Seems like everyone's talking about inflammation these days! More and more studies are coming out linking chronic inflammation to a vast majority of chronic diseases, even cancer.
But, is all inflammation bad?
Not at all! Some inflammation is absolutely necessary for our survival. It helps us overcome any acute insult or injury to the body. For example, if you cut your finger, cells are recruited to the wounded area, and through a very complex mechanism, the body heals itself quite efficiently. That's an example of inflammation working to heal you.
Similarly, if you contract a bacterial infection, the body quickly produces inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines, which help kill the foreign invaders. During this fight between the bugs and your immune system, you feel terrible, but only for a short time. Soon, you're up and on your merry way again with little long-term botheration from the incident.
It's only when this inflammation becomes chronic or long term—like a low-grade smoldering fire which does not die out—that it leads to major problems.
Normally, during a period of low-grade inflammation, the body tries to warn us that something is wrong. It does this by producing many nagging signs and symptoms, like:
- Aching of joints and muscles
- High blood pressure
- Rising blood sugars
- Sleep issues
- Skin issues
- Frequent abdominal pain and other gut issues
- Mood swings
- Difficulty with sleep
- Low energy levels
If we do not heed these symptoms and allow the inflammation to persist unchecked, after years (yes, years!), the inflammation becomes evident in the form of a heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis or rheumatoid arthritis, which can no longer be ignored by us.
Some signs of chronic inflammation are:
- Chronic fatigue and low energy.
- Mood issues including anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
- Memory problems, brain fog, or loss of focus.
- Difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or unrestful sleep.
- Gut symptoms including acid reflux, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, blood or mucus in stools, intermittent abdominal pain, gas and bloating.
- Chronic muscle and joint pain, swelling, redness.
- Chronic allergies and asthma requiring frequent medications.
- Chronic skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, redness of face and cheeks, or hives.
- Frequent or daily headaches, tremors, easy loss of balance, tingling and pain along nerves in the extremities, dizziness.
- High blood pressure.
- Metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity, or diabetes mellitus.
- Low bone density or osteoporosis.
- Heart disease, peripheral vascular disease.
- Diagnosis of cancer: Yes, taking action is possible even after being diagnosed with a cancer as you can still try to prevent future development of new cancers at other sites.
What should you do if you have any any signs of chronic inflammation?
1. Find a functional medicine physician who is well versed in evaluating your symptoms.
This person can help you eliminate the root cause of the chronic inflammation, rather than focusing on just suppressing symptoms.
2. Avoid all inflammatory foods.
This includes refined sugars, sugar substitutes, juices and sodas, trans-fats, dairy products, non-organic eggs and meats from grain fed animals. I also suggested you eliminate any foods to which you may be sensitive/ allergic, all GMO foods, and foods with a high glycemic index.
3. Eat real foods.
Incorporate large amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, small amounts of grass fed meats and wild small fish, healthy spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and herbs like cilantro, parsley, oregano and rosemary in your diet.
4. Stop eating microwavable lunches or dinners.
Don't eat dead packaged and processed foods which have no life force!
5. Sip green tea on a regular basis.
It cuts inflammation and calms the mind!
6. Try to avoid toxins as much as possible in your daily life.
You'll give your liver a much-needed break.
7. Incorporate a daily exercise regimen.
Do yoga, tai chi or some other form of movement exercise. Move the body whenever you get a chance!
8. Meditate daily and breathe deeply.
Who doesn't love peace of mind? It's also great for your nervous system.
9. Focus on optimal sleep.
Your body restores and regenerates itself daily when you sleep!
10. Find time for rest and rejuvenation on a regular basis.
Try to make time for mini-vacations and spending time in nature!
11. Get regular massages.
Better yet: learn the technique of self-massage and practice it daily!
12. Get your vitamin D levels checked and maintain optimal levels.
Use supplements if needed. Vitamin D is not just a vitamin, it functions as a hormone messenger molecule in crucial body processes!
13. Maintain a positive mental attitude about life and people!
Remember, just like your gut affects the brain, the brain in turn affects the gut, where the majority of our neurotransmitters are made.
Cutting down your risk of inflammation will most certainly reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases, so I urge you to take corrective action, one baby step at a time.