Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Before I changed my health, and ultimately my life, I suffered daily.
I had sinus congestion, headaches, fatigue, constipation, pain in my joints after working out, and a hard time focusing. Not to mention my chronic debilitating migraines that caused me to take a blood thinning medication for 5 years, my intense irritable bowel syndrome, and a slew of hormonal issues.
My mental health wasn’t much better. Because my body often felt tired, achy, and sick I wasn’t particularly enjoying my life day to day. In fact, it felt like I was just making it through my days, ready to go to bed at night. Of course, every few months I came down with a cold or stomach bug, as well as getting the flu every single year.
I thought that issues such as pain in my body, headaches, sinus congestion, and sickness were all just normal everyday afflictions that every human experiences. I never questioned why I didn’t feel good, I just knew that I didn’t. When it came down to it, I blamed it on genetics, because it was the only answer I had heard others use for their ill health.
Can you relate to this?
These seemingly normal everyday symptoms that I was experiencing were not normal at all.
In fact, these symptoms were messengers. Messengers trying to show me that something was out of balance in my body and until I fixed it I would be living a low-quality life with pain and misery.
Flash forward to today. If I get a headache I know that I’ve eaten something that didn’t agree with me, or when I suffer with sinus congestion I know it’s because I ate dairy the night before. I am able to decipher these messages, because I’ve learned to bring awareness to my body and it’s signals.
In fact, this is the groundwork in what I teach my clients surrounding mindfulness.
It all starts with listening to the body, so that we can care for it appropriately.
So, what was the underlying problem all those years?
First and foremost it was the simple fact that I was feeding myself food that was destroying me. Ultimately this transpired into a constant state of inflammation which was beginning to wreak havoc on my body.
In this article, I want to talk about the link of inflammation to these seemingly normal symptoms that cause most of us to suffer. Most of us are suffering in silence, because we do not understand we have another option. Understanding how inflammation affects us in these smaller, but yet impactful ways, gives us the knowledge to continue on our journey of working to improve our health and well-being.
If anyone experiences frequent pain in the head, you know this can be quite the.. well.. headache.
As it relates to inflammation, in the past decade we are starting to unravel the possibilities of neurogenic inflammation in the body.
Researchers studied people with disease linked to inflammation. A large body of evidence has showed that certain neurons in the brain become activated due to disease (caused by inflammation) that cause a 'retrograde' release of pro-inflammatory neuropeptides. These neuropeptides act as mediators that interact with cells such as mast cells, immune cells, and the vascular smooth muscle which then initiates a cascade of inflammatory responses. This response results in vasodilatation, local edema, and hypersensitivity.
Vasodilatation is the dilatation of blood vessels.
Local edema is a process of swelling.
Hypersensitivity reactions refers to undesirable reactions produced by the normal immune system which include things like allergies and autoimmunity.
This research points to the conclusion that inflammation in the brain sets off an unpleasant response that includes reactions that cause headaches or migraines.
This research is relatively new for the world of neurology, but not surprising information as we are noticing the emerging patterns of inflammation contributing to pain and sickness in all aspects of the body.
A common ailment many people suffer with is sinus congestion.
I used to suffer from sinus congestion most days of my life. It wasn't until I was able to clear up my congestion for good that I understood the wonderful feeling of deep breathing through my nostrils.
Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues.
Infections — such as colds, flu or sinusitis — and allergies are frequent causes of nasal congestion and runny nose.
Quite simply, nasal congestion is caused by inflammation, or inflamed nasal tissues.
What is one of the most common triggers of mucus and sinus congestion that most people are unaware of?
It can hard for people to come to terms with the fact that dairy might not be the best option for their bodies.
But, the truth is, dairy is one of the trigger foods we will talk about in the upcoming videos outlining trigger foods. In that video you will receive more education surrounding the topic of dairy.
But the way in which dairy consumption relates to sinus congestion is actually quite fascinating.
If you remember, you're body is amazing and tries to communicate with you as well as help to protect you 24/7. When you consume dairy, the body perceives it as an irritant which is a trigger and in turn sparks the inflammatory response. To protect you from this trigger, the body creates mucus as a lining, which in turn creates sinus congestion.
