Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury or illness. When our body senses that there is something wrong, it’s first response is to try and fix the problem. This acute inflammation of the body is a completely normal reaction to any threat, our body senses the problem and sends more blood to the area, this increase in blood flow is what creates the swelling or inflammation. If you have ever poked your finger on a thorn, you have probably noticed that the area becomes warm, slightly swollen, and often times red. This reaction is all of the extra blood being sent into the area, think of the extra blood as soldiers protecting a village from attack. The extra blood is bringing white blood cells to fight off any bacteria or toxin that may have been on the thorn as well as healing the puncture. After the threat has been diminished, your body returns to normal and resumes daily function as usual. Acute inflammation is a very helpful reaction in our body, and while it does sometime increase pain in the effected area, it is necessary and very important in the healing process.
Unlike the acute inflammation, chronic inflammation serves no beneficial purpose, and is actually the cause of a wide variety of illnesses. Inflammation is related to many illnesses including, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, bursitis, asthma, heart disease, liver disease, and even alzheimer’s disease; unfortunately the list does not end there, almost all autoimmune diseases can be traced back to chronic inflammation.
Basically, when you have chronic inflammation, your body is fighting itself. When inflammation is widespread throughout your body, the response is the same as to acute inflammation only widespread, your body sees something is wrong, and sends white blood cells there to attack and protect, the problem is that what’s wrong with your body is your entire body… So you begin fighting yourself. White blood cells attack other cells within your body as if they were bacteria or toxins. The result? Major problems. Chronic inflammation is a plague on our culture like we have never seen before, but there is a silver lining… For most of us it is totally preventable.
Nine out of every ten people reading this suffer from chronic inflammation, it may not have manifested itself through a major disease or ailment YET, but it IS causing problems in your daily life. How do I know that nine out of every ten people reading this suffer from chronic inflammation? It is because of our culture’s level of daily stress and food intake. Two things cause inflammation more than anything else, they are stress and food, and currently in this country, both are causing you inflammation.
Lets start with stress; traffic, news, politics, finances, social status, physical appearance, all of these currently important things in our society cause stress. When you wake up in the morning do you put on the news? Browse your social media feed? Check your bank account? Drive to work in heavy traffic? Get angry at your politicians? Worry about the water quality? You are dealing with a lot of stress, and unless you choose a healthy outlet like MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) your body responds by producing hyper physiological levels of cortisol, cortisol is a natural stress hormone that is released when we are under stress, it is necessary and protects us, but when cortisol goes out of control with prolonged levels of stress, your body becomes chronically inflammed.
As if stress wasn’t bad enough, your food intake is even a stronger player in the inflammation plague. Certain foods cause inflammation, and others decrease inflammation, should be a simple fix, right? Well yes and no, the big problem is that most of the foods that we eat in this country currently are inflammatory foods. The foods that cause the most inflammation in your body are processed foods including: sugar, cereal, breads, fast food, pasta, and frozen meals. Other foods that cause inflammation are hydrogenated oils, trans fats, fried foods, grain-fed meats, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and soybean oil.
The food and drink that we consume as a culture contain most of these items, the convenience of buying ready-made food items and going out to eat has created a great deal of problems with our health.
You know what inflammation is and what it causing it, now lets figure out how to reverse those problems.
The first thing to do is eliminate some of the stress in your life. I recommend that most of my clients change their morning routine. Instead of putting on the news or browsing social media, start your day with something that makes you happy and/or releases endorphins (the feel good hormone). Studies have shown that when you begin the day with positive activities, your levels of stress will be lessened for the remainder of the day. Some healthy ways to start your day include: going for a walk, meditating, writing a gratitude list, watching a funny TV show, exercising, or anything else that brings you joy.
The next thing to do is modify your food intake, just as there are inflammatory foods there are anti-inflammatory foods that are going to help your body heal. My basic rule of thumb is if you bought a whole food and made it yourself, you are probably in great shape. You want to look for unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables as well as grass fed, and free range meats. Your drink of choice? Water of course, water is an overlooked anti-inflammatory item, but nothing flushes toxins out of your body better than good clean water.
There are also some anti-inflammatory super foods that you may want to include into your diet, some of these include: turmeric, walnuts, ginger, green tea, wild caught fish, broccoli, and tart cherry juice. These super foods are going to give your body a boost when it comes to decreasing inflammation.
Inflammation comes from stress and unnatural foods, and the best way to get rid of that chronic inflammation is by taking a step back from the fast pace and convenience of contemporary life; relax, eat natural foods, and the rest will fall into place.