by Emily Dickerson, ND
Do you have an autoimmune condition or a chronic inflammatory condition and are not sure what to do daily to live your best life possible? Or are you simply interested in preventing harmful excess inflammation in your life? Dr. Dickerson loves teaching about how to manage and prevent chronic illness by living our best lives possible.
Background: What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s response to acute injury or infection. Inflammation is one of the body’s principal defense reactions, and involves increased blood flow, swelling, and movement of white blood cells to the site of injury/infection. Inflammation brings the immune system cells to the location at which they are needed.
Once at the site, white blood cells get to work to clean up the area and clear it of infected or damaged cells. Pain is caused by chemical agents released during inflammation that act directly on the nerve cells in the affected area.
I’ve Heard That Inflammation is Bad… What is That All About?
What I have described above is the process of a healthy acute inflammatory response. Inflammation is necessary and beneficial in an acute setting. In a chronic setting, inflammation can be damaging. In a chronic setting, inflammation has a constant stimulus and can cause symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and joint degradation. Inflammation can be triggered inappropriately by things such as autoimmune conditions, allergies, food sensitivities, or toxic exposures, for example. In autoimmune conditions, the body’s immune system reacts to its own cells in an inflammatory manner, attacking them as if they were foreign invaders. Chronic exposure to allergens, food sensitivities, or toxins trigger the inflammatory cascade and can cause chronic inflammation throughout the body, which can impact a myriad of bodily processes.
What Conditions Does an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle Help?
An Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle would be healthy for everyone, but for some chronic conditions it is essential. Following are a list of examples of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that would greatly benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Lupus (SLE)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Grave’s disease
- Autoimmune hepatitis
Chronic Inflammatory Conditions:
- Chronic gastrointestinal conditions: Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food allergies, food sensitivities
- Chronic pain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
**Please note that although minimizing inflammation can prevent progression, minimize pain, and improve your overall health, it will not reverse permanent damage.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle:
“Anti-inflammatory” means creating a healthy immune system response and preventing unnecessary inflammation. Diet and lifestyle have everything to do with controlling inflammation. Below are some of the pillars of a healthy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
- Exercise: Not only does exercise reduce stress and cortisol (pro-inflammatory stress hormone), it also increases circulation, reduces your risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease, and increases glutathione, the body’s extremely potent antioxidant (anti-inflammatory).
- Sleep: 8 or more hours of sleep is anti-inflammatory, while less is pro-inflammatory.
- Stress: Create a stress management routine. Examples of good stress management strategies: exercise, meditation, epsom salt baths, reading, designating alone time, talking with friends, counseling, massage, bodywork, acupuncture. Find a routine that works for you.
- Diet: Eating sufficient fresh produce, balanced with healthy fats, and healthy proteins. Avoid food allergies and sensitivities that can contribute to chronic inflammation. Identifying food allergies and sensitivities can be helpful in tailoring an anti-inflammatory diet to meet your needs.
- Toxins: It really does matter what you put in your body, on your body, and breathe into your body. See the Environmental Working Group website to identify possible toxic exposures.
- Fermented foods: Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha contain beneficial bacteria that promote immune system health and are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. (This is true only for those that do not have a histamine intolerance. For further information, read my article.
- Fresh herbs: Herbs carry powerful health and anti-inflammatory benefits. Load up on these while they are in season!
Going Beyond the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle:
Some conditions and symptoms are not controllable via the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle alone and may require further workup. Tests to pinpoint hidden causes of inflammation are available. Evaluation for environmental exposures, dietary counseling, food sensitivity testing, or an individualized detox program may be necessary.
To schedule a free consult with Dr. Dickerson to discuss your best path toward a lifetime of freedom from inflammation, call Boise Natural Health at (208)338-0405.