Inflammation is one of the biggest buzzwords in health circles today because is VERY common in our American society… so common that you probably have inflammation in your body and you don’t even know it.
Today I’ll give you the quick and dirty explanation first. If you’re one of those who wants more detail then I’ve got you taken care of, too.
Inflammation is your body’s way of keeping you healthy by fighting foreign invaders and alerting you to their presence. When the enemy is detected the army comes out to fight, then your body talks to you through headaches, joint pain, weight gain, etc. The purpose of these symptoms is to alert you that the invaders are present so you stop letting them in.
What do you do about it? Stop putting harmful things in your body and start putting helpful things in.
(Actually, that’s an awful analogy, because too much pie will cause inflammation.)
If you’re still reading that means you want to know more. Good!
Let’s start from the very beginning (a very good place to start!)
In the beginning
As humans, we were created in and given a world that provided for all our needs.
Sunshine for light, night for sleeping, soil rich with nutrients for growing fruits and vegetables, herbs and plants for healing, water for drinking, animals for eating, etc.
Eighty-hour work weeks, red dye #40, Mountain Dew, Facebook, and mercury fillings were never intended to be a part of human life. Instead, we are meant to experience stress when being chased by a predator, and then return to a relaxed state once the coast is clear. We are meant to eat fruits and vegetables, not Special K bars and Doritos. We are meant to drink water, not Gatorade and Pepsi.
Because we don’t live in a perfect world, our bodies were equipped with an inner army to keep us safe. Thank God!
This is where inflammation comes in.
When you’re out on your nature walk and you get a scrape from a rogue branch your skin gets red, swollen, and warm. Then it scabs over to protect the wound while it heals. This is called acute inflammation.
How cool is that?
Think about it – your body heals itself and regenerates skin! Can you imagine how we would fare if our physical wounds never healed? We’d be one unfortunate looking species and probably wouldn’t last very long. But…I digress.
Again, because we don’t live in a perfect world, our body has to deal with a lot more foreign invaders than scrapes and the common cold. So, when our body is flooded with sugar from our coffee creamer, that morning donut, and pizza for lunch washed down with a Diet Coke, the body reacts by sending out the army. This is chronic inflammation. It often starts slowly over time, but if it’s not caught it can result in some serious problems.
Just like that cut, our body knows it needs to fight and repair. Unfortunately for our body, this internal inflammation is not visible to the naked eye. Although the body tries to alert us with physical symptoms, they’re often ignored.
Let’s take a break to talk about the gut.
The inflammatory response is part of our immune system. Our gut is part of our immune system, too. So much so, it is thought that around 80% of our immune system is located in our gut.
When we add in foreign invaders to our gut it both damages the friendly bacteria living there and thins out our gut lining. This is bad because it results in what we call leaky gut.
What this means is that undigested food particles sneak out of the gut and end up in the bloodstream. The body knows these particles aren’t supposed to be there, so the army comes out – makes sense!
This results in a wide variety of problems, including (but not limited to):
- Acid Reflux
- Heart Disease
- Joint Pain
- and the list goes on…
In relation to mental health, it is believed that depression is not due to a chemical imbalance or lack of serotonin as initially believed (or reported by drug companies), but instead is simply an inflammatory response by the body.
So…what causes inflammation?
Basically everything that makes up our modern world:
- Refined sugar
- Refined flour
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Food allergens/intolerances
- Dairy/animal products (for some)
- Imbalance of bacteria in the gut
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Acid blockers
- Lack of sleep
- Toxic metals (think mercury in fillings/vaccines, aluminum foil, etc)
- History of infections
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Processed food
Ok, so you have inflammation. Now what?
Remove the bad. Bring in the good.
How do you remove the bad?
Identify areas of your life that could be toxic for your body:
- Underlying infections
- Potential food sensitivities
- Or any other areas that feel out of balance…
When you remove the bad stuff you also need to add in the good stuff to help reduce inflammation and make the body happy, whole, and balanced again.
How do you bring in the good?
- Identify any underlying food sensitivities (gluten, dairy, yeast, soy, and nuts are common irritants)
- Identify any underlying infections
- Practice relaxation (i.e. reduce stress, meditation is GREAT for this!)
- Get up and move on a regular basis
- Sleep at least 7-8 hours per night
- Reduce toxins (think skincare products, shampoo and conditioner, cleaners, cooking with aluminum foil, mercury fillings)
- Make your gut healthy (think fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha as well as potentially adding in a high quality probiotic)
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Essential components of an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Bok choy
- Broccoli (my husband’s personal favorite…not!)
- Wild caught salmon (farm raised salmon often contains antibiotics and pesticides as well as other chemicals that one wouldn’t want to eat)
- Bone broth (here’s a great recipe )
- Coconut oil
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Turmeric (believed to be an inflammatory powerhouse!)
If you’ve deprived your body of essential nutrients and continued to take in toxins then it may be a good idea to add in supplementation, as well.
From my perspective there are two camps regarding supplementation. One side believes that if you are eating a diet rich in nutrients you don’t need supplements. The other believes that our industrialized world has stripped our food supply of many essential nutrients, and therefore supplementation is necessary.
My take is that some people may need supplements and some may not. I think the ideal is to find a healthcare practitioner that can identify what you, specifically, are lacking, and supplement accordingly.
BUT…before you go ahead and run to your local drug store to buy your vitamins, know that not all supplements are created equal. Some are created from plants squished up reeeeeal tight and others…not so much.
I’m not a supplement professional, but here are some that I feel are on the more legit side:
Well, that’s basically it!
But…before you go, here’s one more tidbit of information.
According to Dr. David Perlmutter, as we age our levels of inflammation slowly increase (given we continue to let the bad in and keep out the good.) This is correlated with brain degeneration and cognitive impairment.
If you read that correctly, there should be a light bulb going on right now.
That’s right, memory loss and dementia are not normal parts of aging, but instead they’re caused by inflammation and can be prevented!
So…putting it all together…
- In our modern world most of us are putting toxins into our bodies.
- Our bodies don’t like toxins, so they fight and sound the alarms of inflammation.
- Inflammation is linked to a myriad of diseases.
- You don’t have to be sick.
- Remove the toxins.
- Add in the good stuff and live a balanced life.
- Enjoy your life free of aches, pains, memory loss, and crabbiness.
- Spread the love!