Resolving Inflammation: The Heart of Chronic Illness
Inflammation is at the heart of almost all chronic diseases including cancer, obesity, and heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in the U.S. Resolving inflammation should be a priority for anyone consciously choosing a healthy lifestyle. There are many methods for eliminating and or controlling inflammation, from alternative methods such as natural foods, spices, teas, and light therapy, to more conventional approaches such as hormone replacements and medicines.
While inflammation is a normal and often beneficial process, naturally occurring to fight foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, it can also lead to severe damage when it happens too often or at an inappropriate time. It is part of the body’s natural mechanism for healing and repairing damage, whether it is from an external cut or an internal problem, for example with the colon, heart, or brain.
The key to resolving inflammation is in prevention. This can be done by incorporating a few easy and healthy lifestyle changes into your everyday life.
How Do You Know If You Have Inflammation?
There are four classic symptoms of inflammation: redness, swelling, heat, and pain. You may not experience any of these at first, especially with low-level inflammation, but as time goes by, they may appear. Even if you can’t see or feel these symptoms, they could still be taking place in your body.
Inside your body, where you can’t see it or feel it, ongoing inflammation can trigger heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. When inflammation is caused by health conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, arthritis, or irritable bowel syndrome, it does not shut itself off as it should and may progressively worsen over time.
Inflammation is part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic(NEM) Stress Response, how the body handles stress. This system governs our body’s inflammatory responses and how the body detoxifies itself. The NEM stress response defends against oxidative damage, prevents stress from damaging cells further, and reduces the body’s toxicity levels. It also ensures a steady supply of glucose to keep the brain on alert during stressful events.
Aside from all the other previously listed damages that occur from inflammation, a failure in the NEM system can add more health problems to the list. That can result in an imbalance to the internal microbiome, a halt in the detoxification process, a reduction in the nutrient delivery system, and delays in recovery from physical or emotional trauma.
If you have an inflammatory condition or would like to decrease the likelihood of developing one, there are several methods you can use for preventing and resolving inflammation:
- Hormone therapy
- Optimizing your nutrition
- Reducing physical and mental stressors
- Light therapy
Hormone Imbalance Therapy
Hormones, stress, and inflammation maintain a steady relationship. As hormones decline, inflammation and illnesses increase. With increasing stress, hormones also decline.
The primary anti-inflammatory hormones decline naturally with age. Although hormone levels may test in the normal range, they may still be operating at insufficient levels to maintain organs and prevent diseases. Cortisol, in particular, is a major anti-inflammatory hormone for the body. Restoring balance to the other hormones helps to balance cortisol levels and reduce inflammation.
Optimizing Your Nutrition
The most powerful method for controlling and resolving inflammation is under your control, although many don’t know how important nutrition really is. Much inflammation begins in the stomach and intestines, and anti-inflammatory food choices are a prime place to begin a program for resolving inflammation.
The best food choices emphasize organic, raw, plant based proteins and superfoods. Nutritionists recommend eating four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack, more if you are pregnant. They also recommend the following guidelines:
- Plenty of vegetables, especially cruciferous ones
- Whole grains, nuts, and seeds
- Avoid meats, fish, dairy, and eggs
- Avoid fried, overcooked, and microwaved foods
- Stay away from canned and boxed foods with chemicals and preservatives
Note that an anti-inflammatory diet is not the same as an adrenal fatigue diet. A compromise may be needed to blend the two if you suffer from both conditions.
It is also beneficial to take certain supplements such as a multivitamin, minerals, and fish oil. There many supplements available that can aid in resolving inflammation.
Vitamin A can play a major role in keeping your immune system from overreacting and causing inflammation. Some studies on beta-carotene found it was connected with a slower progression of chronic arthritis and helped to head off heart disease. The B vitamins, including B6, B9 (or folic acid), and B12, can lower homocysteine levels and C-reactive proteins, all signs of inflammation. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant that helps rid the body of free radicals that can cause damage in the cells and tissue, which reduces triggers for inflammation.
However, as with anything, be sure to take the appropriate amount of the vitamin or supplement for your body, considering the recommended daily allowance and other research. Always consult your primary care physician or nutritionist prior to commencing any new nutrition regimen.
Another great way to enhance the nutrient density of your diet is by using herbs and cooking spices as they contain a multitude of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. In fact, herbs rank higher in antioxidant levels than most fruits and vegetables, and many studies have shown that they also have unique medicinal qualities.
