Inflammation, we have all heard that word and experienced inflammation at some point in our life. Think back to your last fall; the aching joint and the stiff muscles surrounding the joint. The muscles and joints felt stiff and aching due to the influx of lymphatic fluid (a.k.a.inflammation). Upon impact our brain has initiated it's defense response by increasing the presence of lymphatic fluid, in order to defend our body from infections and heal damaged tissue. The addition to fluid in the area is why your movements may be reduced and accompanied by discomfort. Your brain is all about protecting, serving and preserving it's beloved human. This is why long term (chronic) injuries to a joint will also house inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is wide spread systemic issue throughout the body. Chronic inflammation can play a role in our mental health, our nervous system, vascular system, motor control, and gut health. The root of inflammation can be find in a variety of stealthy infections, chemical exposure, food and/or emotional stress. I will discuss food and emotional stress, giving you Tiny Little Action Steps (TLA's) to begin your personal journey.
How can you identify whether or not you have an issue with inflammation? This can be tricky because sometimes the symptoms can be subtle.
The symptoms of chronic inflammation may include:
wide spread body pain
reduced joint range of motion (this can be a result of localized or chronic inflammation)
bone degeneration, can have a direct connection to inflammation
increased scar tissue
inability to lose weight
blood sugar regulation issue
gastrointestinal complications like constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux
In the early stages of chronic inflammation the signs may appear independently and be "soft" sporadic signals, these are easily dismissed. In the meantime, our body gets to work, trying hard to auto correct and balance out our system. Often people feel they are "healed", when the signal temporarily pauses or shifts to a new signal, this is not always the case. As time passes our body continues to work harder and harder to keep up with our desires to perform and maintain our hectic fast paced lifestyle. We inevitably increase our inflammation due to the burden on the digestive tract and reduction of nutrient breakdown and processing.
Food is a source of information for our body's functionality and it sets he tone for the cellular environment. Food can feed the inflammatory issue by irritating the gut or give our body a break in order to allow our system to heal. This is why quality of food really matters. In order for our body to heal we need a whole food/clean eats supply of nutrients. Prepackaged processed food, potential inflammatory food and fast food will only take away from the goal of healing.
Food even when it is "healthy" can become an irritant to our system. Did you know people can have sensitivities or allergies to grains, oatmeal, legumes (beans) or even tomatoes? Trust me when I say it is rare for people to recognize that they have a food sensitivity. If you suspect food as a possible player in your health concerns, an elimination diet such as the Whole30 or the AIP (autoimmune protocol) is a great thing to do. These diets temporarily eliminate the food groups that have the potential to inflame our system. (There are many food groups that can cause systemic aggravation, but you can still eat very well.) Once the foods have been eliminated from your diet for a short period of time, you slowly reintroduce the foods this allows you to see which food(s) your body struggles to break down. The best take-away from an elimination diet is that you witness first hand how great you can feel when food is viewed as a source of fuel versus a source of emotional support. Another powerful benefit is the ability to say "no" to food that does not serve you well.
Let's talk about the role of stress and the connection to inflammation. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system's fight or flight response. Fight or flight is a prehistoric, hard-wired brain response that makes physiologic changes to our system in order to protect ourselves in the face of threat or danger. Did you know, our brain is unable to distinguish between the stress of being chased by the neighborhood saber tooth tiger or just running late to work? The brain will initiate it's fight or flight defense mechanisms to protect us from "certain death at the jaws of the tiger". This is why it is important to learn how to respond to stress in an adaptive way.
Understanding stress as adaptive or maladaptive may help you determine if it is something you should focus on in order to help lower your inflammation. An adaptive stress response is best described as a person's ability to move through stress in less than 20 minutes. A maladaptive response can be summed up as a lingering response, it could last for hours, days, months, years, and unfortunately a lifetime. If you have inflammation, high blood pressure or other vascular issues or an autoimmune diagnosis of any kind then your ability to change the maladaptive stress response will benefit you in numerous ways.
Wim Hof breath work (you can find videos on YouTube) is one of my favorite self care tools to address stress. Being consistent with my breath work practice has in fact allowed me to slide into a consistent adaptive response to stress. The breath work allows you to connect to your body by feeling the shift from tension and anxiety to elation due to the release of serotonin and dopamine from the work.
I have discussed some of the bodily symptoms of inflammation and a couple of proactive ways to start your journey into inflammation reduction. Depending on your level of inflammation you may require more focused work for those stealthy infections, chemical exposures or possibly deeper, more personalized gut health repair. Especially if you have an autoimmune like I do. I am constantly in awe about the complexity and magnificence of our human body. I spend a lot of time thinking about quality of life. My desire is to share with you these unique and progressive methods that have worked for me and countless others. In my opinion, no one is ever too old to improve their quality of life or to learn something new. After all,cell regrowth is a lifelong process.