Brass Monkey exists to help people build stronger minds and bodies, to inspire everyone to get their cold on in any way that they can. As humans we are plagued by inflammation, but what is inflammaging and how can you reduce it?
It’s not a new fad word for you to worry about. Inflammaging has been around since humans have, but recent studies have highlighted how much more of a widespread impact it’s having on our lives.
Most babies are born with little to no inflammation in their bodies. As we age, experience stress (or, life), are subjected to environmental factors and modern living, we experience inflammation. It’s an essential aspect of healing injuries or fighting off infection. When inflammatory cells overstay their welcome, it leads to chronic inflammation.
This is far more subtle with generic symptoms from aches, pains, fatigue, and IBS. Long-term activation of the inflammatory system has been linked to the development of depression, anxiety, cancers, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and dementia. Most diseases with increased risks as we age can be linked to increased inflammation, and vice versa – inflammation can speed up the ageing process!
It’s not all doom and gloom and we can indeed reduce inflammaging. The key is stimulating the vagus nerve. There are a few routes to this without opening yourself up and giving it a tickle:
We’re lazy when we breathe, short and shallow breaths that only fill the lungs partially. When you start taking deep breaths that fill your lungs to the point your diaphragm is expanding and the breath looks and feels like it’s going directly into the belly, that’s when you’re stimulating the nerve.
If breathwork seems a little woo-woo for you, download the Wim Hof Method app, no-nonsense and will talk you through the breathing exercises, proven over and over again to reduce inflammation and symptoms of many diseases in thousands of individuals.
One round of the Wim Hof Method breathing technique includes these steps:
- Take in a strong inhalation through the nose.
- Let out a relaxed exhalation through the mouth.
- Repeat for 30 breaths.
- On the 30th breath, exhale to 90% and hold for as long as you can.
- When you feel your body needs to take a breath, inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds before releasing.
Cold water immersion is one of the more ancient practices that has a significant impact on inflammation and overall health but most people don’t live near safe, consistently cold water sources.
A study by Kox et al in 2014 that explored cold exposure by Wim Hof showed anti-inflammatory markers increased by 200% and pro-inflammatory markers reduced by 50% when cold therapy was included.
A study by Lin et al showed that after only five days of healthy individuals undergoing cold exposure had a reduction in inflammatory markers and an increase in anti-inflammatory markers (IL-10).
You don’t need to be an arctic explorer to get the benefits, cold showers, baths, wild swimming and ice baths are ideal – the colder, the better!
Maybe an intensive HIIT class or CrossFit session isn’t top of your list when thinking about chilling out. Whilst exercise is great for immune function, the kind of movement we’re talking about here is much more restorative.
Deep stretching, twists, gentle stretches of the neck and back stimulate the vagus nerve and the relaxation response.
Some people love Madonna, but those who get a reaction from ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) i.e. tingles, can activate their nervous system by listening to their triggers. This could be whispering, scratching, tapping and other noises. Google at your own risk. If that’s a bit far-out, try binaural beats at certain frequencies.
Our tried and tested solution (albeit, unscientifically), is using breathwork to focus and energise, getting moving, getting our cold on and if you’re still not quite stress-free, crack on YouTube and get some beats going, repeating some diaphragmatic breathing.
Remember, inflammation can build over years. To reduce the impacts of inflammation and slow down inflammaging, you need to be consistent with your lifestyle changes and embed them into your routine.