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Let’s Discuss: Inflammation

"What's the craziest thing you've ever seen?"...cue frantic mental discussion over whether they really want to hear that story or go with something a little more tame. The question I wish people asked, "What is the thing you see most you wish you could tell everyone about?"...the answer is easy. INFLAMMATION. Inflammation is the body’s security system. It’s a natural and essential response of the body's immune system to injury, infection, or irritation (aka stressors). It's like the body's alarm system, alerting us to potential threats and initiating the healing process. The primary hormone involved is CORTISOL. However, when inflammation (aka cortisol) becomes chronic and prolonged, it can lead to a host of health issues—most importantly, hormonal dysfunction. In this blog post, we'll delve into the world of inflammation, its role in health and disease, and how you can manage it for optimal well-being. Inflammation is the primary driver of SO much of what we see in the healthcare field, every single day. If we learned to help our patients lower their inflammatory loads, the demand on healthcare would drop by easily 50%.

Inflammation is a serious issue. So let's discuss.

Understanding Inflammation Inflammation is a complex biological process involving various cells and molecules. When the body detects an imbalance, injury or infection, it triggers an inflammatory response. Key components of inflammation include:

1, Hormone triggers: There is a hormonal cascade starting in the brain that sets off the inflammation domino effect. Cortisol is the primary hormone driver involved with inflammation.

2. Inflammatory Mediators: These are signaling molecules like cytokines and prostaglandins that initiate and regulate the inflammatory process. Remember the cytokine storms they talked about with severe Covid patients? This would be what they were referencing. 2. Immune Cells: White blood cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, rush to the site of injury or infection to combat pathogens and remove damaged tissue. Whether it’s on your skin or inside a cardiac blood vessel, if there’s something foreign—these are the troops that will show up. 3. Blood Vessels: Blood vessels dilate to allow more blood flow to the affected area, causing redness and warmth. They also become more permeable, allowing immune cells to reach the site of inflammation and create swelling.

Types of Inflammation

There are two main types of inflammation:

1. Acute Inflammation: This is the initial response to injury or infection. It's short-lived and essential for healing. Acute inflammation is self-limiting and resolves on it's own. Acute inflammation is what causes redness, swelling, pain and is basically the body's natural emergency response system. It's a good thing! 2. Chronic Inflammation: When inflammation persists for an extended period, it becomes chronic. Our bodies are not designed for this. This can be due to factors like long-term exposure to irritants (like gut infections, food sensitivities , heavy metals, excess weight, or hormonal imbalances), or lifestyle choices (think sleep, stress, nutrition, exercise…”all the things”). When we are working with clients in the functional medicine space, we are looking for these hidden, chronic sources of inflammation.


The Link Between Inflammation and Disease Chronic inflammation has been linked to numerous health conditions, including:

1. Heart Disease: Chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes—remember the white blood cells will collect and clump up on a foreign object even in the cardiac blood vessels. 2. Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, lupus, and Crohn's disease involve chronic inflammation, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. 3. Cancer: Prolonged inflammation may increase the risk of cancer development as the chronic stress can push cells to reproduce in unhealthy ways, often lacking the key nutrients they need to replicate new healthy cells. This creates “rogue” cells that do not function properly and proliferate well. It also can perpetuate cells "holding on" and not dying off as programmed. These old cells do not function properly and create dysfunction. 4. Neurodegenerative Diseases: Chronic inflammation is implicated in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Chronic levels of cortisol shrink brain tissue! 5. Obesity: Fat cells release inflammatory chemicals, contributing to obesity-related health issues. This also drives more cortisol and keeps the body in "panic" mode. 6. Diabetes: Inflammation can impair insulin function, insulin and blood sugar rise and fall in dysfunctional, panic-inducing patterns...driving more cortisol, more sugar being dumped out by the liver. It becomes a vicious cycle! Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes are both labels applied to this clinical picture.


SO, how do we managing this mess?

1. Diet: MANAGE your blood sugar. Ensure insulin spikes are minimal by eating balanced meals full of 20-30+ grams of protein, 10+ grams of fiber and minimal added sugar or carbohydrates. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. 2. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce chronic inflammation. Walking for even 10 min after meals helps regulate blood sugar and insulin spikes. 3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. 4. Adequate Sleep: Prioritize sleep to allow the body to repair and reduce inflammation. 5. Limit Processed Foods: Minimize processed foods high in added sugars and unhealthy fats. 6. Quit Smoking: Smoking is a significant source of inflammation. 7. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Losing excess weight can help reduce inflammation. 8. Supplements/Medications: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe anti-inflammatory supplements or medications or treatments. Adaptogens are fantastic at helping manage cortisol levels, it is important to work with a qualified provider to understand the right adaptogens for your cortisol picture. 9. Red light therapy: Infrared red light therapy has been demonstrated to lower inflammation by upwards of 30%. 10. Acupuncture: can be used as a way to calm inflammation throughout the body.


Conclusion Inflammation is a vital defense mechanism that helps the body heal from injury and fight infections. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to various health issues. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and other health-conscious choices, you can effectively manage inflammation and promote optimal hormone levels and improve well-being. Maintaining a balanced inflammatory (cortisol) response is key to a vibrant and disease-free life, allowing you to live the life you want well into the future decades. Who’s ready to tackle some inflammation? If you’re curious where hidden sources of inflammation may be lurking in your body or life, testing is available to see what could be the source of inflammation and help guide the most effective treatment plan. Schedule a 15 min call with a provider to discuss your concerns and what testing may be best. Life is always better when your cortisol levels are working properly and inflammation is well under control.


All the best,

Amanda


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