How to Reduce or Eliminate Hidden Inflammation
I just want to admit up front: this is a bit of a tricky subject!
Every person will have their own unique sources of triggers for inflammation and it would be impossible to list all possible ones here. Similarly, there are a variety of seemingly effective ways to treat hidden inflammation – both with and without a known cause.
It would be irresponsible, and quite arrogant, for me to list out how to reduce or eliminate inflammation without mentioning that this is NOT an exhaustive list.
You will likely be most successful in addressing your hidden inflammation by working with a functional medicine practitioner. If you live in small town America like I do without one available, several also offer tele-health conferences via Skype and similar services and can write prescriptions for local testing or other interventions they feel are appropriate.
Drop the Sugar
Sugar is a huge inflammatory agent. It is associated with so many disease processes because of it’s inflammatory process. Want some convincing? Check out my article on the 21 Surprising Diseases You Feed When You Eat Sugar.
Are you overwhelmed by the process of dropping sugar? Here’s my story of how I finally dropped it for good (and yes, I was a sugar addict!)
Stop Eating Gluten
Okay, I do not believe gluten is the ultimate enemy some people make it out to be. However, when your body is already inflamed and your immune system is on high alert, gluten is one of those that can cause increased inflammation, and there’s no specific benefit to eating it.
Therefore if you are in an inflammatory state, I recommend just eliminating it for about a month or so. Then you can reintroduce if you want and see how you feel.
PLEASE NOTE: This recommendation to stop eating gluten is not an encouragement of all things labeled “gluten free”. There is so much abuse of that label it’s unbelievable. The “gluten-free” label does NOT equal healthy.
As always, read the ingredients and make an informed decision about your food choices. And please choose mostly real, whole foods over the from-the-box-but-labeled-gluten-free stuff.
Load Up on Non-Starchy Vegetables… and Limited Amounts of Fruit
The fiber and phytonutrients in vegetables and fruit are very beneficial for an anti-inflammatory diet.
Adding non-starchy veggies in generous amounts can help to
- stabilize your blood sugar
- increase your nutrient density
- increase the antioxidants you receive
- help to fill you up so you aren’t as tempted by the sweets in the break room
If you aren’t sure what qualifies as a “non-starchy vegetable”, check out this list. I challenge you to try several different ones that you don’t think you like and just flavor it well with other foods. You might surprise yourself! My current faves are okra, cauliflower (the frozen “riced” variety can be mixed into anything!), and cabbage!
Fruits are also beneficial, but they tend to be abused. In high amounts the fructose can be inflammatory. This is why I stress limiting how many you consume.
Overall, organic berries that are either fresh and local or flash frozen from the grocery are going to have the biggest anti-inflammatory impact. Other than that, I recommend eating what is fresh and in season locally where you live.
Bonus Tip: There are apps that can help you identify which produce is in season locally. I just started using Seasonal Food Guide which is FREE in the Apple Store and targets each state of the US. If you are on another device or if you live outside the U.S. you might need to find other options.
Pay Attention to the Quality of Fats in Your Diet
I did an entire post about healthy cooking oils so I won’t go too deep into this topic here. But it is worth addressing.
The biggest thing I want to emphasize here is that the average American gets much more Omega 6 oils which are inflammatory in their diet than Omega 3 oils.
You can certainly offset this by supplementing with omega 3 oils. Or, you can add foods that are naturally higher in omega 3’s to your regular diet. Here are some great options to add in:
- Grassfed Beef
- Some kinds of fish: Salmon, Sardines & Anchoves (ideally wild-caught!)
- Mustard Seeds
- Winter Squash
- Chia Seeds
For more info on Omega-3s and inflammation, check out this post by Dr Axe that goes into more detail.
Activate Your Body’s Natural Detox Systems
One of the biggest detox systems in your body is your lymphatic system. If you think of your cardiac system as a race track for your blood circulation, the lymphatic system is kinda like a pit stop… it’s where the clear plasma “lymph” slows down to deliver nutrition to the cells in your body and then take out the trash from the cells to be cleaned. After this cleaning process the lymph returns to the cardiac system.
If you are looking for a quick tip, though, the quickest pathway to supporting your lymphatic system is to hydrate, jump and sweat. Be sure to check out those articles above for the reasons these are so helpful to your detox pathways!
Actively Avoid Toxin Exposure
Toxins, unfortunately, are very common in today’s modern world. Often times the things we have created for convenience, profit or some combination of the two are just not really compatible with our biology.
If you have hidden inflammation, you need to be aware of toxins that might be in the food you are eating – mold, chemicals, degraded fats, denatured vegetables, and so on. But you also need to be aware of what you absorb!
Your skin is actually your largest organ and when we use personal care or cleaning products that are exposed to the skin, those things get absorbed through and can have a big impact on our health.
Some Resources on Where to Start
If you aren’t sure how to go about finding natural chemical-free personal care products that work (and aren’t expensive), check out my 5 Step Process where I explain exactly what I have done to replace (almost) all the chemicals in my personal care products.
If you just want some straight up product recommendations without having to think so much (and I don’t blame you!), here are some of my personal favorites right now.
What you clean with is also important! Here are some of my favorite natural cleaning supplies (including some that are way cheaper than normal ones!)
The Bottom Line Regarding Chronic or Hidden Inflammation
Ideally, I believe everyone should be striving to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. It prevents and can improve symptoms or occasionally reverse disease processes in so many people that it’s just a healthy approach to life. This post is by no means an exhaustive guide, but hopefully it will give you some ideas of how to evaluate if you have hidden inflammation in your body and some next steps to investigate.
If something in this post resonated with you…
or you have a question or comment you would like to add to the discussion, please feel free to drop it in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!