Generally, feeling hot and bothered is a good thing – when we’re talking about love and certain areas of our anatomy. But when other parts of your body are going up in flames, it seems to have the opposite effect on us. Both situations can land you between the sheets, but that’s where the similarities end.
When your body is taken over by inflammation, it can not only be debilitating, it can raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and is at the source of autoimmune disease and many other chronic conditions.
And when almost one-half of all Americans (and fully 50% of our children) live with some type of chronic health condition, it is time for us to take notice and put some energy towards addressing the root cause of the issue.
The good news is that one of the most powerful attacks we have against inflammation is our diet. There is a growing understanding around the role food plays in chronic inflammation and I haven’t heard anyone sum up this relationship better than Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leading authorities on Integrative Medicine:
“It is becoming increasingly clear that a host of illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers and Alzheimer’s disease – are influenced in large part by chronic inflammation. This is a process in which the immune system becomes off balance, and persists unnecessarily in its efforts to repair the body and repel pathogens. The prolonged process results in damage to healthy tissue as well. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition and other lifestyle factors can all promote inflammation, but poor diet is perhaps the main contributor, and the ideal place to begin addressing inflammation.”
Inflammation can play a positive role in our health as the primary defense mechanism against acute conditions – like when a fever fights off an infection, or when blood rushes to a sprained ankle to help heal the tissue. However, when your immune system is disrupted, it puts itself unnecessarily on constant defense, sending inflammation continually rippling throughout your body. In this state, it’s working against you instead of for you by launching a targeted attack on your own cells and tissues.
So what causes this disruption in your immune system and changes it from your internal watchdog to your worst enemy? Well, it could be a number of things…and those things can come together in any combination to create the perfect storm.
Maybe you don’t have any existing issues, consider yourself healthy, and aren’t aware of the cumulative effect of eating processed foods, more sugar than you think, a diet containing allergens, chemicals, and additives, and exposure to environmental toxins. Whether you realize it or not – these can become toxic to your system, and can trigger a shift from good health to poor. Or maybe you have an existing autoimmune or other chronic disease (or simply a genetic predisposition to one). If that’s the case, new research confirms that you very likely have a disruption of your digestive tract that is making it all too easy for harmful ingredients to enter your system. This is known as intestinal hyperpermeability, or more commonly, having a “leaky gut”. (We will go into much more detail on this later.) I admit, it’s not a sexy topic, but it’s a necessary one.
The kicker is that if you are not [yet] in deep with a specific condition, you might blindly attribute your symptoms to life in general. Those mood swings, that steadfast muffin top, persistent headaches and our low energy level are all just accepted as a part of the insanity called life. Unless we make changes – and start to feel better as a result – we don’t realize how crappy we felt in the first place.
I was one of those people even before the onset of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Sure, I have migraines, and I get a lot of sinus infections. Yeah, I’ve taken a few courses of anti-depressants. Do I get gas? Well sometimes – but who doesn’t? And I just blame my husband anyway. But what I found is that when I modified what I was putting into my body, I couldn’t believe the difference. It took me finally feeling better to realize I’d been painfully apathetic – literally and figuratively.
Working From the Outside In
The common thought process, especially with exclusive exposure to Western medicine ideals, is that management of this inflammation is through quick fix anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) – think ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve) or more powerful anti-inflammatories and immune suppressants that come with serious side-effects. However, this plan of attack not only misses the true cause of the inflammation, but these drugs actually exacerbate the problem by making it easier for toxins and food you can’t tolerate to get into your system – i.e., your gut becomes even leakier.
So, if you were wondering what the hell all of this has to do with what we eat…here’s the point: The path away from inflammation and towards your happy place is through your digestive system.
We’ll get into much more detail on this later, but for right now, just know this. There are many foods our bodies may react negatively to, and there are chemicals added to other foods that our bodies have no idea how to handle. So to keep the confusion and adverse reactions at bay, we need to tidy up what goes in.
Healing Through Diet
This clean way of eating, especially as it relates to avoiding food sensitivities, is commonly known as an anti-inflammatory diet or an elimination diet. There are other specialty diets that address very specific non-tolerated substances that can be very effective as well.
Eliminating substances/foods that are not tolerated is a recommended – and highly effective – treatment for many conditions involving chronic inflammation and/or autoimmune conditions including: RA, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases; heart disease and diabetes as well as skin conditions such as acne, eczema and signs of aging (to name a few).
If you read last week’s blog, you’ll remember that eating clean to be lean not only decreases inflammation, it helps you avoid insulin resistance. To refresh, insulin resistance leads to fat storage and possibly obesity. If that’s not a reason to eliminate foods you can’t tolerate, I’m not sure what is.
In upcoming posts, we’ll discuss:
- what the substances are that have the potential to cause so much harm
- how and why they bring on the inflammation
- how to avoid them and what satisfying substitutes to introduce so you don’t bitterly dive head first into a bag of Cheetos
- what you can do to heal your underlying issues so that you can enjoy many of these items again
As a final note – in case you’re still not buying in to the importance of addressing the negative side of being hot and bothered – I’ll share this quote from Dr. Mark Hyman. He doesn’t sugar the donuts when he states in regard to inflammation:
“..this fire in your heart causes heart disease, in our fat cells causes obesity, in the whole body causes cancer, in the eyes causes blindness, and, when this fire spreads to your brain, it can cause depression, dementia, autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, forgetfulness and a host of other problems.”
Wow, right? No question – inflammation has the potential to light your whole damn body on fire! It can be destructive and for some, downright deadly…and there’s zero promise of a relaxing afterglow.
So how about you skip the pain and irritation and go right to bliss – every day. Keep reading to find out how.
- Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion.”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 09 May 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
- Cleave, J. Van, S. L. Gortmaker, and J. M. Perrin. “Dynamics of Obesity and Chronic Health Conditions Among Children and Youth.”JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 7 (2010): 623-30. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
- Weil, Andrew. “Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Pyramid.” Anti-Inflammatory Diet. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2008.
- Challem, Jack. The Inflammation Syndrome: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies and Asthma. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2003.
- Fasano, Alessio. “Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases.”Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology 1 (2012): 71-78. Web.
- Podas T, Nightingale JM, Oldham R, Roy S, Sheehan NJ, Mayberry JF. Is rheumatoid arthritis a disease that starts in the intestine? A pilot study comparing an elemental diet with oral prednisolone. Postgrad Med J. 2007 Feb;83(976):128-31.
- Rana, J. S., M. Nieuwdorp, J. W. Jukema, and J. J. P. Kastelein. “Cardiovascular Metabolic Syndrome: an Interplay Of, Obesity, Inflammation, Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease.” Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism 9.3 (2007): 218-32. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.
- Hyman, Mark. The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety and Sharpen Your Mind. New York: Scribner, 2008.