We hear about chronic inflammation, everywhere. We hear about chronic infections, chronic fatigue, chronic respiratory issues, chronic hormonal imbalances, chronic blood sugar issues and chronic digestive imbalances. Notice how I over-used the word ''chronic'' in that last sentence?
Chronic inflammation is a topic that affects many of us in different ways yet represent a different pathway of how a chronic health condition starts and progresses.
As a Clinical Nutritionist, I a trained to map to the root causation of why your feeling the way are you are in the first place. Symptoms are merely your body crying out for attention, sometimes when our body is being worked for too long, too hard it begins to show you subtle symptoms that something is off balance.
Over time, our body will show more and more signs that it's in distress and the symptoms become more noticeable which will start to implead into your daily routine.
There are two types of inflammation - acute and chronic:
When tissues are injured, cell release chemicals that cause swelling and attract white blood cells to help improve the situation and stop it from spreading to other areas of the body. This type of inflammation is the kind that we can experience after an injury. For example, a sprained ankle, the acute inflammation of the ankle is the body's way of saying ''let's slow down in this area while we work on repairing the damage. Acute inflammation is a normal bodily function that helps with regular detoxification and tissue repair. Every day our bodies must cleanse, eliminate toxins and uptake nutrients to repair cellular injuries and utilize the nutrients that are filtered from your kidneys and send into your bloodstream for absorption. When acute inflammation is in action, you will not necessarily be aware of any pain because it's at the cellular level assuming you haven't suffered a direct injury. Inflammation is your body's natural reaction to a foreign pathogen, this could be cells, viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxins or chemicals. This type of inflammation is a good thing and helps your immune system build its defenses.
This type of inflammation is considered the second stage of inflammation. When acute inflammation fails to be resolved, it's considered chronic. This is the point where your body has been working too hard for too long without adequate recovery time, this could be related to dietary and lifestyle choices. This is the point where your likely to check-in with your doctor, get a prescription and get on with your day however if you are on a prescription for long enough which unfortunately most people are (this includes painkillers you can buy at your local drug store) this type of treatment can result in the shut off of your primary pathway of detoxification. This makes the vicious cycle even worse and taking pills for an issue that is due to chronic inflammation will not resolve the issue, it's similar to throwing band-aid over a severe wound. Chronic inflammation is referred to having a red, swollen, puffy part of your body that can last internally for weeks, months or even years. This type of inflammation is known to cause a whole host of problems and complications such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, asthma, premature aging, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
Often it comes down to that we are over-taxed, over-stressed and our bodies are starving for nutrients.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- High Blood Pressure
- Water Retention
- Binge Eating
- Food Cravings
- Irregular Bowel Movements (Less than 2BM daily)
- Unexplainable Weight Gain or Loss
- Joint Pain
Some disease states are also coupled with chronic inflammation:
Autoimmune Diseases/Auto-Inflammatory Disease:
Our immune system has learned since you were in the womb on how to protect you from illness and disease. It does this by attacking foreign pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses that sneak in. When your immune system is functional, your innate immune system acts as the first line of defense against the invaders and attacks with strength. While your adaptive immune kicks in later on to learn how to protect you from those particular invaders in the future. A normal functioning immune system can differentiate between your body's unhealthy and healthy tissue. When your immunity becomes compromised in the case of autoimmune diseases, the body has a tough time telling the difference between unhealthy and healthy tissue and will attack both. Due to the lack of healthy tissue to maintain the balance, this results in increased inflammation. Studies show that the main consequence of an autoimmune disorder is due to chronic inflammation.
Cardiovascular issues are not only caused by plaquing of the arteries but also from chronic inflammation. Plaque is a foreign invader, therefore, the immune system will try to prevent the plaque from flowing into your bloodstream. Plaquing of arteries in conjunction with inflammation can cause rupture and an artery or blood vessel that has been walled off with come into contact with blood and result in a clot. The body then will trigger an inflammatory response, arteries swell and constrict blood flow to the heart.
Increased levels of C-reactive protein has been associated with an increased risk for psychological distress. C-reactive protein is produced by the body when inflammation is present. There is a direct link between depression and inflammation being that depression is a symptom and results in chronic inflammation being the root cause. The Journal of Neuroinflammation published a study in 2011 that found a link between levels of quinolinic acid (another response to inflammation) and chronic depression. By encouraging natural healing, we can gradually reduce inflammation throughout the body, therefore, decreasing depressive symptoms.
This type of arthritis that happens due to a build-up of uric acid in the blood causing pain and inflammation.
Inflammation can cause allergies and allergies can cause inflammation. Toxins that are not properly eliminated from our body can activate the immune system causing chronic inflammation due to an inappropriate response in the body. Symptoms can range in forms from eyes, skin, nose or airways. The goal of decreasing allergies is to reduce and control inflammation which gives the kidneys space to filter toxins.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Inflammation and free radical damage of brain tissue have been linked to Alzheimer's and dementia. The presence of plaque is the main driver to Alzheimer's as these plaques should be seen as foreign invaders, the body tries to destroy them resulting in chronic inflammation. Omega-3fatty acids and antioxidants act as a protection mechanism against these diseases. By nourishing the brain with healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, lowering LDL cholesterol, consuming nutrient-dense foods as protection from free radical damage.
