This is a brief how-to guide to living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Old healers said that ‘toxicity’ was the root of all dis-ease. Now we know that ‘inflammation’ is the cause of all disease. Inflammation is the body’s way of reacting to infection, injury, chemical & metal toxicity or oxidative stress. So what did Hippocrates, the ‘father of western medicine’ recommend to cure inflammation 2000+ years ago? Hippocrates ‘4 humours theory’ was based around 6 basic principles. He understood cause and effect and that the body needed healing as a ‘whole’ meaning the person needed healing not the disease itself. Holism simply means that all body systems affect each other. We know that the body has its own balancing mechanisms called ‘homeostasis’, which will try to rebalance if it can, like scales that balance themselves. In order to achieve this goal we must take herbal medicines to reduce inflammation, repair oxidative damage, balance hormones and release toxins. To participate in this healing we must follow the 6 principles of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle as described below:

1. Quality Food, Drink & Skincare ~ A quality diet with all the colours, raw and cooked, water, protein, raw fats, fruit and teas are what we call and anti-inflammatory diet. You need nutrient dense foods that are high in vitamin and minerals and low in dense starch and complex carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, dough, grain and sugar especially if you aren’t performing physical work daily. Physical workers need the extra calories but {most of us} sedentary workers don’t. If you are overweight that is a sign you are consuming too many calories. Unless you are an athlete, being at the lower half of your BMI for your gender, age and race is ideal for health. Being overweight means your insulin levels have been high in the past and will need to be lowered which initiates protective mechanisms in the body. High insulin causes hormonal havoc and puts you at high risk of diabetes and stroke, cancers and thyroid disease. Modulation is the amount of food intake. If you are overweight, developing strategies to improve appetite control is a good idea. Talk to us if you need to address this habit. Avoid toxic plastics on food and in drink bottles afood boards plastics interfere with the fat soluble hormones in the body on a molecular level. Organic or spray free, seasonal food is best. Avoid packaged artificial foods at all times. Skincare also needs to be treated like food because the skin absorbs everything you rub on it. The skin needs oils on the inside and out so eat a balanced range of fats and only use natural oils and fragrance that nature provides on the skin. Avoid all beauty products and fragrance that contains chemical ingredients.

2. Fresh air & Deep breathing ~ Whether its forest, beach or country, getting fresh air regularly is a vital part of your anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Nurses would often place bed rest patients outside in the sun in the fresh air for the extra oxygen and vitamin D. Exercising near the beach or in a forest is even more beneficial so that you inhale all that fresh air and cleanse out the gaseous wastes from the blood. Remember CO2 is our waste and gets released carrying other wastes with every out breath so once again exercise is queen for detoxing. Avoid smoking and chemical sprays to avoid toxins coming in through the lungs. Oxygen is intimately connected with energy and we need this on a minute by minute basis so breathe in a relaxed way or train with mindfulness, yoga and observation to start this journey. Diaphragmatic breathing is releasing and letting the stomach go as you breathe in and bringing the stomach in when breathing out. This is very effective for sleep, energy and stress so ask us for training instructions.

3. Exercise & Rest ~ Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle means avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and getting proper exercise daily for short periods and longer sessions routinely. Exercise known to reduce the risk for just about every disease known to man. Exercise initiates deep breathing, increases muscle tone and sweating. Muscle mass keeps us fit and our metabolism higher as it burns more energy than other tissue. Sweating releases toxins through the skin and the breath. Exercise also releases endorphins the hormones that give you a buzz along with a reduction in stress hormones directly after exercising. Therefore exercise has an adaptogenic effect {helping us to adapt to life}. The only other known way to extend longevity is by using adaptogenic herbs and regular calorie restriction i.e. fasting. Fasting can be done properly so talk to us if you would like to start a fasting programme for the health benefits or about beginning an exercise programme. Rest is needed for the body to recover and repair so rest and relaxation is just as important as exercise especially when we are faced with illness. It can be tempting to try and beat exhaustion but exhaustion must be met with equal rest so that the body can recover. Relaxing activities such as the more boring and mundane tasks in life like housework can be used to wind down. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol too frequently. If you need help with coming off substances, please talk to us and we may to be able to help you in some way with the use of herbal medicines, especially if stress is the trigger.

