On last week’s “Wellness Wednesday,” we started looking at the body as a kind of corporation, where the lungs, kidneys, and gut perform daily operations under the direction of the brain’s management team. But the team we gave the most attention to was the security detail provided by the immune system.
Your immune system is made to respond quickly and thoroughly when an isolated attack of germs, viruses, or chemicals enters. It recognizes threats to your cells, then surrounds, isolates, contains, and ejects them. It’s an amazingly precise and efficient system, but like any system, it can be overwhelmed.
It’s not supposed to be a health problem. In fact, inflammation is an important and necessary part of your body’s defense, but only for a short term; we were only designed to fight for so long. It’s normal to experience pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness, or in some cases, bloating, coughing, or a handful of other symptoms for a short period of time.
But when the body is exposed to a prolonged onslaught of invaders, your protective immune cells can begin to destroy healthy cells and tissue as collateral damage in the fight. The clinical name is “chronic inflammation.” There are dozens of diseases that fall under the category of but the root of them all is that your body is fighting a toxic invader for so long that it is destroying your cells.
What Causes Inflammation?
Last week, we looked at some of the causes of inflammation, especially those rooted in our food. So much of the pre-packaged foods we buy at the grocery store are made or prepared with chemicals that your body was not designed to handle. It’s likely that much of the pain you experience in your body is related to the food you eat. I’ve seen too many cases in my career of people who were able to reverse rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and a list of other chronic diseases simply by removing certain foods from their diets.
Other causes include the chemicals we use to clean our homes and workplaces, the fumes we breathe, and toxic chemicals in our clothes, furniture, and carpet. You could also make a case that inflammation in the body can be caused by prolonged stress, anger, and unforgiveness, but we will deal with that another time.
This week, I want to address a handful of steps you can take to help end the war in your body.
Your Tactical Battle Plan Against Inflammation
Take Out The Trash
Obviously, we want to remove toxic, rancid, inflammatory foods from your diet. Sugars, trans fats, fried foods, and foods loaded with preservatives. Your favorite snack may be causing you the intense pain you feel; get it out of your diet for a few weeks and see if you don’t feel better.
Switch to the Right Fats
Fats are not created equal: there are some you need to survive, but most American food has rejected those in favor of others, which can kill you. Switch from processed vegetable oils to animal-based omega-3 fats. I made up a list of oils to use and oils to avoid. Most marketing since the 1960s has been pointing us in the wrong direction and it is killing people. Saturated fat is not the evil they make it out to be. Butter will always be healthier than margarine, and ghee is better yet. Far and away above them all, krill oil is an excellent source of omega-3s and is easily digestible in supplement form.
End The Carb Addiction
Limit or eliminate your intake of sugars and grains until your fasting insulin level is below three. Most of us have too much sugar and insulin working in our bodies, and it affects our mood, our weight, and our energy levels, in addition to joint pain and other inflammatory reactions. I’ve heard that as much as 30% of the nation is pre-diabetic and doesn’t even know it. If your waist measurement is greater than 35 inches, chances are good that you have inflammation working somewhere in your body. Obesity and inflammation work hand in hand, and everything you can do to get back to your ideal weight will help you in multiple ways.
Take a walk after work. Do some stretches in the morning. Do one of our “Move Right Monday” exercises for five minutes a few times a day. I know it sounds counterintuitive to exercise when you have joint pain, but the endorphins that go to work in your body after a short workout – that “runner’s high” that so many experience – will help to alleviate some of that pain. It will also help to release pressure where fluids have built up in your joints.
Do I really still have to say that to people?
Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
I don’t know anybody who gets all the Vitamin D their bodies need. Every day, you need a fresh supply because each night the leftovers drain out into your urine. The best source is direct sunlight, but even here in Florida, we don’t get 365 days of perfect sunlight (in spite of what the rest of the world believes). If you take a supplement, make sure it is Vitamin D3, which is the most bioavailable form (“bioavailable” means your body doesn’t have to waste energy or any of the mineral itself to digest it).
Pineapple has proven to be a powerful anti-inflammatory food because it has such a high concentration of bromelain. Dr. Mercola also recommends the antioxidant Resveratrol, which is found in certain fruits, vegetables, and cocoa. You can also find it in a growing number of supplements.
Say No To Drugs
Avoid statins, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Tylenol) and other drugs. Drugs may take the edge off the pain for a few minutes, but they never address the underlying causes of the pain, and they come with a laundry list of side effects. Your doctor will likely recommend a statin if you have elevated C-Reactive Proteins (CRP) in your system, as they typically considered an indicator of inflammation and heart disease, but if you will make these other lifestyle changes, you will find that your risk of heart disease, inflammation, and several other health problems will start to dissipate on their own.
Experiment With Anti-inflammatory Herbs
If you want to use an herbal treatment to handle some of the symptoms while your body is healing, I recommend turmeric, ginger, rosemary, and evening primrose. I prefer to eat the roots raw or steeped in tea, but you can also find them in supplement form.
Brush Your Teeth
Gum disease can unleash a torrent of unhealthy bacteria through your blood stream that can latch onto your organs, joints, and systems. Keep your mouth healthy.
Manage Your Stress
As I mentioned before, stress can cause inflammation in your body in a dozen different ways. I won’t go into it too deeply in this article, but you must take responsibility to manage your own stress. If that means getting a new job, changing your friends, shutting off the news, or honestly confront a problematic relationship, do it. Adding a time of prayer and meditation to your daily routine can also help to drain away stress. I also encourage executives, pastors, and people in other high-pressure careers to exercise daily for the same reason.
Just A Start
You don’t have to live with chronic pain.
So often, new patients come to me for adjustments to deal with inflammation, and that’s a good start, but if I can get them to make some of these simple lifestyle changes, they can add good years to their lives, enjoy their kids and grandkids, and do the things that matter to them well into their golden years without hindrance. I want that for all my patients, and it’s achievable.
This is just an introduction. There’s so much more we will say here over time.
If these two articles were helpful to you, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share them on your social media platforms. So few people in America understand why they are suffering and what they can do about it. You and I take this kind of information for granted because we’ve been talking about it for so long, but this might be a life-changing revelation for someone you know and care about.
I’d also like to invite you to our next Fundamental Foods night at my office in Naples. Thursday, December 1st at 6:30 p.m. We’re going to dive deep into a strategy for mastering inflammation in our bodies once and for all. Don’t miss it. Bring a friend and a dish to share, and be sure to RSVP on our Facebook page, so we can make sure we have room. It’s going to fill up fast!
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas