Chronic Inflammation and Adrenal Fatigue Part 3

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Read Part 1 | Part 2

Tips to Reduce Chronic Inflammation

1. Reduce Emotional Stress

Anxiety can be a sign of chronic inflammationPsychological stress manifesting in the form of panic attacks, rapid heart rate, or night sweats is a sign of cortisol-prompted inflammation. Cortisol is your body’s general “fight or flight” hormone, kicking in whenever the adrenal glands respond to a threat or stressor. An increase in cortisol results in dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow to your organs so as to prepare the body to respond to an attack. With persistent stress, the adrenal glands and immune system are constantly in overdrive, eliciting the Chronic Inflammation response.
Unexpected stressful situations, such as being put on the spot at a work meeting, can also trigger sudden bouts of anxiety and the cortisol stress response. It’s important to understand that the parts of your brain that sense pain also respond to social and mental stress.

2. Avoid Physical Stress

Your body’s response to physical stress is similar to its response to emotional stress. For example, a hypoglycemic episode puts the body into a panic mode that triggers the immune response, leading to systemic inflammation. This can disrupt your body’s normal homeostasis and lead to systemic reactions such as breaking out in hives and the shutting down your GI tract. Restoring the body to equilibrium, in this case by providing it with the proper nutrients, often restores the body’s functions to normal. Skipping meals or eating at odd times, however, will continuously disturb the body’s balance, triggering immune reactions and inflammatory episodes.

3. Maintain a Healthy Gut

Gut disturbances from an unbalanced diet can often be the source of inflammation. Simply eating an anti-inflammatory diet with the proper balance of nutrition from healthy sources is a powerful method to keep the gastrointestinal tract working at optimal function. Prebiotic and probiotic supplements and exercise can also bolster your GI tract health. On the other hand, if you eat a meal that’s particularly rich, your digestive system is forced to put in extra work. It’s unfortunate that the modern diet in developed countries consists of so many processed fast foods that are overloaded with sugars, fats, and carbohydrates. This leads many people to unduly stress their digestive tract, triggering chronic inflammation.

4. Maintain Steady Insulin Levels

Studies have linked insulin and glucose levels with chronic inflammation. For instance, obese individuals who are prone to developing type-2 diabetes often have issues with chronic inflammation. In addition, studies have shown that consuming foods high in simple carbohydrates that quickly spike your post prandial blood sugar also seems to trigger an inflammatory response.

5. Maintain an Optimum Hormonal Balance

Inflammation has also been linked to unbalanced levels of certain hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. That’s why chronic inflammation often affects menopausal women, causing conditions like osteoporosis, weight gain, and adult acne. Furthermore, since the level of any one hormone is tied to multiple others through the body’s hormonal axes, disequilibrium in a single hormone can cascade, affecting hormonal balance across the board.

6. Avoid Synthetic Materials

Certain individuals may experience allergies or sensitivities leading to inflammatory responses in reaction to the synthetic fibers found in products like latex, adhesives, and plastics. You may not realize that these synthetic triggers exist in your workplace or home.

7. Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Chronic inflammation can be triggered by continuous use of house hold cleaners.Chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetics, and air fresheners are another common source of inflammation. Some of these chemicals can be particularly harmful if they can become airborne or are absorbed directly through the skin. Even low levels of chemical exposure can give rise to chronic inflammation.

8. Watch Your Weight

When you gain weight, the fat cells of adipose tissue actually enlarge and can begin to bulge. This stresses the cells and causes them to call for help. The immune system responds and the affected tissues become inflamed. If these cells remain stressed, the immune system remains activated and the inflammatory response continues, the white blood cells sent to these tissues start to leak out and enter the bloodstream, and need to be cleaned up by the liver.

Weight gain is very often the result of either overeating or consuming too many processed foods. As previously mentioned, the modern diet is full of exactly these kinds of food: potato chips, frozen dinners, white bread, and sugary frosting. The prevalence of these kinds of foods make it all too easy to inadvertently raise your risk of chronic inflammation.