4. Sleeping & Waking ~ Sleep is self-hypnosis at its best and luckily for us normally happens naturally when we are tired. Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle means getting 7/8 hours of deep sleep each night which is required for healing. Without this we would quickly tire and go insane. Sleep repairs our tissues and rests the mind allowing it to ‘tune out’ while the brain gets on with repair. Sleep can be interfered with by stress levels which can either cause insomnia or exhaustion. Avoid getting too little or too much sleep. To judge whether you need to increase or decrease the amount of stress in your life assess the amount of sleep you are getting. If you aren’t getting enough you are probably too stressed, if you are getting too much then perhaps you are not stressed enough or exhausted from burn out. Burn out is treatable so please let us know if you ever feel like this so we can help. Treating sleep with herbal medicines and the right sleep hygiene is easy, and turning the mind off at night can be learned, so talk to us if you are not sleeping well or waking feeling refreshed. But what gets you out of bed in the morning? Our waking hours including work and play are also just as important. Our stress and sleep hormones {cortisol and melatonin} wake us up in the morning and get us off to sleep respectively. These are balanced by each other but caffeine, magnesium deficiency, electronic lighting and not enough sunlight during the day will also disrupt our sleep/wake cycle. Sunlight and vitamin D are equally important for regulating sleep so seeing the sun during the day is part of living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

5. Passions of the Mind ~ Mental stimulation and healthy thought patterns are essential for living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Research shows a healthy outlook on life contributes to healing in a major way. Stress hormones are important to us to balance the immune system and our stress hormones themselves are the strongest anti-inflammatory known to man. We need to make sure we are getting enough stimulation to produce and release these but not so much stimulation that we are overdoing it. Burn-out, anxiety and depression are major sources of ill health in the modern day. We are intellectual creatures and we need stimulation to thrive so if you feel you need a creative outlet then perhaps you do? Looking to what really excites you is the way to discover the secret to discovering your passions. Self-talk, work satisfaction, politics, hobbies, and a social life all contribute to our wellbeing and getting the right amount of mental stimulation is part of the balance. Without a social life or social conscience we tend to become insular and isolated and we have no drive. Avoid TV, drugs, drama and gossip. Never be tempted to use these as replacements for intellectual learning which is what our minds essentially crave.

6. Spirituality, Sexuality & Relationships ~ Often the motivation to change is found through relationships, family, and life purpose. Engaging in healthy relationships, seeking purpose in life, working to improve personal communication and connecting with any emotional upset from our childhoods is part of living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. These issues need to be explored and addressed as they can keep us imbalanced us if they are not spoken to. We need to remember that thought patterns we learned as a child affect our behaviours and our relationships and that we can change thought patterns that no longer help us. Changing the script from “Why me? To “Why not me?” can be the key to letting go of anguish about our own lives. Spirituality brings meaning to life and gives a deeper motivation and drive that can help us to understand that not everything in life is about us but is about the bigger picture. These kind of thoughts help us to keep our stress hormones in balance. Avoid bullies, toxic workplaces, excess stress and relationship drama. Getting help with relationships and emotions is often a large part of the healing journey that we need to take in order to heal fully. We can help you to begin to understand your triggers so that you can then move on to other forms of healing that can help you connect with yourself on a deep and more meaningful level when you are finished working with us.

Balance in all areas of life are equally important. You can start implementing changes in all areas at once if you want faster results but realise that this will take time to fully learn and implement. Remember that symptoms can get worse before they get better as the body releases ‘toxins’ from the body they will circulate before they get eliminated. Any temporary reaction like this should only last a few days and be self-limiting. However improvements will take place over time as you implement more changes when working with your practitioner. Patients require patience! Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is about changing habits and constantly improving your lifestyle bit by bit, little by little. Replacing ideas as well as skincare and food habits is the journey of a lifetime which is part of you and your family’s evolution. Inflammation can be tracked with live blood analysis as well as pathology testing but your individual signs and symptoms will guide you the most. You may not know what change you made gained the most result but be assured that it is a combination and accumulation of the changes that brings the actual results. And remember, it is what you do 90% of the time that counts. §

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.