Each and every day, we make choices. From what we eat to how often we sleep, we directly influence the level of inflammation in our bodies. As each day passes, we need to ask ourselves: are we contributing to positive health or are we continually making pro-inflammatory choices?
You may be thinking, I don’t have arthritis, Crohn’s or any other inflammatory disease, why should I worry about inflammation?
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where we tend to take action after we become sick. We often forget that most diseases do not just appear overnight — they are a result of chronic inflammation, based on the daily choices that were made. Our bodies can only take so much abuse before the scales tip. We directly influence that balance.
Whether you are 30 or 65 years of age, you can benefit from a lifestyle that promotes a reduction in overall inflammation. What does that mean, you ask? Well, take this 14-day challenge to see for yourself.
What is inflammation and why should I care?
We often think of inflammation as negative term, but this is not necessarily the case. To put it simply, inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. Think about when you cut yourself — the wound may become red and slightly swollen. This is a sign that inflammation is present and that your body is attempting to heal itself.
Whether you live with rheumatoid arthritis or work 80-hour weeks within a stressful environment, your body constantly struggles to maintain balance — also known as homeostasis. Acute inflammation, such as a cut or sprain, can enhance the healing process, However, chronic inflammation is a whole new ball game.
Researchers link inflammation to dangerous diseases
Within recent years, researchers have uncovered potential links between inflammation and a range of chronic diseases. From heart disease to diabetes, autoimmune conditions to cancer, it’s clear that developed nations are experiencing an inflammatory epidemic.
Not only are we seeing issues arise in terms of our physical health, but our mental health as well. Within one 2015 study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers found that individuals who suffer from depression had 30 percent more brain inflammation than those who were not depressed.
Is your lifestyle pro-inflammatory?
Now, back to those daily decisions that you make. Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re promoting inflammation in your body. Are you:
- consuming refined carbohydrates and other processed foods every day?
- filling up on harmful high-fat foods, while avoiding options such as fish, nuts, seeds and algae?
- promoting optimal balance in your gut?
- harboring a spectrum of toxic metals and other harmful chemicals based on the products you use?
- under constant stress?
The sad reality is, within our modern environment, sources of inflammation are absolutely everywhere. As our exposure to these variables increases, it appears that a pro-inflammatory environment and lifestyle can activate genes, which then influence our health. In severe cases, this can lead to gene mutations, which then result in cancer.
I’m not trying to bring a world of doom down on you. In fact, I’m trying to achieve the exact opposite. Become more aware of your body and the sources of inflammation in your life so that you can make changes. As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Take the 14-day inflammation challenge with me
I created a 14-day challenge for myself — and would love for you to join me. It all starts with small steps, working towards a more balanced lifestyle. Once you make changes to your diet, for instance, your body will have the tools it needs to increase energy levels and improve your ability to focus, allowing you to regularly exercise and manage stress more easily.
The truth is, you have likely developed years of bad habits, so I don’t expect you to completely transform overnight, but this 14-day challenge will most certainly enhance your current level of awareness and introduce new, sustainable habits and health-promoting ideas. Here’s how to get started.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 1
On day 1, you will be setting yourself up for success, moving into a more positive mindset. Today, I want you to go through your cupboards and eliminate any processed items. Please box any items that are unopened and bring them to your local food bank or associated drop-off location — food waste makes me absolutely cringe.
Clear space in your pantry, fridge and mind for a new diet to kick in. Over the next 14 days, eliminate:
- Refined grains
- Refined seed oils
- Artificial sweeteners
These are what’s known as pro-inflammatory foods, or foods that exacerbate inflammation. Over the next 14 days, you will be living off of fresh, whole foods. Get excited! On your shopping list, include plenty of:
- Fresh, local fruits and vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens)
- Pasture-raised poultry
- Wild-caught, cold water fish
- Organic, free-range eggs
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Healthy oils, including olive, coconut and avocado
- Fresh herbs
- Spices, including turmeric, allspice and cinnamon
- Fermented foods
As you probably guessed, these foods are anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 2
By day 2, it’s game time — no sneaking any junk food. Begin your day with a hearty breakfast. Try a poached egg, fermented vegetables and cup of mixed berries. Wash it down with a green tea infused with fresh ginger, and away you go. I want you to get into the habit of making time for your diet.
Far too many people say, well, I just don’t have time to eat breakfast or pack a lunch. But keep in mind, that’s a choice you make. Remember, every action has a reaction. And in the case of inflammation, you bet your poor diet choices will catch up to you.
Each day, try something new and push yourself to give your body the nutrition it craves. This challenge is about reaching your goals and pushing your boundaries. Start making time for what really matters — starting with your diet.
Whether you have a large salad for lunch or a stir fry for dinner, the key is variety. Your salad should be all kinds of colors, topped with some sort of protein. On the side, drink a cup of bone broth or try kombucha. Start to experiment with new recipes and consume more raw foods.
