Last week’s post, Heart Matters, touched on the concept of chronic inflammation and its association with the majority of chronic diseases. In addition to cardiac disease, these include cancers, Alzheimer’s, auto-immune disorders, pulmonary disease, diabetes, and bone & joint diseases. Some of your comments inspired me to want to share more on the subject. This post, therefore, is a sort of addendum.
You may be thinking, isn’t inflammation a good thing? Yes and no. On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, says inflammation is the cornerstone of the body’s healing response, bringing more nourishment and more immune activity to a site of injury or infection. But when inflammation persists, it damages the body and causes illness. This type of illness often lasts for years, taking away from the quality of our lives until finally it takes our lives.
Persistent inflammation is the body’s immune response to toxins as it works to “purify” itself, according to this write-up from Cleveland Clinic. As our exposure to pseudo foods, polluted air & water, and overall stress increases, our bodies’ toxin levels rise, setting the stage for chronic inflammatory disease.
If your physician hasn’t tested you for chronic inflammation, ask if she/he will order a lab test for CRP or IL-6. (Be aware that your insurance might not pay for it.) If the result falls above the normal range, you’ll know that you need to make some lifestyle changes.
There are many ways to assist your body in decreasing inflammation and improving, often even reversing, chronic disease. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health published a 10-page Patient Handout that gives a lot of great info for those wanting to make changes. Their guidance includes the following: daily physical activity, stress management, restful & plentiful sleep, spending time with loved ones, managing your weight, and eating in a way that increases nutrients and decreases junk & fried foods, simple carbs, processed meats, and food allergens.
An anti-inflammatory diet is not a diet in the traditional sense. It’s a way of eating that should be adopted for a lifetime of health. The Mediterranean Diet is a perfect example, with its abundance of whole foods, including fresh fruits, veggies & beans, healthy oils, fish & other omega 3 foods, whole grains, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices, moderate wine consumption, limited red meats & dairy, and no processed meats. According to Michael Greger, MD, founder of NutritionFacts.org, emphasizing whole foods, and not supplements, is essential. For example, antioxidants found in fresh veggies are shown to reduce inflammation, but antioxidant supplements are not. The same goes for spices: studies show ground turmeric is beneficial, but not turmeric supplements. Another reason to focus on whole foods, Dr. Greger says, is that not all plant foods are anti-inflammatory. If all you do is boost your intake of less healthy plant foods, like juice, white bread, soda, and cake, you can end up even more inflamed, he writes.
Of course, your new healthy lifestyle won’t bring results overnight – it’ll take time to change the years of abuse your body has endured. An article on Livestrong.com explains that after a week of changing your habits, you might have lost 1 pound, feel less bloated, and find your triglycerides have dropped. Two to three weeks can bring lowered blood pressure, a bit more weight loss, & positive changes in overall bloodwork. After a month, you might find that your mood and energy have improved, and you have fewer aches and pains. Sixty days into it, endurance will have improved, and you may see several more pounds have fallen off. In 90 days, your A1c levels can drop, which is proof of a healthier functioning pancreas, liver, and small intestine. Also by that time, your new lifestyle has been habituated long enough for you not to worry about falling off the wagon!
It is my hope that you’ve found this information helpful. Chronic inflammatory disease doesn’t have to be a part of your life. Making lifestyle changes now can be the key to helping you avoid an illness that can steal your chances of a happy, healthy existence.
Blessings for Health,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.