Chronic inflammation has been getting a lot of blame for a whole gambit of problems. The list includes conditions related to cardiac, gut, and cognitive health. Some examples are auto-immune diseases, Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, behavioral problems, mood disorders, digestive issues, delayed healing, depression, cancer, obesity, sluggish immune systems, atherosclerosis, heart attack, increased recovery time, and liver disorders. Scary enough?
The reason why you should give a hoot is because...well...there is just too many to name. I could make an analogy to something like what if you were a plant and someone was watering you with soda and palm oil but is an analogy really needed? I mean, aren't you already this miracle of a system that should be celebrated with nourishment when possible? This is the main point: if the struggle is real for you in any dimension of your life, this should really matter to you. It's a great place to start when targeting things you CAN control in your predicament.
If you don't set your environment up for success, how can you expect your mind and body to thrive?
(If you choose to make changes to your lifestyle after reading this article, know that seeing any benefits TAKES TIME. They don't magically appear overnight.)
So what's a consumer to do? Luckily, this is a hot topic in research and in the health and wellness world so there is plenty of information at your fingertips. There is also some major b.s. information out there, which comes in the fad word "detox". Do you know your liver detoxes for you every day? Do you know that most of the things that are being marketed to you to "detox" has never been scientifically supported? A few weeks ago, a woman in a store tried to tell me the charcoal in their hand soap was perfect for detoxing my skin. I think I may have vomited in my mouth, just a little.
I'm going to keep it short and simple.
Things that increase inflammation (this is a short list but there are more!):
- fried foods
- baked goods
- eggs (in high amounts)
- peanuts (in high amounts)
- gluten (for some)
- chronic stress (increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone)
- bad sleep
- prolonged use of opioids and other medication (hello, foreign substance!)
Things that decrease inflammation:
- tart cherry juice concentrate (2 tbsp before bed since there is melatonin naturally in it)
- omega 3's: Nordic Naturals is the best fish oil on the market, walnuts, flax seed*
- vitamin C, all the B's, D3, E, A*
- magnesium sulfate*
- regular exercise
- increased parasympathetic tone: mindfulness, meditation, humming, diaphragmatic breathing, making your exhales longer than your inhales
- good quality sleep
- hydration: drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces daily
*It's always best to get these from actual whole foods if you can but supplements are the next best thing.
There is nothing like good ole' blood work at the doctor's to find out what vitamins and minerals you are lacking or maybe even have an abundance of! Don't just start popping supplements. Find out your baseline first!
In a nutshell, stick with whole foods and make your plate as colorful as possible. Be minimal on the meat intake. Avoid sugar, dairy, cheap oils, and processed foods. Think of it like this: your inflammatory threshold is like a pot of boiling water. Add enough heat (inflammatory culprits) and the water will boil over, making a mess! Except in real life, the mess looks more like psoriasis, for example. The accumulation of these lifestyle choices is what gets us into a pickle.
To access some incredible evidence-based information on how much of these supplements to take, check out Cheryl Wardlaw's book Taming Pain. Cheryl is a physical therapist and an amazing woman. She has really done her research to give you the best information out there and even provides a "cheat card" with the list of nutrients to take with the recommended amount. I have been lucky enough to take a few courses taught by Cheryl. She is a gift to us all. This book is easy to understand, even if you don't know a lick about healthcare.
Where does physical therapy fit in with this? In my office, I love working on the vagus nerve (to improve parasympathetic tone), the gastrointestinal system (where the vagus nerve goes), the airway in the nose, mouth, and neck, the diaphragm, and the ribcage. Through these mobilization techniques, we can improve your ability to diaphragmatically breathe, digest, and sleep.
If you have an evening of pizza followed by ice cream that was all slurped down with a few cold ones, don't be surprised when (fill in the blank) hurts more the next day. Or if you eat like a garbage truck on the regular, don't be surprised if you're tired, grumpy, or your face is swollen more often than not. Could this be why your entire body feels stiff as a board?
It's all related. It all matters.