What is inflammation?

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the bodies natural response to infection, toxins and injury. It involves an interplay between damaged cells, immune cells and the release of proteins and antibodies. The resultant increase in flow of blood to the area brings about the cardinal signs of acute inflammation including redness, heat, pain and swelling.

When this natural defence mechanism lingers, it becomes known as chronic inflammation. This happens as a result of unresolved acute inflammatory responses to infection or injury or when there is long-term exposure to irritants, such as air pollution and chemicals. Over time, chronic inflammation leads to loss of structure and function of our tissues and organs and the onset of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. In cases of autoimmune disease such Hashimoto’s disease and multiple sclerosis, healthy tissues and organs are attacked by the bodies own immune system, resulting in chronic inflammatory states.

Chronic inflammation is impacted by our diet and lifestyle. High stress levels, smoking and excessive alcohol intake increase inflammation. Foods that create inflammation include processed food, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed meat and trans fats contained in margarine.

Ways to support an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle to reduce the impact of chronic illness or prevent the onset of disease include:

  • Eliminating inflammatory factors including smoking and inflammatory foods listed above
  • Eating a diet that is high in fresh colourful antioxidant rich fruit and non-starchy vegetables
  • Increasing intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, mackerel, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts and reducing intake of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids contained in vegetable oils (e.g. canola oil, soybean oil)
  • Spending time outdoors, exposing skin to sunlight for the production of anti-inflammatory vitamin D
  • Regular physical activity to support healthy blood circulation and lymphatic flow
  • Mind-body practices such as mindful yoga, meditation and tai chi to lower stress levels

Photobiomodulation therapy (red light therapy) has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers and result in an overall reduction in inflammation. This therapy provides relief from inflammation and pain in arthritic joint conditions and traumatic injuries. It is beneficial for speeding up the recovery of muscles post workout. It helps to heal acne, blemishes and speeds up wound healing by enhancing collagen synthesis.

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A journey of health with Sara Higgins

Wellness: What does it mean to you?

While the term itself is oversaturated, the exploration of how we define ‘being well’ for ourselves is more important than ever. It’s personal, but it doesn’t need to be preachy or complicated. Health and wellness can be nurtured in any aspect of our lives, from the physical to the mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. Any of these pillars, when examined and cared for, can contribute to a richer and more enjoyable existence. In this series, we share the stories, challenges and discoveries of a diverse range of people who each have a unique perspective on health and wellbeing, and how these pillars manifest in their lives.

“Wellness means living in alignment between your mental, physical and emotional self, and prioritising each one equally.”

HANA founder Sara Higgins’ journey traverses the path between her medical background and her own personal health struggles, both instrumental as catalysts for the creation of the space.

A trained pharmacist, Sara found herself wanting to incorporate more of a holistic viewpoint into her job after being exposed to alternative ways of treating illness and disease. “I’m passionate about getting to the root cause of illness and looking at ways of supporting the body to heal itself,” she says.

Coupled with a desire to help people and offer a sanctuary-like space that bridges the gap between healing and relaxation, this led her to create HANA.

Sara’s personal wellness philosophy is just as holistic and more than skin-deep. “To me, wellness means living in alignment between your mental, physical and emotional self, and prioritising each one equally.”

She cites a recent read by Bruce Lipton as an inspiration. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles talks about how powerful the mind is at influencing our health. “One of the things he says is that health or wellness is not just the absence of disease; to be healthy is actually about having joy in your life.”

When it comes to HANA’s infrared saunas, the main drawcard is the myriad health benefits they offer, particularly in relation to detoxing. However, there’s another positive side-effect. “What I also think is so important – especially in the current climate – is the nourishment they provide when you allow yourself to relax. It can be a time to meditate, catch up on your favourite podcast, or do a few stretches.”

For many of us, it might be the only time we have focused on ourselves all day and having a calm and relaxing space to do this in is crucial.

“Your health is your responsibility.”

Feeling empowered to be proactive with our own health and wellbeing is key, says Sara. “You can’t pin that on someone else, you can’t rely on your doctor to do the work for you – yes, you need their advice, and their support, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to follow through on. Your health is your responsibility.”

She’s learned that listening to her body is vital, even when what works for her might seem at odds with the general messaging we receive on a daily basis.

“When I had quite bad health problems, I couldn’t do much exercise at all. Even a yoga class was too intense at one point, and I remember thinking about how we’re conditioned to think it’s healthy to be exercising all the time but at the time that wasn’t healthy for me.”

Fundamentally, Sara finds she’s happiest when pursuing something she loves and is excited to channel this energy into HANA. “It’s about having a purpose and doing something you’re passionate about,” she says. “I’ve definitely noticed I’m more well when I’m doing something that lights me up.”

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