Inflammation in internal with diabetes and the development of type 2 diabetes can be traced back to chronic inflammation inside your body. With type 2 diabetes, individuals do not produce adequate insulin or cannot properly utilize insulin. Blood sugar spikes and crashes over prolonged periods of time can have a negative impact on the body due to the irregularity of insulin release or not even insulin is available. This can result in unwanted weight gain, obesity and extra accumulation of lipid tissue (fat) around the abdomen and other major organs. Studies have found that individuals with type 2 diabetes higher levels of cytokine which is a known inflammation-boosting reactive protein. A cytokine is released by cells that have a particular effect on the interaction between cells basically the communication of one cell to another. Lipid (fat) cells are like a factory for the production of cytokine, the more lipid cells, the more cytokine is present. This triggers cells to respond to inflammation and infections, this occurs when an individuals cytokine levels are elevated which results in chronic inflammation. With type 2 diabetes, the body experiences a loss of sensitivity to insulin and creates insulin resistance resulting in chronic inflammation. it's a vicious cycle, the more inflammation is experienced this causes increased insulin resistance and it's a cycle that continues.
Chronic inflammation creates the most optimal environment for rogue cells. If this type of cell travels through the body, this leads to eventual damage to a healthy DNA strand causing a mutation. This small mutation steals oxygen and nutrients from anywhere it can to survive and as more cells mutate it results in a cancerous tumor. Colon cancer and breast cancer are 2 that can be caused by chronic inflammation. Colon cancer can be seen in people who are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which is chronic inflammation of part or all of the digestive tract. Inflammatory breast cancer can also be traced back to a long history of chronic inflammation. This occurs when cancer cells form a barricade around the lymph vessels in the skin resulting in the cancer cells having nowhere to go but grow. Lymph vessels are small, thin, valved-liked structures that carry lymph fluid (a fluid that contains white blood cells) and drains via the lymphatic system.
Our body is starving for real nutrients!
How much nutrient-dense versus nutrient-deplete foods have you consumed in the last 7 days? You may be eating lots of food but just how much of that food is high-quality and nutrient dense? Our bodies require loads of nutrients that fuel and heal our bodies from mental, emotional and physical stress.
An ideal diet should consist of whole, high-quality, nutrient-dense foods such as fresh seasonal veggies, dark leafy greens, fruits, raw nuts, raw seeds, organic/grass-fed meats, wild fish, superfoods, sprouted grains, water, fermented/probiotic-rich foods, healthy fats more specifically avocado, coconut, extra virgin olive oil and organic eggs.
it's best to avoid processed foods, white bread, white flour, white sugar, conventional dairy products, fast foods, fried foods, processed drinks, sodas, wheat products, refined sugars, processed meats and starchy foods made from corn and potatoes.
Now let's talk prevention and decreasing inflammation to promote vibrant, radiant health!
Consume Anti-Inflammatory Foods
This is one of the most effective ways to control and prevent chronic inflammation is by creating healthy habits through attainable lifestyle changes. With a focus on a plant-based diet, organic/grass-fed meats, fatty fish and healthy oils this is a great way to get started! More examples are dark leafy greens, raw nuts, raw seeds, beets, berries, mushrooms, garlic, turmeric, tomatoes, ginger, cayenne, coconut oil, tart cherry juice, white willow tea, matcha green tea, olive oil, rosemary, sage, and ashwagandha.
Probiotic intake in conjunction with a healthy diet has significant anti-inflammatory effects. Supplementation with a minimum of 10 strains per capsule and choose a product that has L. acidophilus or B. bifidum. By taking 20 CFU's to 50 CFU's daily, individuals note an improvement in their overall well-being. I know this seems like a lot but when you consider that the body roughly contains 37 trillion cells and how much toxins we are exposed to every day - this dosage doesn't seem so crazy. Start slow and work your way up from there, the usual dose for beginners is 10-20 billion CFU's daily. If supplementation is not your route of choice, consuming fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha are great options as they all contain naturally-occurring probiotics. Find what feels good for you and go with it.
Eliminate Inflammatory Foods
Large triggers of inflammation are foods high in refined sugars, processed meats, gluten, trans fats, empty carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, wheat products, conventional dairy, soda, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Think about it this way, anything that can cause weight gain can be linked to inflammation! Just eat REAL food.
Adequate water is essential to helping us transport nutrients and waste to their finishing places. Our bodies are made up of mostly water so drinking enough matter more than you might realize. Drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces every day. For example, a 130lb individual would aim to drink 65 ounces minimally. If you are more active then consume equal water to bodyweight.
Here are a few ways stress can hurt your health:
- Increased Cravings
- Fat Storage
- Decreased Heart Health
- Memory Loss
- Increased Hair Loss
- Blood Sugar Drops & Spikes
- Frequent Colds & Infections
- Decreased Digestive Health
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Decreased Job Performance
- Decreased Brain Tissue
- Skin Issues
- Chronic Back Pain
- Decreased Sex Drive
- Increased Risk of Stroke
- Premature Aging
By promoting stress management as a daily practice, understanding your triggers and knowing when you need to pull away to re-ground yourself you can have some control over how much stress affects your mental, emotional and physical being.