Limiting your consumption or making healthier food choices with an eye towards controlling your weight will help you control the size of your fat cells. Once they stop feeling the stress of being overfilled, they will no longer call for help, and the immune system and its inflammatory response will also quiet down.

9. Exercise Regularly

Another way to help cut those fat cells down to size is through exercise; but even if you already look lean, exercise may still protect you from unnecessary inflammation. Studies in both human and animal subjects indicate that physical activity decreases inflammation of both chronic and acute varieties. Physical activity on a regular basis is also important in reducing your risk for obesity and other chronic diseases associated with inflammation.
But don’t overdo it. Excessive or overly intense exercise actually stresses the body and pushes it into a chronic inflammatory state which can trigger adrenal crashes. In fact, overtraining syndrome is so named for athletes pushing themselves too far, and is linked with a suppression of immune function as well as systemic chronic inflammation.

10. Avoid Breathing Polluted Air

Smog is an unfortunate reality in many modern cities. Whether or not you noticed it, your immune system certainly hates it. When the toxins in polluted air are inhaled and enter your bloodstream, your immune system reacts with an inflammatory response, causing a variety of chronic symptoms including the buildup of insulin resistance.

Constant smoking can trigger chronic inflammationEven worse than polluted air from the city or around highways is cigarette smoke; tobacco smoke is so irritating and damaging to the lungs that the immune response to repair the damage is overblown. While trying to fix the damage caused by smoking, the immune system’s assault on the invading toxins causes a great deal of collateral damage to the lung tissue. Over time, the damage caused by the war between toxic tobacco smoke and your immune response can lead to lung disease.

11. Take Proper Nutritional Supplements

Key nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties include fish oil, probiotics, vitamin C, glutathione, enzymes, quercetin, bromelain, vitamin E, turmeric, curcumin, vitamin D. Depending on the state of the body, more nutrients are not necessarily better. Avoid pills that have excessive binders and fillers, which can be inflammatory. Focus on liquid or powder delivery systems for better bioavailability.

Adrenal Fatigue sufferers should be extremely careful not to indiscriminately take supplements without careful consideration of the body’s ability to clear the metabolites promptly as excessive accumulation of metabolic byproducts can trigger inflammatory responses and adrenal crashes. Those in advanced stages are particularly at risk, because the liver is often already congested, and the extracellular matrix is polluted, resulting in a slowdown of nutrient assimilation. An aggressive nutritional program can often make matters worse. Improper nutritional supplementation is a common clinical mistake that can retard Adrenal Fatigue recovery and even exacerbate the condition.

12. Watch Out For Trigger Foods

Trigger foods aren’t necessarily bad for you themselves, but they have the potential to stress the body and cause inflammation. Certain oils— corn, peanut, soy, sunflower and safflower—contain high levels of linoleic acid, which can trigger an inflammatory reaction in some people. For others, simple carbohydrates may irritate the body, and a diet high in such refined carbohydrates may stress the body and cause an inflammatory response.

Other common triggers include casein, which is found in dairy products, and gluten, found in wheat. For individuals sensitive to these foods, ingesting them will cause stress and discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, upsetting the internal balance of the gut and triggering inflammation.

It is therefore important to identify what foods you are sensitive to and eliminate them from your diet. This will soothe your gut and allow the inflammatory response to subside. Using prebiotics and probiotics to encourage the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut microbiome can also keep the gut happy and assist healthy digestive function.

Top 10 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods

1. Brightly Colored Fruits and Veggies

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most effective anti-inflammatory foods. They contain a vast array of phytocompounds that help fight inflammation. Along with magnesium and various antioxidants, these compounds include the carotenoids that give carrots and squash their yellow coloring and lycopene, which gives tomatoes and red bell peppers their red color.

2. Grapes and Berries

Resveratrol is a phytochemical that has recently been touted for its ability to fight heart disease. This powerful compound has great advantages for cardiovascular health and also helps to quiet inflammation.

3. Nuts

Chronic Inflammation can be reduced by eating healthy.Nuts and seeds are simple but nourishing foods, bursting at the seams with protein, fiber, phytonutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids. These portable nutritional powerhouses also act as a great snack throughout the day to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable and provide energy between meals. Walnuts, in particular, contain a variety of phytonutrients that are difficult to find anywhere else.

4. Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, another powerful anti-inflammatory compound. Extra virgin olive oil used for cooking at temperatures less than 140 degrees Celsius is the most beneficial.

5. Spices

Many herbs and spices contain unique mixtures of vitamins and phytonutrients that help curb inflammation and promote the general health of the body. Turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, and lavender all have general health benefits and help to suppress inflammation. In addition, they add flavor to dishes without having to resort to excessive salt or sugar, both of which can elicit inflammatory responses.

6. Fructooligosaccharides

Some vegetables—including garlic, asparagus, artichokes, and leeks—are also sources of fructooligosaccharides. In addition to their nutritional benefits, the complexity of these sugars makes them indigestible by the human gut, meaning you’ll absorb fewer calories and your blood sugar won’t spike. These complex sugars also feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping to promote and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

7. Avocados

Avocados are a great health food because they are packed with powerful nutrients. Carotenoids, alpha-linolenic acid, phytosterols, and mono- and polyunsaturated fats all contribute to this food’s multitude of health benefits. Multiple studies link avocado consumption to reduction of inflammation, balanced blood sugar, reduced cholesterol, and even curbed arthritis pains. Avocados are also incredibly versatile as a food, able to be sliced, chopped, mashed, or spread as a garnish, a main dish, or a healthy alternative to butter or mayonnaise.

8. Organic Meat

Grass fed, free range, and organic meats are healthier on the whole than their industrial agriculture counterparts. Their meat offers a much better nutritional value: when compared to corn-fed, industrially farmed animals, pasture raised organic cows, lambs, pigs and chickens have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (that fight inflammation) and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids (that promote inflammation).

9. Fish

Adults should eat three servings each week of cold water fish such as sardines, anchovies, herring, and salmon. Fish are high in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which have a wide range of health benefits including improving heart health, alleviating autoimmune conditions, curbing mood disorders, helping skin and nail health, and of course reducing inflammation.

10. Ginger

Ginger has long been valued for its anti-inflammatory and general health benefits in many cultures. Modern medicine has only recently caught up: in studies since the 1970s, ginger has been shown to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis and leukotriene biosynthesis, both compounds produced by the body in the course of the inflammatory response. This physiological pathway makes ginger similar to, but functionally unique from, pharmaceutical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.


Chronic inflammation can be reduced by using ginger. Inflammation is one of the primary mechanisms selected by nature to maintain the integrity of your body against the myriad attacks that it faces every day. It is part of your body’s maintenance and repair system, and without it, you cannot heal. However, inflammation is also a common component in many chronic diseases. This dual nature makes dealing with inflammation a tricky prospect, as a proper balance needs to be found. Unfortunately, modern medicine is ill equipped to provide a proper solution because it deals mainly with eradicating acute diseases and controlling chronic symptoms.

Another complicating factor is that properly dealing with chronic inflammation requires addressing the problem at all levels, including identifying the root of the problem. Many of the possible causes of inflammation deal with disruptions and dysbioses in the gut; another related and overlapping set of causes are mediated by the chronic overworking of the adrenal glands in Adrenal Fatigue. In both cases, the proper way to address the inflammation is to remove the stressor or agent eliciting the inflammatory immune response and maneuver the body back to its optimal homeostasis. While this is simple in theory, the application can require time and patience to adjust to dietary and lifestyle changes.

In the end it is more than worth it. Cutting chronic inflammation out of your life will leave you healthier and happier, with more energy and motivation to lead your life the way you want to.

Read Part 1 | Part 2
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Anxiety can be caused by chronic inflammation