What exactly is inflammation? Inflammation is your body’s vital natural defense response triggered by the immune system. An inflammatory response is triggered by an injury – a scrape, a bee sting, a sprained ankle – to which the immune system rushes pro-inflammatory cells to help fight the injury and possibly infection. Most common symptoms are redness, swelling, pain. Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal.
When inflammation doesn’t go away after the injury is healed, it can become its own problem. Lingering, low level inflammation causes the immune system to become overly sensitive, presenting itself as problems in one or more body systems – anything from sleep problems, digestion issues, elevated blood sugar, or skin irritations. If left unchecked, it can contribute to chronic diseases, many age-related diseases, and chronic skin issues.
So while redness, tenderness and swelling around a pimple is the body’s acute inflammatory response in fighting acne bacteria, underlying inflammation in other body systems may show up in the form of sensitive skin, unbalanced skin or contribute to acne in general.
What can we do? While any suspicion of chronic inflammation should be addressed and treated by a doctor, we can support a lifestyle that helps our body.
Manage stress and get a good night’s sleep
Stress releases cortisol; prolonged stress leads to cortisol dysfunction and inflammation becomes a response to stress. Chronic stress can lead to tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system. In the world of skincare, this means premature aging, skin sensitivities or breakouts.
Actively manage stress by taking small moments of time for yourself: practice mindfulness, stop and smell the roses, book yourself a facial. Remember, a good night’s sleep helps the body to regenerate and re-balance.
Help your body fight its saboteurs
We know that sun, pollution, smoking and inflammation cause free-radical damage. Free radicals are unpaired electrons looking to become stable. They will steal electrons from proteins, DNA, and cell membranes through a process called oxidation. This causes wrinkles, sagging, dryness, dullness and unwanted pigmentation, like age spots and broken blood vessels. Anti-oxidants have an electron to spare and are thus vital in neutralizing free radicals. Help your body by minimizing the exposure to free radicals and supporting their neutralization with anti-oxidant rich foods skincare products.
Watch out for inflammation boosters in your diet
While a nutritionist or doctor is best equipped in assisting you in making any dietary changes, it is known that certain foods contribute to inflammation.
Sugar and high glycemic foods (think white breads, pasta, pastries) will increase blood sugar, trigger insulin, and inflammation. Processed foods, in particular meats, trans-fats (may still be present processed baked goods and fried foods) and excessive alcohol consumption are known to contribute as well. Food allergies and intolerances will also trigger inflammatory responses and should be addressed.
On the other hand, an anti-inflammatory diet can greatly contribute to overall well-being, health, and skin health in particular. Do not underestimate the importance of staying adequately hydrated to detoxify your body and prevent lingering toxins from causing inflammation.
Exercise – at your own pace
Regular physical activity has well-known health benefits. A workout session doesn’t have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects. Twenty minutes to half-an-hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, can stimulate the immune system and produces an anti-inflammatory cellular response.
Remember, the skin is the body’s largest organ. It will respond to nurture just like any other part of yourself. Treat it with the love it deserves.