Try these options:
Dark Chocolate: Yes, you read that right! Chocolate! Not just any type of chocolate. Above 70% cacao is optimal! Did you know that dark chocolate mirrors cannabis's soothing effect on the brain? Yep. By opting for at least 70% cacao, you receive the medicinal benefits of this ''food of the gods'' as dubbed by the greeks. Keep your eye out for brands that have lots of ingredients, dark chocolate is fairly simplistic so the fewer ingredients the better!
Chilli Peppers: Did you know that the natural spice of peppers helps to increase endorphin production, boost the immune system and, promote circulation. I love adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to my morning lemon water with ACV.
Physical Contact/Making Love: Did you know that when you hug someone for 30 seconds you body releases endorphins? Our happy hormone! Whether it's a hug, holding hands or sitting close - it all makes a difference in our mood. Endorphin produce can increase up to 200% during intimate activity.
Ginseng: This helpful herb helps us by balancing the stress of cortisol and boost endorphin production.
Hydrotherapy: By using water medicinally water helps to increase circulation, boosts the immune system and our production of endorphins.
Massage Therapy: One of my personal favourites! An amazing tool for releasing areas of stress and increase endorphin production.
Meditation: May seem like an obvious way to slow down but it takes a certain amount of discipline to make it effective. Learning how to calm the mind can be difficult, it took like months to learn! Once you've learned how to calm the mind, meditations can serve as a tool to decrease stress, reduce anxiety and become more present. Start with 5 minutes each day if possible and increase your time as you feel comfortable. Guided meditations are also a great way to begin.
Acupuncture: Another tool amazing for increasing endorphin production and helps to boost our immune system by released blocked pathways in the body promoting healthy circulation.
Aromatherapy: A helpful tool for reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation and calmness of the mind.
Music: I've had a love affair with music since I was a little girl, it's been a healing art form for me. Music makes us feel good and a universal language.
Sleep: Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night is extremely beneficial to our well-being because it improves our immune system function and decreases inflammation due to our body being in a recovery state.
Regular Exercise: Movement is LIFE! Exercise helps to promote an overall positive well-being, reduce/control the rate of chronic inflammation, boosts endorphins and relieves you of that anxiety-restless-worry energy. Chronic, low-grade inflammation otherwise known as systemic inflammation has been shown to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When I say movement life is, I mean that our bodies were born to move, walk, run, and feel. Our bodies were meant to grow stronger and more powerful and when we do not give our body the movement it needs, we become stagnant and stiff. You feel your joints and muscles tightening up which can be painful. This is due to the synovial fluid a gel-like substance in between your joints that thickens up the less you move. Think of a pool of sitting stagnant water, it becomes filled with algae and other bacterias, becoming cloudy and murky. The same thing happens to your body when you deny it's natural instinct to move. Find ways that make movement fun and exciting! I understand that certain types of exercise can be boring to some so I recommend to pick a physical activity that is fun and stimulating.
Daily Mindfulness: We all have this little voice inside our head that talks to us daily, it's the story that we tell ourselves that result in us experiencing a huge amount of stress. Constant negative talk and letting our feelings dicate situations only cause us more stress and stress of any type causes inflammation. Rarely do the feelings we have have anything to do with the present sitaution or person - it's the story we continue ourselves. When we allow ourselves to let go of this thought pattern we grant oursevles space to find gratitude, empathy and understanding in a situation. We can find peace, focus on everything we learned, don't take it too personally and move on. To many of us daily mindfulness may not seem like a priorty and I once thought like that too however once I changed the story I was telling myself, I gradually learned to focus on the good things instead of focusing on the things I couldn't change. It's important to remember that our body cannot differentiate from mental, emotional or physical stress - it responds the same way every time. Consider this: chronic stress/negative thoughts produces chronic inflammation creating an ideal home for illness and disease due to the cellular oxidative damage that stress does to our cells. The one benefit here is that we can choose to take back control anytime! We have the mind to choose what we let in and how we react at to any given situation. Positive thinking does not come easy because we've wired our brain to react a certain way so the next time you allow your mind to shift to the darker side, think about what's actually bothering you and how you can improve your circumstances.
- Be Present: Being present can be hard in a world of to-do lists, notifications and multitasking, train your mind to focus on the task at hand or the person in front of you. Put distractions away and feel comfortable with the silence that is present often brings. Be engaging, inquisitive, interested and open to practice.
- Daily Gratitude: Upon waking and each night before bed, think about 3 things that you are grateful for. I love keeping a journal personally. It's amazing how quickly this can create a peaceful sense of mind.
- Self-Awareness: Seek out what is seeking you, be aware of your environment including the people around you. Make it a daily practice to focus on at least one positive characteristics of each person, or situation. Be aware of how your thoughts influence your attitude and behaviour.