots of solutions for trying to clear out my environment of toxins, starting with cleaning products.
Ann, I recommend watching Hungry for Change. It’s on Netflix if you have that. http://www.hungryforchange.tv. There was a great recommendation in the movie answering just your question. It says to just start including more healthy items…more vegetables, more fruits, finding organic/healthier replacements for the products you normally use. Try an almond milk instead of diary, etc. Just incorporate new foods slowly, as you learn (and you will learn), and eventually the good/healthy will just crowd out the bad.
I thought that was one of the best recommendations I have seen. It can just be too overwhelming otherwise.
p.s. If you have a Whole Foods, you can even go to their customer service and sign for a tour of their store, their products and how to save money when you shop.
Thanks for the tips, you are awesome!!
Cutting dairy made a huge difference in the way I felt. Unfortunately cheese is one of my loves, so I have fallen prey to indulgences, but switching from milk to almond milk and non dairy creamer and only doing cheese as a treat every few weeks has cleared up my skin, reduced puffiness in my face and given me less headaches.
I have been an avid reader of yours for a little while now. Although I live in London with the help of the internet I have had no problem following you!
For the past two years my 21 year old daughter Jessica has been having all sorts of health problems (mostly tummy related) and has now after loads of tests been diagnosed with Crohns.
I have passed on all your amazing insights and knowledge to her (although she lives away from home at University) and have just sent her a juicer!
I feel sure her health will improve by following you.
I’m fighting ovarian cancer. One of the first things to arrive from my brother was a Green Star juicer and every book you’ve published. Thanks for being here for me, even if you don’t know me. I take your advice to heart and I’ve never been healthier-or been sicker-in my life. With your help I’ll beat this.
I also fought ovarian cancer (and a very rare form) 2 years ago, and won the battle, I was 28. I got through surgery and chemo but I was also inspired by Kris to change my lifestyle, and haven’t stopped since.
I’m sure you will beat it and become an inspiration for many more people!
I wish you all the best!!!
OK…I know this to be true. I’m 63 years old, and about 7 or 8 years ago, I was having a terrible time with both of my knees. I went to the doctor, and he ended up betting me $100 that within 6 months I would be begging him to replace both of my knees because they were so arthritic. That didn’t sound like the kind of party I wanted to go to, so I began looking around for a REAL fix. I went high raw for about 8 or 9 months….quit smoking…lost a bunch of weight….started exercising….and slowly but surely my knees got better. It started getting really cold here in Vermont….started cooking, but stayed vegan. Last summer I broke my right foot and tore the left patellar tendon…got an x-ray on both, and the same doctor came in and said..”I don’t see much on that left knee, but I have good news. You don’t have a drop of arthritis in that knee.” I was so shocked, I never mentioned the $100 bet. But needless to say..I won’t be getting my knees replaced!
Connie (and Kris) , you rock, just the story I was looking for. I am in my early 40s and although I surf, ski and do lots of yoga I have also partied like a banchi (I mean really partied) for way too long, And I have for a couple of years been suffering from terrible tendinitis in my elbows that doctors so proudly refer to as golfer’s elbow (I don’t do or dig golf) and inject me with cortisone to settle down (until it comes back).
Having had the joy and delight of recently seeing Hungry for Change and then stalking Kris’ sight have embarked on a nutritional approach (including reducing and maybe in due course eliminating the real evils). Just the start of the journey but intuitively know this is going to cure me.
Check out Martha Peterson’s website http://www.essentialsomatics.com. She regularly blogs about how Hanna Somatics can help to reverse chronic musclar tension which leads to a variety of issues like frozen shoulder, Plantarfascitis, IT Band syndrome, arthritis, hip, knee & back pain to name a few. I think you will find this really helpful and complimentary to a nutritional approach.
Just a simple thank you for sharing your perspective, resources/links, and logic about wellness. It helps!
Wonderful post and so true about the silent and destructive force of inflammation on our bodies. AlI your suggestions are really important- for me it’s avoiding dairy and yeast and maintaining gut health with aloe vera juice, probiotics and magnesium.
For me, environmental factors have always been my overriding weakness. I did a lot of travelling as a kid and I think my body was shocked with the changes it experienced (I have observed the same from the rest of my family in terms of the inflammatory type symptoms they developed over time–migraines, arthritis, dermatitis, food intolerances). I was born in an environment that was much cleaner I think–the depths of Southern Africa tends to have less of the toxins, chemicals, fumes, moulds, close quarter living and damp conditions that the developing world has created through big towns and cities which contributes to inflammatory environmental conditions. So on the toxins front, we are looking to get an all purpose steam cleaner which will reduce the cleaning products and also address the environmental toxins in the apartment.
Your post has really resonated with me in terms of the sedentary lifestyle and stress. In a weird way, both stress and the sedentary lifestyle are both putting my body under more stress and inflammation. So to manage this, I not only need to rest and actively relax more, but I actually need to get active as well!
I new thing I noticed recently is that when I don’t get my 2 litres of water a day for a consecutive period of time–which I really struggle with over winter, I can go from one cold to another and postnasal drip and sinusitis can set in. Think there must be a link with flushing out of toxins and assisting the body to fight the inflammation??
Incidentally a great thing for treating sinusitis and other forms of pain and inflammation are infrared lamps. I discovered them through my mother in law. In Germany, infrared lamps are used by new mothers in the wards for the pains after childbirth or for headaches or other aches and pains as the first response, rather than popping a pill. I find it can really help with the inflammation and tension associated with certain pains and definitely beats popping pills–some I which I think may also contribute sometimes to inflammation.
Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.
I am fighting stage 4 ovarian cancer. The first thing that arrived in the mail after my diagnosis was a Green Star juicer and every book you’ve published and your DVD. All thanks to my brother and his lovely wife Lora.
Thank you Kris. You are helping me every day. I’ve never been healthier and I’ve never been more sick. You’ve made the learning curve manageable, you’ve given me hope that I can beat this, you’ve given my friends and family a reason to join me in my quest for health and wellness.
Blessings to you on your journey. I so believe in Kris’ holistic approach to healing. As she says, “let your food be your pharmacy”. Best of luck! Ann
My thoughts are with you during such a difficult time. My mom was diagnosed with the same in Feb 2011 and I sent her Kris’s DVD’s and books too. May you draw on the community and your family as a source of strength and inspiration and know that even people that don’t know you support you.
God Bless, I very recently found out that I may be in a similar boat – stay strong and don’t give up ever … xoxo
I stopped all dairy a year ago, and when I have slipped up, my body tells me with aches and pains especially my lower back (it hurts!). I have found cheese is the worst for inflammation for me because it has more concentrated casein in it than all the other dairy products. So to make myself feel better, I just avoid dairy altogether. Dairy is so overrated in this country thanks to the Dairy Association. It all comes down to profits.
I loved this article! I’ve actually been working on this very thing and over the last couple of years figured out exactly what you wrote about. I haven’t lost that much weight (which I could stand to lose), but it’s amazing how much swelling I didn’t know I had. Puffy eyes are gone, ring & watch are loose, no more edema in my ankles, etc. Thanks for sharing your story!!
I love this stuff! It’s where my head is at too. I’ve been seriously working on my diet since I had cancer and this rings true, taking it to another level with inspiration!. I’m trying to make a difference with kids who are dealing with illnesses my children’s book is about stress, diet and feeling loved.
I would love your feedback. 🙂
PS Crazy Sexy Kitchen is on my list and soon to be in my kitchen! You’re great, Thanks!