Inflammation seems to be one of the new buzzwords these days. What is it? Just what it sounds like – some part of our body gets ‘inflamed’ – gets hot, red, swollen, as in a sore throat, infected skin cut, swollen ankle. Our goal is always to tame or stop the inflammation, after the cause is determined.
In addition to this more ‘local’ type, another type of inflammation can also affect any part of our body. In the heart, it can contribute to heart disease, in our fat cells, to obesity, in the thyroid to thyroiditis, in the brain, it may ultimately lead to depression, even autism, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in the eyes, blindness. As Barry Sears, MD says,
What we see as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s are not different diseases, but simply different manifestations of long-term damage caused by a continued inflammatory attack on your organs.
An initially protective mechanism (the immune system, through the white blood cells and chemicals called cytokines, designed to shield you from foreign invaders of any kind) ends up going awry for some reason and leads to our body being in a chronic or constant state of (systemic, rather than local) inflammation, potentially wreaking havoc and causing our health to deteriorate – even if for years, you may not have symptoms, which is why some doctors call this type of inflammation “silent”.
The causes of inflammation are many, such as:
- Toxins (e.g. the up to 85,000 chemicals we may be exposed to in daily life, hidden mold in walls and basements of the buildings we may live and work in, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, etc)
- Infections, especially hidden viral, bacterial
- Undiagnosed food allergies and sensitivities (both acute, like a nut allergies, but delayed, which may not affect us up until 72 after ingestion)
- Extreme, chronic stress and trauma, mental or physical
- Lack of healthy amounts of exercise
- An unhealthy diet and ultimately and potentially harmful contents of foods such as transfats, including anything containing partially hydrogenated oils, steroids, antibiotics, hormones, even refined sugars, in excess
Taming inflammation…What can you do?
You may have heard of one popular means for helping prevent dementia by using a ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory OTC drug’ like Advil or Tylenol (with some unwelcome side effects for some people). You may also consider some of these alternatives to help your body deal with or minimize your risk of systemic inflammation:
- Increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, which many people are deficient in. Enjoy some extra salmon or sardines, or take a good supplement, tested and purified of PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury
- Exercise…even a daily walk or walking a few times a week is a great start. If you prefer, enroll a family member for some rounds of tennis or other active game, or go play outside with your kids
- Clean up your diet
- Reduce consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates, especially processed and calorie-laden but nutrient-“empty” foods
- Start using the wonderful anti-inflammatory herbs and spices in your cooking, such as ginger, turmeric (which gives curry its yellow color) and even rosemary
- Determine whether you might have delayed food allergies
Certainly, if you or someone you know suspects they have inflammation, talk to your doctor. You may ask about a blood test called Highly Sensitive C-reactive protein (HS-CRP), which is a marker for general inflammation.
So see if you can pick one or two suggestions you might work on…one small change in your diet and lifestyle over time will make a big difference in your health.
If you’d like to take this to find out if you (or someone you love) have potential toxicities that could be contributing to your health issues, check out Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. I’ve been using it in my health coaching practice with great results. You may find pertinent details here.
As always, please remember that this information is for informational purposes only, is not medically diagnostic in any way and does not substitute the care of a health professional.