How many times have you seen that word “inflammation?” You’ve probably heard a lot about “inflammatory” and “anti-inflammatory” foods. I know I talk a ton on HH about my quest to fight inflammation, in my personal life and with my clients. Do you have any idea why you should care and what the buzz is about?
When you think of the word “inflammation.” What comes to mind? For most people, they think of a situation of “acute” inflammation, like when you sprain your ankle, and it swells to the size of a basketball. That’s an acute inflammation response. Inflammation is the body’s immune system doing what it does best, alerting itself to a potential problem so that it can begin the repair process. In the case of the swollen ankle, the swelling and inflammation drive the immune system workers (including platelets, neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages, masts cells, and fibroblasts), these activate the repair process.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a low-grade constant activation of the immune system due to minor irritations of body tissues. Think of it like if you lightly scratched yourself in the same place every hour.
The first hour you would probably not feel it, in fact, the first day or so you might not feel it, but that doesn’t mean your immune system isn’t responding. You can bet that if you irritate the same spot every hour, eventually you would feel it.
By the time you felt it, the immune system is already doing it’s thing, releasing inflammatory signals. Damage would have already been done to your skin, and you would require healing. The thing is, healing can only occur until you stop scratching yourself in the same spot every day.
The same thing happens to the tissues inside your body, but it can be difficult to tease out the causes of the inflammation. It’s a bit of the age-old chicken or the egg question, which came first the illness or the inflammation?
It is different in every condition, but teasing out contributing sources and eliminating them is the goal to ease inflammatory symptoms related to health or a poorly functioning metabolism.
There is research to back up chronic inflammation’s involvement in almost all chronic conditions including:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Types 2 Diabetes
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Joint Pain and Osteoarthritis
- certain autoimmune conditions such as RA
- others not listed
The problem is we are constantly being assaulted by things that could trigger an immune response leading to inflammation including:
- trans fat
- an overabundance in omega 6
- weight gain
- excess refined sugar
- chemicals such as preservatives and food additives
- chemicals in our personal care products
These things are like that constant hourly scratch. As you can see many of these are related to the food we consume, and so the gastrointestinal tract takes the brunt of the damage, day in and day out. Like the scratch on your skin, you might not feel it the first day, but eventually, you will feel it. This is one of the reasons why so many people just don’t feel right when it comes to digestion. It happens all the time, I assume a Hungry Hobby RD client is okay, I’ve asked them about their digestion and they say it’s not a problem. Eventually, it comes to the surface. Their GI issues are way more intense then they made them out to be. Frequent pain, diarrhea, vomiting, reflux, constipation, etc. is not normal. The damage to the GI tract primarily decreases the structural integrity of the tissues. The damage leads to an inflammation response, and the inflammation leads to symptoms. Eventually, this permeability, known as “leaky gut” creates a susceptibility to infections and allows particles pass the gut barrier that otherwise wouldn’t be able to pass. Since 80% of the immune system is in the gut, this permeability can begin to wreak havoc on the rest of the immune system. Again, it becomes the chicken and the egg question, did the inflammation trigger the condition, or did the condition trigger the inflammation? We might never know, but getting rid of the sources of inflammation is often the key to obtaining relief. This is why so many medications for inflammation-related conditions focus on shutting off, or downregulating, inflammatory pathways in the body, unfortunately, those medications come with side effects. One of the most effective things you can do is fight inflammation by limiting the sources of it (see above.)
I see a lot of “inflammatory” foods and “anti-inflammatory foods” on blogs, in the news, on pinterest, pretty much everywhere. Heck, I wrote a post last week about making your very own anti-inflammatory oats. In general, inflammatory foods are those listed above and anti -inflammatory foods are those rich in omega 3 fatty acids. However, if you have symptoms IBS, IBD, Migraines, or pain related conditions, it could be that your body is now over-reacting to random foods do to the damage your GI tract has sustained (also known as a food sensitivity.) So I can tell you to make anti-inflammatory oats, but if you have a sensitivity to one of those ingredients it will do more harm then good. Yes you can be sensitive to healthy foods like lettuce, apples, etc. Wheat, gluten and dairy are not the only culprits. In fact, I find this to be highly individualized, which is why I don’t recommend elimination diets.
One of my clients recently wrote me the following testimonial, which I just had to share with you guys. It was longer, so here is an excerpt from it:
“…I was having diarrhea daily and vomiting several times per week. I got an endoscopy done and while it showed damage and inflammation, it did not show why or how to treat it. Meanwhile, Kelli had been encouraging me to consider food sensitivity testing, both for the GI issues and for some autoimmune type symptoms I had been having for the past couple of years. After4 months of being really sick, I was finally ready to try it. I have had amazing results. I stopped vomiting within 24 hours and stopped having diarrhea after about 72. It has now been three months since I started the diet and I have not vomited once. I have had no migraines for the past couple of months and am not having inflammation type pain anymore either. I have managed to gain weight, 7 pounds over the past 8 months, which puts me at my goal weight so I can now move into a maintenance phase. If you are having unexplained GI issues or autoimmune issues, I would highly recommend doing food sensitivity testing. It has given me my life back.” (Read the full testimonial here.)
Depending on your health status and condition, you may or may not benefit from food sensitivity testing. Regardless, if you aren’t feeling well, make sure that you find someone to work with that can help you fight chronic inflammation, by helping you find the triggering sources and eliminating it (again, this may or may not be related to food). As always, I’m here to answer questions, and if you are interested in working with me you can check out my nutrition services website at www.hungryhobbyrd.com.
Question, of the day:
How do you fight inflammation on a daily basis?
Take my omega 3 fatty acids, eat lot’s of fish, and chill out when I’m getting to cray cray.
What is your favorite way to relax?
Why don’t I hot tub more?