Also, make time for what truly gives you a feeling of purpose and meaning. It doesn’t need to be extreme, just something that brings you constant joy. It can be a hobby or simply more time with friends and family. When you make time for what’s important, your happiness will follow and your health will benefit.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 3
By day 3, you should be in the thick of it. Maintain a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet, but also continue to educate yourself. Today, I want you to read reliable, scientifically supported information to further enhance your knowledge — then create three goals.
Write them down in a journal and include what you have and will be eating. As you track and process what’s going on in your life, you can pinpoint areas that beg for improvement. I’m attached to my journal — see how the art of journaling can benefit you.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 4
Today, I want you to create your own little windowsill herb garden. This will be a gift to yourself — one that keeps on giving. Some of the best herbs for inflammation include basil, oregano and sage. Get into the habit of snipping fresh herbs to put in your salads, smoothies and whatever else you’re whipping up in the kitchen. I’d also like you to try this golden turmeric milk recipe, using coconut milk.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 5
Although you do not necessarily need to master meditation today, I want you to familiarize yourself with this practice. Meditation and mindfulness have been highlighted throughout a range of studies, showcasing the positive effect these practices have on stress levels and overall inflammation. Learn to be more open to your experiences and positive results will follow.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 6
At this point, you will have already been drinking plenty of fresh water, but today, I want you to start your morning with a lemon water and continue this every day from now on. In addition to the one to two liters of water you drink throughout the day, this morning top-up with help alkalize your body, supporting anti-inflammatory effects. You can also infuse your water throughout the day with cucumbers, oranges and herbs.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 7
It’s a day for reflection. We’re now at the end of the first week, so how do you feel? Although keeping up this 14-day challenge may feel overwhelming, when you truly adopt this type of lifestyle, these steps will become routine. As you continue to consume an anti-inflammatory diet, reflect on your experience so far. This will increase your level of self-awareness and help you create new goals.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 8
Here we are, week two. This week, I want you to focus on getting adequate amounts of sleep. Shoot for seven to eight hours a night to avoid long-term inflammation. Those who suffer from insomnia, for instance, tend to produce inflammatory cytokines at an increased rate. Remember, your body does most of its healing at night. If you struggle to sleep, try this herbal remedy.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 9
Today is the day you introduce regular exercise into your routine — something you need to maintain long after day 14. Not only will exercise help you reduce inflammation, it will also protect your heart, brain and muscles. No need to go crazy either. As long as you complete 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, you will support a healthy weight and overall positive health.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 10
Time for some deep breathing, folks. Believe it or not, most of us aren’t breathing properly — and this can be one of the simplest ways to target inflammation. Deep breathing will be felt all the way in your belly, allowing you to stimulate the vagus nerve. This is known to dramatically reduce inflammation.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 11
Today, you’re in for a treat. Find the nearest park or forest and go for a walk, immersing yourself in nature. The effect that nature has on inflammation has been documented in a number of studies, including one key study on forest bathing. In comparison to students in the city, those who spent two nights in an evergreen forest exhibited less oxidative stress and inflammation.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 12
After your day in the forest, you likely felt more at peace. This is a feeling I want you to take and apply into everyday life. Today, see if you can cultivate that same feeling throughout the whole day. Peace of mind is a powerful tool to reduce inflammation, as stress activates the production of adrenaline and cortisol. Although these hormones serve a purpose, a constant state of stress will lead to chronic inflammation and increased tissue damage and risk of disease.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 13
As our 14-day challenge comes to a close, try something new today. Perhaps you’d like to try yoga or rock climbing. Whatever it may be, shake up your routine. When you try new things, you find new sources of inspiration. Whether you want to learn a new skill or just break out of a rut, thinking outside the box will support your creativity and overall health.
Stop fearing what may happen. That s is hindering your life experiences and your ability to grow as a person. If you get stuck in the same mundane routine, day-in and day-out, you’ll reduce your own personal development. Take a few risks and don’t be afraid to truly challenge yourself.
Inflammation Challenge: Day 14
Today, celebrate by having friends and family over for a meal you prepared, utilizing some of the ingredients you’ve been eating over the past two weeks. Share your experiences with them and encourage them to adopt a similar lifestyle. The more you share your new outlook on life and your budding goals, the more likely it is you’ll stay on-track.
Here are a few recipes for you to try for your celebratory feast:
The sky’s the limit. This 14-day inflammation challenge is meant to inspire you to live a healthier, more fulfilling life. When you take action, implementing the tips and lifestyle changes mentioned above, you will naturally reduce inflammation and protect yourself from disease.
Don’t let inflammation run wild. Each day is a new opportunity, so start clearing out your pantry — it’s time to bust inflammation for good.
— Krista Hillis