Inflammation is a huge buzzword right now in the health and nutrition field, and for good reason! It is now well known that inflammation is a root cause to most modern day diseases and illnesses, and by understanding how you become inflamed and the implications of such, you can take back your health, and prevent dreaded diseases such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. Read on to learn more about what is inflammation, how you become inflamed, why addressing inflammation is important for your health and how nutrition can combat inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Let me first begin by stating that inflammation is not always bad! We need inflammatory reactions to help defend our body from viruses, bacteria, toxins, damaged cells, foreign invaders, etc. If we didn’t have inflammation, then our wounds would never heal and infections could kill us. When inflammation is acute, it’s quite beneficial to our bodies; however, when inflammation becomes chronic, or starts occurring on your cellular membrane, that’s when you start to see problems.
The actual definition of inflammation is, “a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat and pain, and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.” So basically, your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream or to the affected tissue to help defend against any foreign substance. This process increases blood flow to the affected area, which causes pain, swelling, warmth and/or redness on the skin, and is most notably associated with acute inflammation.
What Happens When We Become Chronically Inflamed?
When acute inflammation turns into chronic inflammation, the site of injury isn’t the only thing that becomes affected; all of your cellular membranes become affected, leading to major health issues. On every single cell in your body, you have a bi-layer fatty membrane. This membrane serves as a passage gate for all of your hormones, vitamins and minerals to get into your cell, and for toxins to be able to get out of your cell. On every cell membrane, there are receptor sites that allow for a specific hormone, vitamin or mineral to enter into the cell. Think of this like a lock and key system. When chronic inflammation is occurring, your cell membrane starts to become affected, and this lowers the ability for your hormones, vitamins and minerals to be recognized by your cell, and prevents toxins from being able to exit the cell, which can then lead to more rapid aging and mutation. This in turn can lead to a whole host of health issues such as hormonal issues, nutritional deficiencies, an inability to lose weight, insulin resistance and cancer.
How Does a Person Become Chronically Inflamed?
When inflammation turns from acute to chronic, it is usually due to a person’s environment and lifestyle. When a person has chronic inflammation, their body and their cells are always facing a foreign invader, and the inflammatory processes don’t turn off. These foreign invaders are more than just an exposure to a virus or bacteria, these invaders may be stress from your boss, the fragrance you spray on your body every morning, or that fourth cup of your sugar-laden cappuccino. Chronic inflammation is 100% tied into your lifestyle and environment. Your diet, your levels of stress, and the number of environmental toxins you are exposed to each day all affect how inflamed your cell membranes become.
There are quite a few food and beverages that are known to cause cellular inflammation. The most common include sugar, processed carbohydrates, processed and heated vegetable oils, conventional dairy and animal products, farm raised fish, genetically engineered grains, food additives, colors and preservatives, alcohol and for some, caffeine. What can make this even trickier is that if you have specific food sensitivities, those foods will cause an inflammatory reaction every time you ingest those foods. Some of the most common food sensitivities I see in the clinic are wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, nuts, shellfish, peas and other legumes, soy, and corn. Finding out your exact food sensitivities is a key in helping reduce cellular inflammation, and is something we do with every client that comes into our clinic.
Just as there are numerous foods and beverages that may cause cellular inflammation, there are numerous sources of stress one may experience day in and day out. A lot of people understand and realize when they experience mental or emotional stress, however, most may not realize all of the other smaller stressors their body faces throughout the day. Think of all the stimuli your brain is constantly exposed to throughout the day, such as the TV blaring as you’re trying to get your family ready for the day, the songs and ads on the radio as you’re driving to work while simultaneously worrying about the work day ahead, the bright, artificial lights you are sitting under at your desk, or constant mind chatter from your mental to-do list. These stressors all add up, and contribute to your cellular inflammation levels. I have found that the key is not necessarily to eliminate all of your stressors (because that is not practical at all), but to help re-teach and support your body in how to handle the stressors every day. This looks quite different for each individual I see, so the approach I take for this is personalized for each person.
