Much can be said about our habits. We have some that are good for our well-being, like brushing our teeth and some that aren’t so good, like the nightly bowl of ice cream. But have you ever had the chance to take an inventory of just how much your daily habits contribute to the development of disease? There are many factors that contribute to disease, including genetics and lifestyle. But there is one key factor that is the root cause of our most devastating illness: Inflammation. Heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and even cancer have shown to be caused from a cascade of inflammatory processes in the body. We hear from the medical community about treatment to reduce inflammation (primarily medications) but don’t receive much guidance on how to prevent inflammation from starting.
Ask yourself this:
Do I have regular habits that are contributing to more inflammation in my body?
Do I maintain habits that help to reduce inflammation in my body?
What are the key factors that affect inflammation?
For most of us, the majority of our control over inflammation and disease comes from the foods we eat. We can choose foods that actively reduce or promote inflammation in the body. We know many of the foods we should be eating more of (fruits, vegetables, fish, super-foods). We also know the foods we should be avoiding (fried food, fast food, processed foods). But what we are less aware of is how often we consume these foods in relation to each other. We tend to remember the good habits more than the bad ones, so we lose track over time if we are doing as much as we need to be in order to maximize our health. Sure you get bonus points for drinking plenty of water today, but were you also avoiding the Chinese take out?
Food is Not the Only Factor
We can get overly focused on the diet when thinking about healthy living, but we need to consider other major players as well. Sleep, stress and exercise are just as important to keep well managed to keep inflammation at bay.
Many research studies have demonstrated an increase in stress hormones after a period of sleep deprivation. When our stress hormones increase, it also happens to coincide with our appetite hormones increasing. Like a huge snowball effect, when we become out of balance in one area, it can easily bleed into another.
What about stress though? Do we expect to lead stress free lives? It’s not about having an absence of stress in our lives, but about cultivating the appropriate reaction to stress that helps us cope without contributing to the inflammation response. It’s been shown that patients who undergo a stress reduction practice while trying to heal from illness are more successful at beating their illness. Check in with yourself on this one. When was the last time you got sick? What is during a very stressful period in life? Most of the time, it happens right after the stressful period has ended. The stress and adrenaline hormones subside and our body crashes.
So how can we take advantage of our habits to make sure we are not harming ourselves more than we are healing ourselves? The first step would be to take an inventory of how frequently you engage in inflammation reducing behaviors relative to behaviors that promote inflammation. Then step 2 would be to make lifestyle changes to shift towards adopting more behaviors that reduce inflammation.
Take this Quiz!
I’ve developed an Inflammation Inventory Index to measure both diet and lifestyle habits to give you a current index of inflammation.
Tally up your score below (it’s 1 point for every Yes):