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Lee’s Summit Chiropractor | What is Inflammation?

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all experience inflammation on a daily basis, yet few among us fully understand the vital purpose that inflammation serves in our bodies and the havoc it can wreak upon us when it goes unchecked. Many see inflammation as the redness, heat, swelling, and pain that we get upon injury, and while this is true, it represents only one kind of inflammation: acute inflammation. Inflammation, by itself, is a natural process and without it healing could not take place in the body. Acute inflammation is seen as the body’s reaction to injury, helping to aid in repair and protect damaged tissue, and is at the heart of protecting our bodies from disease and illness. This type of inflammation acts to heal by getting more nourishment and immune system activity to the area that needs it most.

Where inflammation becomes dangerous and even deadly is when it manifests as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, as the name suggests, represents inflammation that lasts weeks, months, and even years and occurs when the initial stimulus which led to acute inflammation persists, as the body interprets the stimulus as unresolved. This form of inflammation can be sinister in nature, silently damaging your tissues without the usual redness, heat, swelling or pain that would normally be seen with acute inflammation. Tissue damage is a classic hallmark of chronic inflammation, often forming fibrous or scar tissue from the tissue which once existed in the site of repair. New blood vessel formation (or angiogenesis) is another common hallmark of chronic inflammation, which plays a part in many disease processes, such as cancer.

Chronic inflammation has been linked with autoimmune disorders, allergic reactions, viral and bacterial infections, and a host of other diseases and disease processes, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Heart Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Celiac Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Allergies

10 Ways to Decrease Inflammation Naturally

1. Ready. Set. GO!
Axis Chiropractic and Wellness: Exercising
  • In addition to naturally lowering inflammation throughout the body, exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, while lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and improving mood and anxiety (lowering the risk of depression) and improving blood sugar levels, helping to optimize body weight, while reducing fat.
  • If you’re not accustomed to exercising, start slowly by simply walking every day. Yoga and water aerobics are my two favorite low-impact forms of exercise—as you build more stamina and strength, you can begin to incorporate more into your life.
  • An important point to drive home is this: exercise need not be stuffing yourself into a gym. Gardening, cleaning, walking, biking, and other forms of physical activity is something we all require, so simply moving every day, in conjunction with eating a healthy diet, are the two most important thing you can do for your body.

2. Redefine Your Sweet Tooth
  • Simple sugars, such as those found in most processed foods, wreak havoc on our bodies, causing an abrupt spike in our blood sugar levels, while raising insulin levels to counterbalance the spike.
  • This leads to lowered immune system function, promotion of obesity, and a rise in inflammation, increasing the levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body.
  • Eating complex carbohydrates, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein can help balance blood sugar levels while improving satiety and decreasing inflammatory processes in the body. As a general rule, the more natural and unprocessed the food source, the more regulated your blood sugar levels will become.

3. Trim the FAT
Axis Chiropractic and Wellness: Trim the Fat
  • Excess fat stored in fat cells (adipose tissue), by itself, causes inflammation and inflammatory processes to occur in the body.
  • In fact, these very inflammatory processes can lead to insulin resistant type II diabetes as well as resistance to cortisol, making it even more difficult to lose weight in those suffering from obesity.
  • Diet modification, regular daily exercise, food portion control, chewing your food twice as long as you normally would (while eating at a slower pace), and having the support of family and friends can help overcome obesity once and for all, helping to avoid the many health conditions associated with obesity.

4. Break the Habit
  • Aside from smoking being the number one cause of preventable disease and premature death, smoking has also been linked with causing inflammation and raising C-reactive protein inflammatory markers, contributing to heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and atherosclerosis.
  • From a chiropractic perspective, patients who smoke have altered healing times, so a bone fracture can take considerably longer to heal for a smoker in comparison to non-smokers.
  • The body has a tremendous ability to heal itself and quitting smoking today can greatly improve the chances of avoiding the harmful and potentially life-threatening effects smokers face. Click here for an excellent depiction of the timeline for healing after breaking the habit.
5. Tea Time
Axis Chiropractic and Wellness: Tea Time
  • The beneficial effects of tea, especially green and white tea, has become well known in popular culture, but it’s worth highlighting the many benefits of tea, stemming primarily from the polyphenol compounds they contain—helping to hold inflammation at bay through the powerful antioxidants they contain.
  • Tea has been shown clinically to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, bowel disease, and liver disease (to name a few), while helping with weight loss and the effects of arthritis (and other inflammatory diseases).
  • When choosing a tea, make sure it’s organic. Also, realize that all non-herbal teas contains these beneficial polyphenol compounds, from green tea to black tea, but the darker the tea, the more fermentation and processing has taken place and the more caffeine is present, so choosing a white tea or green tea will give you more of these beneficial compounds.

