Is inflammation holding you back? It’s easy to lose sight of the impact inflammation can have on your body because you hear the word everywhere now. It is important to know how it can impact your health.
We chose our Top 5 Sources of Inflammation because these are the areas we see people struggle with the most in our practice. With over 15 years of experience in functional medicine, we see these top 5 issues affecting our people the most.
Everyone is on a health journey, and awareness and intentionality to which you give your health simply shapes the direction your health will go. Understanding how different areas of your life can affect your health is an important practice. Let’s dive in…
This topic could be a series of posts, but we will hit the highlights. Processed sugars, industrial seed oils (vegetable oils) like corn, soybean, cottonseed, and canola oil, gluten containing foods and conventionally processed dairy products are all inflammatory. Irregular (ups and downs) as well as high blood sugar is also inflammatory. Blood sugar isn’t a term only diabetics should know. Getting enough protein with modest amounts of carbohydrate can be part of what prevents high blood sugar. When your blood sugar is too high for too long, it is causing inflammation. Food sensitivities also contribute to inflammation when the foods we eat cause an immune response by the body.
Sugar: Excess refined sugar intake can contribute to elevated triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and weaken the immune system’s ability to fight off infections. More than one study has shown immune cells reduce capacity to kill pathogens following sugar consumption. Chris Kresser said it well that sugar is “neither a toxin nor a replacement for real food.”
Rancid vegetable oils: This includes all types of fake butter, canola, cottonseed, soybean, and peanut oil. The hydrogenation process mixes oils with metal particles, then bleach, artificial dyes and flavorings are added to make them palatable and visually acceptable. The end result of this is an oil that increases inflammation in the body and is linked to: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, obesity, low birth weight, skin reactions and more. As often as possible avoid canola, soybean, cottonseed, peanut and corn oil.
Gluten: There are numerous studies, scientific data, and medical literature confirming the inflammation that occurs in the body when eating gluten. Specifically those with any type of autoimmune disease should be extremely wary of continuing to eat gluten. Gluten contributes to leaky gut which is the culprit in the development if many diseases including neurological, digestive, and skin. 1% of the population has Celiac, but it is estimated that 1 in 30 people are gluten sensitive with over 90% of those undiagnosed. Because of leaky gut, gluten molecules can get into the blood stream and the body can misread it as other body tissues in what’s called molecular mimicry. In these cases, eating gluten can actually be the primary player in destroying thyroid tissue.
Conventional dairy: The issues with conventional dairy are a bit of a hybrid between issues found in vegetable oils and gluten. Like the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, the homogenization of dairy products changes the molecular size and structure of dairy. This means the body does not recognize it the same way and creates and immune response to unknown size/shapes of molecules. Similarly to gluten, the casein part of dairy protein can easily be misread by the body and create an inflammatory response. Raw and fermented dairy sources are often well tolerated by many and can be a nutrient dense option, but avoid conventional dairy products.
Food sensitivities: Leaky gut, autoimmune conditions, chronic infections and more can cause the body to react to any type of food that’s eaten. These are often not permanent sensitivities, but can be temporary when the inflammatory trigger is eliminated and gut healing is pursued. Food sensitivity tests can determine what your body is reacting to.
Stress is inevitable. There’s no avoiding it, but what we do with it can make or break our health. The whole health community from dentists to yoga instructors to cardiologists to ayurvedic practitioners are addressing the biological effects of chronic stress. The modern epidemic of chronic stress is linked to Alzheimers, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, depression and even cancer. Psychology impacts biology by changing immune cell genes to function full-time in fight mode, even when no infection, trauma, or threat is present. A stressed body becomes more acidic which increases the problematic bacteria in the body. Research has actually nailed down the reality that psychological stress promotes an inflammatory response of symptoms of a common cold but with no virus or bacteria as the driving factor. The inflammatory response from stress presents a cold. Now, it is imperative to note that the stress we speak of is any form of stress. Your body doesn’t know the difference, or care for that matter, if your stress is a bad relationship, financial hardship, chronic disease, lack of sleep or an intense work environment. The way you manage these aspects of life through good sleep, nutrient dense foods, time away from technology, fostering positive relationships and working with a practitioner to support the body internally based on your level of stress can determine how much your psychology affects your biology.
No one would argue that an acute infection causes inflammation, but what is often overlooked is the chronic infections that linger for years often undetected. Chronic infections are sometimes hard to find and many times go untreated. The effects of chronic infections on your health can be far reaching. Chronic infections like Epstein Barr can silently move from system to system causing inflammation in one area then another. Latent viral infections cause cell destruction, alter cellular metabolism and can promote the spread of infected cells. Chronic infections are now known to play a role in atherosclerosis. Latent viral infections such as Epstein Barr are also associated with cancers such as lymphoma, cervical cancer, as well as liver disease, and hepatitis C.
The toxins in the environment are plentiful and on the rise. Air, water, soil pollutants, and chemical exposures are linked to over 100 diseases. Synthetic chemicals like plastics, phthalates, chemicals in candles, air fresheners and body care products are linked to endocrine disorders. Indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde, household cleaners, mold, lead and radon are all linked to diseases as well as developmental issues in children. Heavy metals in water and pesticides on produce are linked to developmental issues in children and further increase the toxic burden in adults leading to inflammation and chronic disease. When toxins accumulate in the body cellular damage occurs. They harm the immune system and decrease important, key antioxidants in the body like glutathione.
The hormone and neurotransmitter systems are a finely orchestrated balancing act that get out of balance with chronic inflammation. Unbalanced hormones lead to further inflammation causing a cycle that can only be broken through decreasing inflammation and addressing the deficient hormone/neurotransmitter deficiencies. Hormones are the messenger molecules of the endocrine system and neurotransmitters are the messenger molecules of the brain and nervous system. Glands in these systems control stress signals (adrenals), blood sugar (pancreas), thyroid hormone (thyroid gland) and sexual function (reproductive organs) not to mention growth, sleep and mood. The interplay of hormones and neurotransmitters send messages through the body about everything from moving your leg to feeling sad or happy. Imbalance of hormones are primary contributor to 3 inflammatory epidemics in America: 1) too much insulin 2) too much cortisol and adrenaline 3) not enough thyroid hormone. These system malfunctions then lead to dis-regulation of sex hormones further deepening the affect of inflammation on the body.
LifeWorks Integrative Health is your team for decreasing inflammation. Whether it’s nutrition counseling to change how you eat, functional medicine to find the root cause of your inflammation, or physical medicine to align your spine, reduce pain or headaches, we’re here for you! We understand inflammation and have multi-layered approach to get you well.
See past articles on hormones and stress for more detail on these topics
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