how to reduce inflammation

Holy Basil, an excellent natural support for stress and inflammation | Credit: Katie Biesendorfer

None of us is perfectly safe from the inevitable effects of aging. Even the healthiest among us eventually face the onset of time, and loss of youth and vibrancy, that comes with it— and I’m not just talking about what we usually associate with aging, like wrinkles or greying. I’m talking about inflammation and stress— the real causes of physical aging, and some conditions— which aren’t just skin deep. This begs the question: can we learn how to reduce inflammation and stress naturally? We will discuss the powerful benefits of holy basil and what causes inflammation.

To an extent, inflammation and stress are completely natural. They will always set in on our health and wellness at some point; and, to some degree, we must embrace these internal effects of getting older (or developing chronic conditions) as they can’t be stopped. But that’s not to say we can’t care for or preserve our health and wellness as much as possible as the years go by, and keep a great deal of that energy, youth, and vitality: there are some easy and natural ways out there to learn!

What is inflammation (especially chronic inflammation)?

Inflammation is a big buzzword in the health world these days. You’ve probably heard of things like “anti-inflammatory diet” or “chronic inflammation.” In these contexts, inflammation is a reactive process in the body in response to health-degrading influences or substances— or, on a lot of cases, just simple age and time.

There are times when chronic inflammation in the body is healthy, such as when it is temporary with fever or helping the body get rid of harmful allergens or pathogens (sinus inflammation and runny nose are good examples). However, truly harmful chronic inflammation can get triggered in the body by eating a poor diet full of inflammatory junk foods, too much sugar, being exposed to harmful pollutants, smoking, drinking, and much more.

That’s right: health issues like common joint inflammation or gut inflammation may have garden variety chronic inflammation at their root. What’s more, chronic inflammation can be triggered by emotional and mental states— especially stress!

These types of chronic inflammation are not exactly healthy or functional in any way at all— and instead of being temporary or helpful, they can eventually lead to other problems like blood sugar issues, metabolism, heart problems, autoimmunity, and more.

inflammation causing foodsWhat causes chronic inflammation?

  • Junk or processed foods
  • Excessive consumption of animal products
  • Too much low-fiber food (too little plant-based foods)
  • Too much sugar (which is bad for you)
  • Too many simple carbohydrates
  • Irritants, pollutants, chemicals
  • Genetics (for some chronic inflammation-related conditions)
  • Substance use (alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
  • Excessive stress, or anxiety
  • …and more

How are stress and inflammation connected?

The effects of diet and other lifestyle choices are fairly straightforward for explaining chronic inflammation. That said, the connection between daily stress and inflammation can be a very surprising revelation. Can you believe that how you think, feel, and emotionally deal with daily challenges could cause an inflammatory reaction in the body? Well, it’s true. What stress does to the body is very real and measurable, going far beyond a person opening their mouth to say, “Hey, I’m stressed!”

Studies show that our direct experiences with stress can act like an inflammation “gateway” to our bodies: we deal with the stress, and then our bodies respond with inflammation, a heightened immune response designed to protect us. But when we deal with too much stress— an overbearing job, a difficult relationship, or overworking ourselves— the chronic inflammation that comes from this is no longer helpful at all. Not until we deal with and heal the stress separately!

Until then, issues like gut inflammation, muscle inflammation, and plenty of other issues might plague us to no end.

How to reduce inflammation

Stress effects on the body, and other issues that lead to chronic inflammation, are no joke. In fact, it’s these very factors that speed up the effects of aging and cause us to lose our youth and vibrancy: both cosmetically and internally. Chronic inflammation is just as responsible for the natural lines, wrinkles, and greying of time on our skin and hair as it is for our increased risk of illness, disease, cancer, weakness, dementia, and many other symptoms within us as we age.

The natural secret to maintaining our wellness and vitality? Reducing inflammation! This means not only taking care of our skin and our body, but our mental and emotional health by managing stress, too.

Signs you may be dealing with chronic inflammation or stress issues include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolism issues
  • Difficulty maintaining a healthy weight
  • Pain issues (including chronic pain)
  • Stress or anxiety interferes with daily life
  • Fatigue and brain fog
  • Less energy and difficulty exercising
  • Cognitive and focus issues
  • Gut inflammation and imbalances
  • Digestion issues
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Low immunity
  • More sickness and disease
  • ….and more

If the above list is sounding all too familiar to you, don’t fret. It’s never too late for self-care and pampering the body. At any age (or with any condition) there is always some energy, vitality, and wellness to hang onto and preserve!

Diet and lifestyle tips for how to decrease inflammation:

  • Boost intake of plant-based foods
  • Boost natural fiber intake
  • Boost natural antioxidant intake
  • Eat less animal products
  • Take more immune-boosting vitamins
  • Lower consumption of sugars
  • Lower consumption of processed foods
  • Lower consumption of simple carbohydrates
  • Exercise more often
  • Decrease or quit substances (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.)
  • …and much more

How to reduce stress

Reducing Stress and Inflammation | McPeak MarketFor some of us, there’s no helping our inflammation issues if we don’t also deal with the stress, anxiety, or other emotional (or even spiritual!) challenges in our lives. This is why perfecting techniques for stress relief and handling anxiety are just as important as cleaning up our diet, detoxing, and other lifestyle choices for decreasing inflammation and its symptoms: like pain, fatigue, and much more.

It’s becoming more and more accepted that some inflammation-related conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, and even high blood pressure could be directly fed by, worsened by, or potentially partially caused by stress.

Habits that indirectly help inflammation by supporting stress include:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Working on meditation techniques
  • Dealing with emotional issues directly
  • Problem solving mental and emotional obstacles
  • Improving relationships
  • Practicing more self-care
  • Taking up yoga or similar practices
  • Exploring your personal spirituality (or religion)
  • Considering therapy or counseling
  • …and more

What is holy basil?

uses for holy basil

Holy Basil | Credit: Katie Biesendorfer

In the natural world, fortunately there are remedies that are supportive of both chronic inflammation and stress. None is more popular nor renowned than holy basil, a close relative to the Italian culinary herb sweet or green basil. Holy basil use for health has been incredibly important in some areas of far East Asia, where it is consumed daily as an adaptogenic age-defying tonic, thanks to both its inflammation- and stress-fighting properties.

Health uses for holy basil include:

  • Adaptogen qualities (helping body deal with stress of all kinds)
  • Antioxidant benefits
  • Reduce chronic inflammation
  • Protecting against effects of aging
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Reduce the chance of illness and disease
  • Support the body dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety
  • …and much more

The health benefits of holy basil are becoming easier (and tastier!) to find in the Western world as supplements and teas. Along with many other inflammation and stress fighters, holy basil is a treasure trove of benefits that can help you weather the worst over the years.

which foods boost the immune system

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