6. Find Your Inner Peace
  • Stress is an absolute killer—that much is known to us, yet the degree to which stress kills is remarkable. Stress has been linked with heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, colds, kidney disease, asthma, ulcers, and cancer (to name a few) and has been shown to raise C-reactive protein, driving inflammation in the body.
  • Finding ways to curb stress in your life is of the utmost importance. Some stress reducing methods include: daily exercise, meditation and prayer to clear the mind, talking it out with loved ones or a therapist, yoga and tai chi (or qi gong), taking time to spend with family and friends, laughing daily, and, as Dr. Mercola always suggests, emotional freedom technique (an EFT example can be found here), which I personally use and recommend.
  • In chiropractic, we find many people carry stress in their neck, shoulders, and low back and much of the pain our patients experience can be attributed to stress. We have found that regular adjustments in our clinic have helped our patients deal with the side-effects of stress, aiding in stress management.
7. The Good Fat
Axis Chiropractic and Wellness: The Good Fat
  • As the name suggests, essential fatty acids are fats that are essential to our survival—our bodies are unable to make them, so we must obtain these fats from our diets. Unfortunately, the standard American diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3; this despite the fact that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 should be closer to 1:1.
  • There are innumerable conditions associated with inadequate omega-3 fat consumption, ranging from heart disease to mood disorders like ADHD and schizophrenia to rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The bottom line is that we need to make a conscious effort daily to ensure we are getting our omega-3 fats to help drive down inflammation in the body and protect our brain, heart, and neural tissue.
  • Good sources of omega-3 fats can be found in many seeds and nuts, like walnuts and flax seeds, as well as wild caught varieties of fish, especially wild caught salmon and krill or cod liver oil, and eggs that are of the free-range (or cage-free) variety. It is important to make the distinction between farm-raised salmon and wild caught salmon—they are not the same and contain vastly different levels of the nutrients our bodies need. Also, with increased pollution, it has become very important to make sure to buy fish that contains the lowest levels of heavy metals, like mercury.

8. Healthy Herbs (and Spices!)
  • Cox-II inhibitors are prevalent in many of our prescription pain medications and were present in Vioxx, the drug that was eventually pulled from the market for its link to heart attack and stroke. Cox-II inhibitors are also naturally present in many herbs, to a much lesser potency than prescription drugs and with fewer side effects, working to decrease inflammation present in the body.
  • Many herbs were used to model drugs we use today, and in the case of aspirin, it was originally modeled after white willow bark which contains salicin (similar to, but less potent than the synthetic acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin).
  • Herbs like turmeric (curcumin), white willow bark, ginger, devil’s claw, boswellia, and hops have all been proven to decrease inflammation naturally, providing benefits especially with people suffering from arthritis. While not an herb, Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapple, has also proven effective with inflammation, as well as treating injury to the body.
  • Consider cooking more meals at home using fresh, organic herbs and spices, as many contain beneficial compounds that boost our body’s innate ability to heal itself naturally.
9. Chemical-Free
Axis Chiropractic and Wellness: Say No to Chemicals
  • The Environmental Working Group and the President’s Cancer Panel have both issued reports this year detailing the hazards of certain chemicals, toxins, and pollutants which pose particular risks to our health.
  • Conditions affiliated with environmental pollutants and toxins are vast, but typically include: endocrine and nervous system defects, asthma, cancer, skin, eye, and lung irritation, ADHD, and a weakened immune system.
  • These reports were in agreement that people should buy organically whenever possible, that they should drink filtered water, be aware of environmental pollutants (such as radon), and that they should make efforts to avoid certain household chemicals.

10. Take Your Taste Buds on a Trip to the Mediterranean
  • The Mediterranean Diet has long proven effective in helping to curb heart disease, cancer, Alzeheimer’s disease, obesity and type-II diabetes, among the multitude of other health benefits it promotes.
  • The diet centers on eating plenty of fresh, preferably locally-grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, whole grains, and heart-healthy oils (like olive oil) on a daily basis, while incorporating herbs and spices into your meals in the place of salt. Red meat is consumed sparingly in favor of fish, chicken, and eggs—all of which are consumed in vastly fewer quantities than what we typically consume in the standard American diet.
  • When considering your diet, take into account the trends around us, noting that the way we do things now is not how we’ve always done things, and that obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and the like are on the rise. In 1950, Americans consumed (on average) 144 pounds of meat per person, per year. Jump ahead to 2007 and we see that the average American now eats close to 222 pounds of meat per year—an astounding 78 pounds more meat annually per person in the course of only 57 years! The change begins with you.
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