I’m sure you’ve heard all about inflammation, and already know it’s not something you want in your body. But it’s still one of those terms that doesn’t seem to have a concrete meaning. So what, exactly, is it, and why might you want to avoid creating more inflammation in your body?
While some short-term inflammation is normal, like the stuffiness you feel in your nose during a cold, or the swelling you see after twisting your ankle, chronic inflammation seems to be at the root of a long list of major health concerns. “If left untreated, chronic inflammation can lead to numerous illnesses and diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and Alzheimer’s Disease,” Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and founder of RemediesForMe, tells Bustle.
That’s why you’ll want to avoid inflammation now, for your current self, as well as for the health of your future self. “Essentially, inflammation results from stresses placed on the body — these can come from the food you consume, the environment, or other lifestyle behaviors (i.e. sleep, exercise),” says Catherine Metzgar, PhD, RD, a member of the clinical team at Virta Health. “Avoiding triggers of inflammation can improve your overall health and prevent the development of chronic conditions that may negatively impact your health.” Read on for some things that can lead to inflammation, so you’ll know just what to avoid to stay healthy.
1. Complaining About Your Busy Schedule
Everyone needs to vent occasionally, but if you turn this type of complaining into a habit, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. “By … telling everyone about your long to-do list, you are triggering a stress response from the body that will increase levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and cause inflammation,” says certified health and fitness coach Sarah Honey-Lawson. “Perceived stress causes the same inflammatory response as a real, physical stress.”
2. Going Overboard With The Condiments
This may sound strange, but you can increase inflammation in your body simply by using too many condiments, like tomato or BBQ sauce. “These contain common food allergens that, when eaten regularly, cause inflammation,” Honey-Lawson says.
3. Drinking Out Of Plastic Water Bottles
While it’s not always possible, the best thing to drink out of is glass, since plastic can damage your health over time. “The toxins from the plastic can leak out in to the water (especially if the bottle has been left out in the heat) and lead to inflammation,” Honey-Lawson says.
4. Consuming Cup After Cup Of Coffee
You might want to keep an eye on your caffeine levels, too. “Caffeine is an endocrine disruptor (i.e., it mimics your own hormones),” Connie Rogers, a certified integrative nutritional holistic health coach, tells Bustle. “Caffeine disrupts digestion, blood sugar levels, and adrenal glands, leading to increased stress levels.” And more inflammation.
5. Eating A Sugary Diet
Store-bought desserts are the worst offenders when it comes to your sugar intake, since they’re loaded with sugars and processed fats — which all lead to inflammation. “Sugar causes inflammation in all body systems, including our adrenals. When the adrenals are stressed, our body not only shuts down repair of tissues and growth, it shuts down the immune and digestive system,” Rogers says. “Over time this stress can increase gut inflammation, heart disorders, high blood sugar levels, and premature aging.” If you’re going to have dessert, it may be better to make it yourself.
6. Spraying Scents And Burning Candles At Home
Everybody loves a room spray, or a scented candle. But, as Rogers tells me, some studies show that scented products like these emit VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which are not exactly great for your health. So, going forward, try using natural scents — like essential oils — to freshen up you room. Or just open a window.
7. Using Toxic Body Products
As neuroscientist and holistic wellness expert Leigh Winters says, “Not many people know that the majority of their daily beauty and self-care products are riddled with toxins that can lead to hormonal imbalances that trigger inflammation in the body, which can sometimes manifest as a rash or red blotchy skin — sometimes in the form of eczema or psoriasis.” While you don’t need to panic and throw out everything you own, it may be smart to read labels from now on, and choose products that are free from harmful ingredients like petroleum distillates and hydroabietyl alcohol.
Just in case you needed one more reason to avoid smoking, go ahead and add inflammation to the list. As Murray Grossan, MD says, “Smoking reduces mucociliary clearance, the tiny cilia or oars that move bacteria out of the lungs. The slower the cilia movement, the more bacteria remain in place, forcing the body to mobilize factors of inflammation.” That, and the fact smoking basically impacts ever other aspect of your body, means cigarettes are definitely better off avoided.
9. Not Getting Enough Sleep
If you can’t sleep a solid eight hours for one or two nights, it’s not going to kill you. But that doesn’t mean you should make a habit of going to bed late. “One way to create poor sleep is to actively text well past midnight. This reduces sleep, reduces standard immune factors, and necessitates inflammation,” Grossan says. Sleep allows your body time to repair itself, and keep inflammation down, so get to bed on time.
10. Having One Stressful Day After Another
Again, stress is not great for your health. “Studies have shown that stress greatly increases inflammation in the body, negatively affecting health, and can increase chances of disease and cancer,” says Lee. “Stress increases cortisol, a ‘stress’ hormone in the body … When cortisol is not able to regulate the body, inflammation within the body can become out of control.”
11. Cooking With Seed Oils, Like Canola
When cooking at home, it’s super important to pay attention to what kind of oil you’re tossing onto your food. “Seed oils are very high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs); and unsaturated fats are unstable … meaning that they are prone to being easily oxidized the second they are exposed to heat, light, and air,” says healthy lifestyle designer Kristen Battistelli, CEO and founder of Discernible Tastes, LLC. “The minute the chemical structure changes, your body then views your food … as a foreign toxin, and that’s when your body starts to go haywire.”
12. Eating Lots Of Processed Carbs
I love a piece of bread as much as the next gal. But sadly, highly processed carbs are yet another thing that can ignite the inflammation flames within your body. But that doesn’t you should avoid carbs altogether. As Metzgar says, “Consume carbohydrates from anti-inflammatory foods like non-starchy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.”
13. Drinking A Ton Of Alcohol
While some people will argue the health benefits of a glass of red wine, keep in mind that not all alcohol is great for you. “Alcohol is not a health food and can increase oxidative stress within the body, causing inflammation,” Rogers says. So limit how much you consume, or avoid it altogether.
14. Not Brushing Your Teeth
This may sound like a strange connection, but your oral health can and will affect the rest of your body. “If the teeth are ignored and there’s gum disease, this can cause systemic inflammation,” Dr. Prudence Hall, author of Radiant Again & Forever, tells Bustle. “Cardiologists know that inflammation is one of the main reasons heart attacks occur and heart disease arises. So they’re very concerned about dental hygiene.”
Since inflammation can lead to so many issues in the body, like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s a real good idea to pay attention to what can cause inflammation — like smoking, drinking, eating red meat, and being super stressed — and avoid those things whenever possible. Sound good?