Inflammation is something we talk a lot about here at Natural Super Kids. It relates back to almost every area of health, but it is particularly relevant right now due to its role in COVID-19.
Although we hear about inflammation all the time, many people don’t understand the ins and outs of the process. That’s why we thought we would break it down in a way that is easy for you to understand.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about inflammation and how it affects your family’s wellbeing.
What is inflammation?
Put simply, inflammation is an immune response to something harmful in the body, such as a toxin, a germ or even damaged cells. It’s designed to resolve something that can potentially cause damage and initiate a healing response.
The interesting thing about inflammation is that in small doses, it is vital for our survival. Acute inflammation is vital for repair and recovery from injury or illness. You can often see and feel this type – think redness, swelling or pain in a particular area. Once the problem is removed, the immune system resolves the cycle and moves into a healing phase.
It’s when inflammation becomes chronic that problems arise. This type contributes to inflammatory disease processes, and can affect the entire body. Chronic inflammation is often invisible because it can be anywhere in the body.
Why does it become chronic in the first place?
For some reason, the immune system is unable to solve the problem it has detected. This might be because we continue to be exposed to the threat, so the immune system keeps reacting to it.
Sometimes it can even continue if the original problem is fixed – for example, old injuries that we experienced as kids can flare up when we are adults. This is because some aspect of inflammation is still present.
Over 50% of deaths worldwide have an inflammatory component. All of the Western diseases that we know – cancer, heart disease, dementia, autoimmune disease and type 2 diabetes – have this component.
So we do need inflammation for acute issues, but it can quickly become dangerous if the cycle doesn’t resolve. Our goal is not to eliminate it completely, but to keep it under control. This can reduce any issues it directly causes, as well as reducing the risk of developing inflammatory conditions in future.
What role does it play in kids health?
When you look at the conditions that occur in childhood, most of them are inflammatory. Allergies, eczema and asthma are all inflammatory. Autoimmune conditions have an inflammatory component. Even autism, ADHD and mental health imbalances like depression have been found to have an element of inflammation.
We do have medications to control the inflammatory aspect of some of these conditions. But it doesn’t resolve the root cause. We need to ask ourselves why it is happening. Why is the skin inflamed with eczema? Why are the lungs inflamed and causing asthma? This is what we need to think about if we want to get a handle on these types of childhood conditions.
What triggers inflammation?
When it comes to inflammation, there are two groups of causes to consider: external triggers and internal triggers.
External triggers are those found outside the body. Most of them are related to our Western diet and lifestyle. Some common triggers include:
- Processed and refined foods
- Large amounts of sugar
- Vegetable and seed oils
- Artificial additives
- Food intolerances such as gluten and dairy (these vary from person to person)
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Sedentary/indoor lifestyle
- Poor sleep
- Drug and alcohol use (including medications)
The good thing is that we have more control over these factors. They are easier for us to modify.
Internal triggers are those that occur within the body. Some of the common internal triggers include:
- Leaky gut – when undigested food particles leak into the bloodstream
- Dysbiosis – an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut
- Dysregulated immune system – this can include allergies, intolerances and autoimmune conditions
- Excess body fat
Because these occur inside of the body, they can often be invisible and hard to detect. It can be helpful to work with a practitioner to uncover what might be happening underneath and address any internal triggers for inflammation.
What we can do to reduce inflammation naturally
Everyone can benefit from keeping inflammation on the low side. Even if your kids don’t have any health concerns that have an inflammatory element, you can help to minimise their risk and protect their long-term health.
The good news is that there are steps you can take right now to address inflammation.
Cut down on inflammatory foods
An easy change to make is to cut out or at least reduce inflammatory foods. You want to minimise your family’s intake of:
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Vegetable and seed oils – including vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil and soy oil. These are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids
Instead, focus on eating plenty of wholefoods that are rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
Reduce exposure to toxins and chemicals
We know that toxins and other problematic chemicals can initiate an inflammatory response in the body. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid every toxin out there, but we can minimise exposure to some of them.
Start by cleaning up your home environment. Look at the personal care and cleaning products you use. Start to switch from plastic containers to glass or perspex alternatives.
For more ideas about making your home a healthier space, see this article about indoor pollution.
Spend more time outdoors
There are so many reasons why we need to spend plenty of time outdoors right now. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D because we live an indoor lifestyle – and this is only growing thanks to the pandemic lockdown. Vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory nutrient that supports a healthy immune system.
Time outdoors can also help with reducing stress, which is a known contributor to inflammation. Research has found that spending time outdoors is linked to lower levels of inflammation.
Getting out into the fresh air and sunshine is something that we can all do regularly. You can go for a walk, head to a nearby national park, or you can just sit outside in your backyard. Make time outdoors a priority, especially over the winter months.
Build up gut health
Did you notice something that almost all of the internal triggers had in common? That’s right – gut health. A healthy gut is essential for healthy levels of inflammation.
By building up gut health, you can reduce the internal triggers for inflammation. But you can also make sure that you get the most out of any anti-inflammatory foods that you include.
When it comes to gut health, you don’t have to make a huge overhaul. Little habits can build up over time and make a big difference.
Work with a practitioner
If you have tried all of these steps and don’t feel like it is enough, working with a practitioner may be what you need. We can help you to uncover internal triggers such as intolerances or imbalances in the gut and immune system that you may not have been able to resolve yourself. You can book a consultation with our Naturopaths here.
Many of the causes of inflammation for ourselves and our kids are driven by the gut!
Learn how to improve your kids gut health with our FREE Kids Gut Health Ebook – download your copy here.