First, let’s state that inflammation, by itself, is absolutely required for health. Inflammation is what helps your immune system fend off invaders, irritants, damaged cells, and heal itself. I won’t go through all the different ‘cascades (pathways)’ that your body utilizes to keep you healthy and alive – but, it is VERY safe to say that your body is an absolute marvel.
But, as usual – if there is too much of a good thing, the system will go haywire and wreak havoc on your body. And, this is unfortunately what is happening with so many of us – and, rather than just dealing with short term (acute) inflammation – we are causing our own chronic inflammation, and may not even know it.
So, when I discuss self-inflicted inflammation – what do I mean by that? Your body displays numerous early symptoms that you may be suffering from chronic inflammation – symptoms like:
- Trouble with digestion
- Feeling emotionally and physically tired
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Hard time fighting off colds
- Increased allergies
Now, how many of us suffer ‘a bit’ from these symptoms and have just learned to live with it?
In 2004, Time Magazine ran an article called “The Secret Killer”. And, they stated that every day we make choices about our health that either are pro-inflammatory – or, anti-inflammatory. These choices include:
- How we manage stress
- Work/life balance
- Our diet
- Our sleep
- Pollutants and toxins we ingest or breathe in
Each day we make the choice as to how our body will react. And, unfortunately, if we opt for inflammatory choices – our body does what it does best and works to fight these problems off (day after day after day). Sure, it may be at a low level and really isn’t all that bad (now) – but, you can be sure it is still there. Smoldering away until something major occurs and then it can really go out of control – damaging healthy tissue in the process.
How Do I Know If I Am Really At Risk?
Here are the tests that you should request from your physician – or, order them yourself and discuss with your doctor.
- Homocysteine – While there is still some question as to the relationship of homocysteine and heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, there is some evidence that suggests there is a relationship between elevated homocysteine and inflammation. Homocysteine levels are high in people who eat a lot of meat and very few vegetables. Usually, it can be decreased by increasing the B12 and Folate in your diet.
- LDL-B – the information that you receive from your doctor as to your cholesterol levels are a bit antiquated. There are more specific tests to check to see what type of LDL you have. If you have Type ‘A’ (fluffy, noncompact)– you are doing well. If, however, your LDL is Type ‘B’ (oxidized, small) – then you need to work on the issue. LDL-B is the type of LDL that is known to initiate the inflammation that leads to arterial plaques.
- High Sensitivity C Reactive Protein (hs–CRP) – this is a marker of low level inflammation in the body and higher levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- HbA1c – this is a measure of the glucose level in your blood. This is better than a fasting blood glucose as it gives an indication of how well your glucose level was controlled over the past 3 months. High levels can indicate diabetes or prediabetes.
These tests are rarely done unless you ask for them (and, oftentimes – may not be covered by insurance). But, isn’t it worth knowing if you are at risk and minimize that risk before things get worse?
If your tests indicate that you do suffer from chronic low-level inflammation – now is the time to get started.
So, how do you do this.
- Begin to change your diet from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to one that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Initially, you want to stay away from grains (of all types), dairy, legumes and alcohol. You can slowly reintroduce them at a later date – but, work with a nutritionist to do this.
- This will not only decrease the amount of sugar you ingest (leading to lower HbA1c) – but, it will also help heal any issues you may have with ‘leaky gut’ (a major cause of inflammation in your body).
- Work on your sleep habits. Poor sleep doesn’t allow your body to recharge or rejuvenate yourself. And, these cycles are important for your overall health. Poor sleep is linked to higher cortisol levels (your stress hormone) and poorer organ function.
- Manage your stress – take a walk, meditate, do breath work, get away from the stressful trigger for a short period of time. This also helps decrease your stress hormone and improves your health.
Your health is important for you and your family – so, take care of yourself.