This was confirmed in a study conducted by top researchers from three universities who wanted to evaluate the true benefits of herbs and spices. They wanted to measure the physiological changes that occurred in the blood after consumption and whether the adsorbed compounds were able to protect white blood cells from oxidative or inflammatory injury. Could the herbs and spices actually protect DNA strands from breaking when under attack by free radicals?
Each of the 130 participants was given a small amount of a particular spice to consume daily for seven consecutive days. Blood samples were drawn prior to consumption and at the end of the trial period. A blood analysis was conducted to search for antioxidant capacity and to see how inflammation in the white blood cells was affected. It was found that four spices in particular had significantly positive effects on the inflammatory response system: clove, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric.
It is important to note that these responses were from exposure to normal levels of spices in food, not from the much higher levels in concentrated pill form. Participants took the same amount that might be found in spaghetti sauce or pumpkin pie.
The following were additional helpful anti-inflammatory herbs and spices:
- Jamaican allspice
Next time you are cooking, don’t be hesitant to add in a few more spices!
However, if you have adrenal fatigue, it is important to consider your sensitivities at this point as well. In advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, your body may be more sensitive to these spices, so proceed with caution.
Toxins are considered one of the biggest contributors to inflammation. There are three main components to resolving inflammation from toxins in the body.
First, it is recommended that you reduce any exposure toxin sources such as gases, paints, glues, preservatives, dyes, heavy metals, plastics, phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA), and electromagnetic radiation, just to name a few.
Second, make an effort to remove toxins from the body by optimizing bowel, liver, lymph, kidney, and skin function.
Third, it is extremely important to keep your body hydrated. It is recommended to drink ½ of your body weight daily in ounces of pure water to assist in the detoxification process.
Reducing Physical and Mental Stress
When the body is under mental duress or pain for long periods of time, the nervous system suffers tremendously, leading to many system failures. Adrenal fatigue is one result, and can eventually lead to an entire shut down of the body due to prolonged stress.
Stress depletes hormones (such as cortisol, DHEA, and progesterone) and nutrients (such as B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium) at an unnaturally high rate, leading to an abundance of health issues.
To help reduce stress, giving your body a better chance of resolving inflammation, consider trying these techniques:
- Deep meditative breathing increases oxygenation and pH levels and reduces inflammation.
- Moderate exercise has the same effect as deep breathing.
- Getting a good night’s sleep has been linked with less inflammation and disease.
- Simplifying life, reducing commitment and activities, and seeking out relaxing things you enjoy can be good ways to calm your nervous system.
Stress very detrimental to overall health, and taking care of yourself in this way has few if any side effects, beyond resolving inflammation.
Inflammation has been linked to many chronic illnesses as well as premature aging, and mitochondrial alterations play a vital role in this procedure. They have proinflammatory signaling devices, as well as proinflammatory mediators, which both increase oxidative stress and lead to a cycle of inflammation. However, there are strategies for controlling this downward cycle.
One innovative approach to enhancing mitochondrial function involves light therapy, as UV light incapacitates pathogens. Light therapy has been used for hundreds of years, but recently much progress has been made in the field. Green and red light frequencies are used to stimulate the immune system and improve mitochondrial and red cell function. Each color targets specific photoreceptors that have different molecular make ups.
Light therapies should be thoroughly evaluated to ensure they are a proper fit for you though. If you have adrenal fatigue, you may want to avoid this method. In some studies, it has been shown to suppress cortisol levels, which is an important hormone for everyone but especially for those dealing with adrenal fatigue. Without more studies, it may be best for those with adrenal fatigue to choose other methods for resolving inflammation. This is especially true for those in the advanced stages of AFS, as adrenal crashes can occur.
Ultimately, you need to take care of your body. It is the only one you have. Exert extreme caution with the foods you consume and the toxins you are exposed to. Increase exercise and decrease stress. Research the aging process and what is needed to keep your all your systems intact and in optimal working condition. Take a preventative approach, and if you feel out of balance, consult with your healthcare provider. It is important to remember, everyone’s body operates differently, so be cautious when trying new health regimens or exercises and take time to figure out what works best for you.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What is the best method for controlling and resolving inflammation?
Nutrition and diet hold the key to optimal health and are the most crucial elements in resolving inflammation and eliminating chronic illnesses. What a person you eat should consist of plenty of vegetables, especially cruciferous ones, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.