Hidden inflammation is associated with just about every health condition in existence, yet it seems to be brushed under the rug by modern medicine, which focuses on treating symptoms, not addressing root cause. Rather than popping a prescription for our high cholesterol, acid reflux or joint pain, we would be much better off by simply reducing our inflammation. The question becomes, how do we reduce inflammation without relying on medication? We’ll get there, but first it’s important to understand what inflammation is and why Americans are plagued by this invisible menace.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION ANYWAY?
Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. Acute inflammation is the body’s miraculous way of self-preserving. Anyone who has had a fever, sprained ankle, sore throat,allergic rash or hives has experienced this type of inflammation. Once the body detects an injury, virus, bacteria, or damaged cell, the lymphatic system sends white blood cells and proteins to the injury to protect and repair that area.
The hallmark of acute inflammation is that it comes on suddenly and goes away when the job is done.
Hidden or Chronic inflammation occurs when our immune system starts working overtime, creating low-level inflammation in reaction to foreign or unwanted substances in the body.This type of inflammation can last months or years, silently wreaking havoc on the body and contributing to heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, dementia, digestive disorders and even obesity.
The good news is that you can gain the upper hand on chronic inflammation. To do so we first need to understand the triggers and causes
of inflammation. Then, we can help our immune system reset by providing the right conditions to heal.
HOW CHRONIC INFLAMMATION STARTS
To get to the root cause of inflammation, we don’t have to look far into our modern lifestyle and diet. Top triggers include:
- Chronic stress
- Poor diet:
including overconsumption of sugar, processed foods, refined products and inflammatory foods such as
trans fats, corn and soybean oils, conventional meat, and pasteurized dairy
- Smoking/overconsumption of alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Obesity (especially abdominal fat)
- Exposure to toxins (mercury, pesticides, etc.)
- Hidden allergens and mold toxins
- Allergens from food
- Chronic infections (Epstein Barr, Hepatitis B, Herpes, etc.)
- A diet low in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables
FINDING THE ROOT CAUSE
From the list above, does anything stand out to you? If not, I encourage you to start working with a trusted practitioner to figure out why you are inflamed in the first place. Take for example, a client of mine who was on about ten medications for different inflammatory conditions including asthma, high cholesterol, blood pressure and acid reflux. She also was the first person to catch influenza every year, land in the hospital with pneumonia, and was even visually inflamed and puffy in her face and extremities. After years of suffering from one illness after another her doctor recently discovered she had Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease related to eating gluten. She has only stopped consuming gluten in the last month, but already she feels a huge shift in her well-being.
I use this example to drive home the point that everyone’s root cause will be different, and it may not be obvious either. Finding your why is critically important. But once you know the cause and eliminate it, it’s time to employ an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
YOUR ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROTOCOL
1. Find out your food sensitivities and allergies and eliminate them.
This is top of the list for good reason—it is one of the most impactful things you can do to reduce systemic inflammation. In fact, Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic said, “In my practice, treating food allergies and improving nutrition in general is the single most powerful tool I have to treat, reverse, and even cure hundreds of diseases that conventional medicine fails at miserably.”
There are some foods that aggravate the immune system more than others. They are gluten, dairy (including milk, cheese, butter and yogurt), corn, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant), citrus, and yeast.
If you’re not sure how to figure out what foods you may be sensitive to, talk to your doctor about getting a food sensitivity test, or do an elimination diet at home.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet of whole, plant-based foods.
As mentioned above, in Dr. Hyman’s personal experience with thousands of patients, upgrading your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your health and wellness. This includes eliminating processed foods, sugar, trans fats and fast foods.
Some foods are considered anti-inflammatory ‘super foods’. Andrew Weil has created an incredible food pyramid for anti-inflammatory foods that is a must to print out and keep as your go-to guide on the foods, drinks, spices and even supplementation to reduce your inflammatory load. ( http://www.drweil.com/diet-nu trition/anti-inflammatory-dietpyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflamm atory-food-pyramid/)
3. Consume Probiotics daily.
A daily dose of a probiotics will help your digestion and improve the healthy bacteria in your gut—which in turn reduces inflammation. It’s important to look for brands of probiotics that contain at least 10 billion CFU’s of bifidobacteria species and lactobacillus species.You can also choose to consume probiotic-rich foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha.
4. Take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to reduce inflammation.
Also include key antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, mixed carotenoids, and selenium); coenzyme Q10; 2 to 3 grams of a molecularly distilled fish oil; and 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. Also, it may be time to take a look at all aspects of your life that are stressing you: your job, a relationship, family situation, and more. These fuel you just as much as what you put in your reach true emotional health. Take an inventory of your life and find ways you can create a life filled with love and appreciation. One thing I see over and over in my practice are people who have
5. Exercise: Not too much, not too little
This is a tricky one, because while exercise is clearly important to reducing your inflammation and for overall health, it’s also not a good idea to over-exercise.
mouth and are worthy of your attention and care.
7. Stop and Smell the Roses
In our modern world, it will take more than a weekly yoga class to
their diet nailed down, but lack an outlet for regular self-love, nurturing and appreciation. Everyone’s avenue for self-nurturing will be different, but find what you love and do it
An easy way to begin is by choosing an exercise you actually enjoy doing and doing that 3 to 4 times a week. When it comes to beating inflammation, ditch the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality and instead gear towards doing exercise you love.
Stress has been proven to cause a whole host of issues, including increasing systemic inflammation. Learn to actively relax by doing yoga, meditation, tai chi, deep breathing or taking a hot bath.
often. And be grateful! I have found that intentional gratefulness turns into genuine gratefulness and makes a shift in our whole demeanor. This may be one of the easiest and most pleasurable ways you can lower inflammation in your body.
No matter how you feel right now, there are easy steps you can begin today to cool inflammation in your body and reclaim health and vitality you may not have experienced in years. Seize the day!