Flu season is just around the corner, which means it’s time for all of us to build up the immune system and make sure it’s in tip-top shape to fight off any germs that may come our way. One way to do that is being conscious of inflammation in the body and its impact on immunity. While commonly overlooked, just by decreasing inflammation, you could boost your immune system naturally!
What is inflammation?
It’s important to know that while inflammation gets a bad rap, it is an essential component of the immune system’s response to damage and infection. It is the body’s way of telling the immune system to mend and restore damaged tissue while also defending itself against outside invaders like viruses and bacteria. Without inflammation, wounds would fester, and infections could become fatal.
That said, no matter how significant inflammation can be for your body, too much of a good thing is harmful.
If inflammation in the body continues for too long (or happens in regions where it is not required), it can become a problem for the immune system.
There are two forms of inflammation that the body endures:
- Acute inflammation happens as a result of a knee cut, sprained ankle, or sore throat. It’s a quick fix with localized effects, which means it only works where there’s a problem. Acute inflammation is distinguished by redness, swelling, heat, and, in some instances, discomfort and loss of function.
- Chronic inflammation can have long-term and whole-body repercussions. Chronic inflammation is also known as persistent, low-grade inflammation. It causes a consistent, low-level inflammation throughout the body, as determined by a slight increase in immune system markers detected in blood or tissue. This form of systemic inflammation can lead to disease development.
What causes chronic inflammation?
There are many causes of persistent, low levels of inflammation in the body that can weaken your immune system:
- Exposure to toxins – Being exposed to things like black mold, perfumes, unregulated plastics, or chemicals are all things that stir up inflammation in the body and can wreak havoc on it over time.
- Poor gut health – Inflammation in the gut is not contained to the gut. The presence of harmful bacteria there can infiltrate the rest of the body’s functioning and lead to a weakened immune response by way of inflammation.
- Poor diet – Inflammation can also occur when tissues die due to a lack of oxygen or nutrients.
- High stress – Stress raises our cortisol levels, which in turn increases inflammation in the body.
How does inflammation impact the immune system?
Like cops patrolling a community, our immune cells guard the immune system. These tiny cells work hard to notify the system of an injury or threat to the body. This message is sent by a complicated system of chemical signals, which then causes changes in the tissue–inflammation. Inflammation starts when an immune cell recognizes a molecule associated with damage, stress, or infection. It begins with a broad and non-specific innate immune response. Then, it localizes and restricts the threat, allowing immune cells to enter.
Without it, our body wouldn’t be able to prevent or fight illness. Cuts wouldn’t heal, burns would go undetected, and sprains would be left untouched.
Inflammation and the immune system are a dynamic duo. When in balance, they conquer and defeat all the bad guys. When one overshadows the other, such as the case with chronic inflammation, the duo suffers, and so does health.
How to decrease inflammation in the body
To repair the relationship between the immune system and inflammation, you have to decrease inflammation in the body. There are a few tactical steps that you can put into motion daily to help lower chronic inflammation in the body and boost your immunity.
Avoid foods that cause inflammation to keep blood sugar levels stable
Simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, refined sugar, and anything containing high fructose corn syrup should be consumed in moderation or avoided entirely. An essential tip to follow is avoiding white bread, rice, pasta, and meals made with white sugar and flour. Instead, keep to a low inflammation diet. Prepare meals that include lean proteins and high-fiber whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Check the label to see if the first ingredient is “whole wheat” or another whole grain to know if it’s one of the foods that fight inflammation.
Fun fact: It’s also known that sugar not only is pro-inflammatory; it also suppresses the immune system. Lose-lose situation.
Make time to exercise
An easy way to boost the immune system is through exercise. Scheduling a regular exercise routine is a practical anti-inflammatory approach. Schedule 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic activity and 10 to 25 minutes of weight or strength training at least four to five times per week. Since high levels of inflammation are tied to chronic diseases like diabetes, weight loss can aid in the reduction of inflammation.
Control your stress levels
As we mentioned, chronic stress aggravates inflammation. We understand that daily it can be hard to manage stress levels, but it’s essential to lower the cortisol response in your body to boost your immune system. Try meditation, yoga, guided imagery, or another strategy to manage stress throughout the day.
So this flu season, be sure to take steps to decrease inflammation in your body and add supplements for immune support to your routine to help add an extra punch.
Want to learn more about how to decrease inflammation in the body naturally? Chat with one of our functional medicine doctors today.