Inflammation and digestion are earning more mentions in scientific studies as well as personal stories. How are they linked and what can we do to manage them?
Inflammation and digestion – understand the basics
By digging into the details of our digestive systems without getting overly scientific, you can better visualize and appreciate how it works and its significance in our overall health.
- Your nutrient-absorbing small intestine contains digestive flora, which can become unbalanced due to use of antibiotics, birth control pills, hormones (including steroids) and alcohol. Stress and diet can also disrupt the balance.
- Mucous membranes are key to protecting you from harmful microbes and parasites that can cause infection. They are found throughout your body — in your nose, mouth, lungs and urinary digestive tract. Many infections and diseases can begin as, or can be related to, inflammation in your mucous membranes — allergies, asthma and sinusitis, angioedema, arthritis, bronchitis, influenza, lymphoma and the list goes on.
- Intestinal villi are projections in your digestive mucous membranes that allow the absorption of nutrients. For example, when a person with celiac disease, a digestive intolerance to gluten, eats gluten, her body will react allergically, possibly for several days. Her body may also damage the villi, hindering their ability to absorb nutrients properly.
So, eating even a little bit of a “culprit food,” one that causes a visible or invisible bodily reaction, can seem to cause only an annoying but tolerable reaction, like minor itching or stuffiness. In reality, each time you eat it, you can damage your body’s digestive system. Damage to your intestinal flora, mucous membranes or villi can serve as a root to other problems.
And the more damage that’s done, the harder it can be and longer it can take to repair it.
What can you do to control inflammation and digestion?
Fortunately, you can take steps to help minimize inflammation in your body with hopes of nurturing your digestive system. Get enough sleep — 7 to 9 hours for adults and more for kids, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Minimizing stress as well as consumption of alcohol, antibiotics, steroids and hormones is also helpful in controlling inflammation and digestion. Some people are also more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and should limit exposure to them.
And of course, one of the most important things you can do to manage inflammation and digestion is to eat foods that help your mucous membranes do their job.
- eating more nutritious foods (aim for 50% of your diet to be veggies).
- eating fewer foods that cause inflammation. Some main instigators of inflammation are gluten, dairy, sugar and corn syrup, food additives, fried foods and processed foods. Even nuts and a group of foods called nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, more) can cause inflammation for some people.
- eating more anti-inflammatory foods, such as ginger, garlic and turmeric.
- paying more attention to how your body reacts to various foods, and then avoiding or minimizing the ones that bother you.
- rotating the foods you eat, instead of eating the same thing every day.
- keeping a food journal for a few weeks to help pinpoint foods that bother you, because symptoms like congestion or changes in your bowel movements may not show up for a day or two.
Feed your body mostly nourishing foods. Get plenty of sleep. Choose wisely what else goes into your body.
Take care of your body and it will be better equipped to take care of those things outside of your control!
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.