Last, your toxin load plays a huge role in how inflamed your cell membranes are. We live in a sea of toxins—they are found in the air you breathe, the body care products you put on your skin, the chemicals that are sprayed on your food, are added to your furniture, carpet and paint, and are concentrated in your drinking water (unfortunately no, your refrigerator filter will not remove some of the most toxic substances found in water such as chlorine, aluminum and lead). Since this is such an important piece to your health, we have testing to determine if and what specific toxins are directly contributing to your health symptoms and inflammation levels. This can be very overwhelming for a lot of people, so I help to first educate my clients where these toxins are coming from in their environment, and then how to remove and replace them with safer products.
Why is it Important to Address Inflammation?
Knowing where your inflammation levels are is a key part in reversing any unwanted health condition you may currently have, and for preventing any chronic disease and illness. Now that you know how you can become inflamed, I want to address what inflammation leads to. Having cellular inflammation can lead to a host of unwanted health symptoms and disease, such as weight loss resistance, arthritis and any other autoimmune disease, sleep issues, hormonal imbalance, low energy, mood swings, depression, skin issues such as acne and rashes, anxiety, digestive problems, degenerative brain diseases and cancer. As you can see, most health concerns have inflammation as one of the root cause issues.
Ways Nutrition Can Combat Inflammation?
Since there are various ways a person may become inflamed, the approach that needs to be taken to reverse inflammation can vary from person to person. Eating a cellular healing, anti-inflammatory diet is one approach that is going to work for everyone. One person’s anti-inflammatory diet may look different than another’s, but for the most part, the majority of people are going to benefit from focusing on vegetables, low sugar fruits, pastured and grass fed animal products, wild caught fish, fermented foods, bone broth, olives & olive oil, sprouts, and a lot of herbs and spices. Learning how to incorporate these foods into your diet in the right portions and the right timing of the day can be difficult to decipher. It is recommended to work with a clinical nutritionist on this to ensure your specific anti-inflammatory diet is working for you.
Other sources of nutrition that can help combat inflammation are therapeutic, whole food based supplements and herbs. Some examples of these may include high quality fish oil, curcumin, boswelia, CBD oil, magnesium, glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, vitamin A, rosemary, quercetin, white willow bark, and Chinese skullcap. A lot of companies will combine nutrients such as these into a blend, so you don’t have to take a bunch of separate supplements. Just like finding your specific anti-inflammatory diet is important, so is finding a specific supplemental protocol. This should be discussed with a clinical nutritionist, or a trusted health care practitioner before you begin supplementing.
Last, another potent way to control cellular inflammation is by fasting. There are many forms of fasting, so it is vital that you find a form that works for your body and your health concerns. For the majority of individuals, I work with, most find that incorporating intermittent fasting into their lifestyle can be quite easy and effective with reducing inflammation. Intermittent fasting is when you refrain from eating and drinking anything with calories (water, herbal tea and coffee does not break your intermittent fast) for 14-16 hours every 24-hour period. This should be done on a regular basis to see the benefits. For any questions regarding intermittent fasting, or fasting in general, please contact me in the clinic or your trusted healthcare provider.
How Do You Test for Inflammation?
At this point, you’re probably thinking that you would like to know where your inflammation levels are. Your conventional medical doctor will usually diagnose an inflammatory condition based off of your medical history and current health symptoms, by performing a physical exam, and by analyzing an x-ray or blood test. The most common blood test for inflammation is a C-reactive protein test, also known as a CRP test. If it is found that you do have high levels of inflammation, the most common conventional medical treatments include medications, rest and/or surgery. Unfortunately, medications usually have side effects such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, weight gain, lowered energy, and muscle weakness, and rest and surgery aren’t going to address the root cause of why you are inflamed.
In our clinic, we perform a urine test called a Meta-Oxy test to assess a person’s levels of cellular inflammation. This test is much more accurate at assessing cellular inflammation than a blood test. When the cell membrane becomes oxidized, or inflamed, toxic aldehydes are released into the bloodstream. The kidneys then excrete those toxic aldehydes in your urine, and can be picked up with the Meta-Oxy test. Are you interested to get this test done? Please give our clinic a call at 262-251-2929 to talk with a practitioner who can get you set up for testing and/or answer any of your questions!
You can also give us a call at 262-251-2929 to schedule a no-charge 10-minute phone consult with a natural health practitioner, to see how we can help!