Inflammation underlies many acute and chronic conditions in both children and adults. Integrative treatment of inflammatory conditions involves reducing systemic inflammation through diet and lifestyle.
Some of the most important factors to consider when making anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes include: diet, sleep, exercise, time in nature, stress, digestion, social interaction, and hormone balance. These factors are all interrelated in ways that science is still working to understand.
Lifestyle Factors That Influence Inflammation
Diet, Microbiome, Immune Balance & Digestion
What we eat and how well we digest it affects the inflammatory balance of the body. This likely occurs due to anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory molecules that we eat and through the interaction of dietary fiber with the intestinal microbiome. The health of the intestinal microbiome influences hormone, nutrition, gene expression, and immune balance.
Sleep, Stress, Liver Health & Hormones
Sleep disturbance is associated with increased inflammation and so is acute and chronic stress. Sleep and stress are intimately linked and improving one often improves the other. When sleep and stress are out of imbalance, cortisol, the body’s most important anti-inflammatory hormone, becomes imbalanced and widespread inflammation may occur. Other hormones including melatonin, vitamin D, sex hormones, and thyroid hormones also play a role. Good liver and gut health are essential for optimal hormone and inflammatory balance.
Exercise, Air Quality, & Time In Nature
Both exercise and time in nature are known to improve sleep, stress, hormones, and inflammatory balance. Exercise and time in nature can be helpful together or separately. However, when outdoor air pollution is bad, exercising outdoors can worsen airway inflammation. On these days, indoor exercise is preferred.
A healthy social network is important for both mental and physical health. Healthy social connections can help reduce stress, while unhealthy social connections can be a source of significant stress. Inflammation and social isolation have a complex relationship. It appears that social isolation may worsen inflammation and that inflammation may worsen social isolation.
An anti-inflammatory lifestyle is an important part of the integrative treatment of many acute and chronic conditions. Diet plays a foundational role in managing systemic inflammation, but there are other factors to consider, including the microbiome, digestion, sleep, stress, hormone balance, immune balance, exercise, time in nature, social interactions, and more.
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