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By Dr. Marguerite Weston |

The Diet, Exercise & Inflammation Connections

How You Move & What You Eat Today Directly Impacts How You’ll Feel Tomorrow

Inflammation is a normal and necessary biological response to stress that helps our body protect itself against injury or illness. However, chronic inflammation can leave us feeling sluggish, sore and all-around unwell. If left untreated, it can even lead to a variety of health problems.

An optimized diet, consistent exercise regimen and routine movement play a significant role in reducing inflammation in the body. Here’s what you can do to optimize your activity to reduce this natural — but uncomfortable — immune response.

What Is The Main Cause Of Inflammation In The Body?

The main cause of inflammation in the body is an immune system response to injury or illness. Chronic inflammation can also be caused by factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, undiagnosed food sensitivity and a sedentary/inactive lifestyle. Age, obesity, low sex hormones and sleep/stress disorders have also been linked to higher risks of chronic inflammation. 

What Happens If Inflammation Goes Untreated? 

Long-term, untreated inflammation can lead to damaged healthy cells, organs and tissue. This can cause tissue death, decreased immune function, weight gain, internal scarring and damage to DNA which increases the risk of cancer, Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening illnesses.  

What Can We Do To Reduce Inflammation?

Incorporating regular physical activity and a healthy diet can reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can also help.

Some conventional drugs can be used to combat acute inflammation that stems from overworking or injury; these include statins, NSAIDs, corticosteroids and Metformin. When it comes to chronic inflammation, it is vital that we get to the root cause.

What Role Does Diet Play In Inflammation?

Eating a balanced and healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats can substantially reduce inflammation in the body. Processed foods, sugar and unhealthy fats can trigger inflammation and should be limited in the diet.

Foods To Combat Inflammation Include:

  • Olive oil
  • Leafy greens
  • Fatty fish
  • Ginger
  • Berries
  • Bone broth
  • Garlic
  • Avocadoes
  • Beans
  • Almonds

Foods Known To Cause Inflammation:

  • Red meats
  • Processed meats
  • Refined carbohydrates and sugar (white bread, breakfast cereals, white rice, etc.)
  • Fried foods
  • Soda
  • Margarine and lard
  • Alcohol

“There are foods to take out of our diet to lower inflammation and foods to add to decrease it. Increasing healthy omegas while decreasing unhealthy fats — usually found in fried and processed foods — is a great idea, along with eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables.”

Dr. Marguerite Weston
Connection Between Diet, Exercise & Inflammation

The Elimination Diet & Identifying Your Unique Inflammation Causes 

The Elimination Diet is an intensive strategy that employs 21+ days of abstaining from the most common food irritants and a reintroduction period to help pinpoint which foods are causing daily discomfort. 

Throughout the first 3 weeks, patients are asked to avoid:

  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Processed meats
  • Unnatural sugar
  • Shellfish
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Gluten

After 21 days, patients add each ingredient back into their diet one at a time and monitor their symptoms for 48 hours. The goal is to identify ingredients that cause bloating, head fog, congestion, headaches and more. 

What Supplements Have “Anti-Inflammatory” Effects?

Some supplements that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects include omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, ginger, and vitamin D. It is important to talk to a doctor or functional medicine specialist before starting any new supplement regimen.

What Exercises Reduce Inflammation?

  • Aerobic Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease chronic inflammation, as well as improve cardiovascular health and mental well-being. Aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling, swimming and even High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are effective in reducing inflammation.
  • Resistance Exercise: Studies have also shown that resistance exercise can decrease inflammation in the body. Lifting weights and using resistance band exercises can help improve the body’s anti-inflammatory response.

What Happens To Inflammation When You Overtrain?

Lifting weights can help decrease inflammation in the body by increasing the body’s anti-inflammatory response. However, it is important to note that overtraining and not allowing enough time for recovery between workouts can lead to increased inflammation. Long term, this will affect your adrenal glands and your cortisol levels; cortisol levels can be tested and the exercise regimen can be adjusted to help your adrenals heal and thus improve your cortisol levels. Adequate rest, proper hydration and an increase in protein can help reduce inflammation after and between workouts. 

“Sometimes ‘inflammation’ gets a bad reputation, but exercise causes a low level of inflammation that is helpful. Our body adapts to it over time and, as a result, we have lower levels of overall inflammation. Now, too much high intensity exercise without rest can cause a dysregulation of our immune system and result more inflammation. This is where a personal trainer can be vital in your success.”

Dr. Marguerite Weston

What Role Do Personal Trainers Have In Creating Sustainable Exercise Plans?

Personal trainers play a critical role in helping individuals create sustainable exercise plans that will help reduce inflammation in the body. They can directly work with individuals to determine their specific needs and create a tailored plan that incorporates both resistance and aerobic exercise — one that is challenging enough to see results, but not defeating. 

Inflammation is natural, but it can be a significant health concern if left unaddressed. Incorporating regular exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce it. It is important to establish a sustainable and effective exercise plan, as well as seek advice from a doctor before starting any new supplement regimen. With the right support and resources, individuals can take control of their health and reduce inflammation in their bodies.

Dr. Marguerite Weston Author Bio Photo

About The Author

Dr. Marguerite Weston is a functional medicine expert and weight loss doctor in Columbus, Ohio. She specializes in creating sustainable lifestyle plans to help patients live better, more comfortable lives. As a wellness specialist at Donaldson Plastic Surgery, she often employs hormone replacement therapy, temporary supplement regimens and gut health optimization techniques to achieve life-changing results.

Dr. Weston is constantly researching new ways to assist her patients along their journeys and educating individuals everywhere when it comes to what they can do in their day-to-day lives to feel their best. 

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