The body literally puts up a defense mechanism to protect you from further irritation.
This should absolutely light you up with appreciation and gratitude for your beautifully designed and hard-working body!
Another one of the most common issues we face in our daily suffering is becoming sick. Common colds, strep throat, and flu. For most of us, we become sick more often than we would like to.
Inflammation plays a role in getting sick often, because through the pipeline of stress, it is connected to our immune system.
Stress. Something most of us are dealing with daily.
Stress used to be a less common occurrence, but in our modern world, for most of us it has become a way of living.
The problem is that stress is a HUGE factor in the role of inflammation.
Whenever we are stressed, our body goes into fight or flight mode. During this mode a hormone named cortisol is released in the body. Essentially when we are in this stress mode our body shuts down our immune system, so that it can divert energy where it is immediately needed; such as your muscles (for fighting off the major stressor coming at you) or your legs (to run faster away from the stress of the situation). Once you return to a state of calm, the body can turn off the stress hormone cortisol, and the body will go back to homeostasis.
Prolonged stress leads to hyper physiological levels of cortisol. This alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate both the inflammatory and immune response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to cortisol.
In short, the more stressed you are, the weaker your immune system.
Our bodies have a much harder time fighting off germs that lead to sickness if we have high levels of inflammation and a weak immune system.
When it comes to our immune system, many factors are at play and as it is with all aspects of inflammation, your diet and lifestyle factors are your biggest defense.
One of the best aspects of eating a whole foods diet, is that it gives our bodies the correct nutrients to strengthen our immune system, which results in avoiding sickness more often.
When we do get sick, we are able to recover much faster with a strong immune system.
In fact, as a child and young adult I would get the flu every single year. It seemed inevitable. The worst part is that it would often come during the holidays.. no turkey and stuffing for me!
Since switching to a whole foods diet, and viewing food as preventative medicine, I haven't had the flu in years. It still feels like a miracle to me.
One of the last major issues, and possibly the most disconcerting, that I want to inform you of is the link between inflammation and cognitive decline.
Dr. David Perlmutter MD has been a pioneer in the research of inflammation and brain health. He has been a practicing neurosurgeon for many years, and is a best-selling author. In one of his most popular books, Grain Brain, he discusses the frequency of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's in our modern world.
Dr. Perlmutter states that "inflammation, is a cornerstone mechanism, related to progressive destruction that occurs in the brain as we age, as well as Alzheimer’s disease."
Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs memories and devastates the lives of 5.7 million Americans and their families.
Almost all of the genes involved in the development of cognitive decline, are related to immune function. This contributes to many points that prove Alzheimer's and Parkinsons' may be the results of neuroinflammation- in which the brain's immune system has gotten out of whack.
One way that Dr. Perlmutter explains this inflammation in the brain, is related to blood sugar levels.
Stabilizing blood sugar levels is something everyone can strive to do, and it could save your brain health.
Dr. Perlmutter says, "Even mild elevations of blood sugar over time increase the ability of blood sugar to bind to proteins, in a process called glycation. When a protein becomes glycated, again as a consequence of persistent blood sugar elevation, it dramatically increases the production in the body of inflammatory chemicals, and as such is directly relates to brain decline."
Focusing on a diet that reduces blood sugar is important for avoiding neuroinflammation.
Although the facts of our current health status as it relates to inflammation are dim, the best news is that by living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle you can avoid pain, chronic disease, and general ill health. In fact, by focusing on avoiding certain foods and incorporating the best ones, while managing stress and a few other important factors, you can live your days full of energy, vitality, and joy. I believe it's possible, because many people have chosen this journey and seen miraculous results, including myself.
So, what to avoid? What to incorporate? What next?
During the rest of this series, you will get to watch two videos.
The first video will be The Top 10 Things To Avoid That Promote Inflammation.
The second video will be The Top 10 Things To Incorporate To Combat Inflammation.
The reality is, there is no secret sauce or gimmick other than living a life consuming fresh, whole foods and maintaining a healthy mind and body.
I highly encourage you to follow along with these videos to learn some incredible and empowering information surrounding your choices when it comes to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
I look forward to continuing this series on inflammation with you.
Health + Happiness,
Holistic Health Coach