Have you reversed a chronic condition by making a lifestyle change?
by Shelly Malone (mindbodygreen.com) – At 32 years old, I was a competitive athlete, a registered dietitian by trade, and the picture of health. But when I suddenly started waking up with painfully sore joints, burning skin, debilitating fatigue, and knuckles so swollen I couldn’t get my wedding ring on, I got scared. Especially since I was using those aching hands to hold my new baby girl.
Blood tests confirmed a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic, inflammatory condition)—but conventional health care offered little guidance. The recommended treatment option? Long-term steroids and immunosuppressant drugs, whose side effects included glaucoma, osteoporosis, mood swings, “moon face,” nutritional deficiencies, and increased risk of infection. It sounded like a pretty lousy way to cope—particularly when what I really wanted to do was heal.
So I decided to forge my own path and found a way to feel better through diet and lifestyle modification. I share my journey—and an evidenced-based approach to fighting inflammation—in my new book, Inflamed.
What is inflammation?
Simply put, inflammation is the immune system’s response to a stimulus that is viewed as foreign or toxic to your body (aka an antigen).
Your immune system constantly monitors for anything that appears as a foreign intruder (like an infectious bacteria or other material) that shouldn’t be in the body and is always at the ready to signal its highly specialized troops of cells and molecules to attack and dispose of the foreign material.
It is an essential part of healing in acute conditions (e.g., a fever fighting an infection). However, when your immune system is disrupted, it puts itself unnecessarily on constant defense, sending inflammation continually rippling throughout your body. In this state, it’s working against you, instead of for you, by switching focus from the antigen it’s supposed to attack and instead launching a targeted strike on your own cells, tissues, or other harmless material.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or conditions, you might be suffering from chronic inflammation:
- joint pain or other aches and pains
- digestive upset
- skin problems (acne, eczema, psoriasis)
- food sensitivities
- resistant weight loss
- autoimmune conditions
A holistic approach to taming inflammation:
Our bodies and systems are complex, and fixing an issue within them can be as well. Moving toward an anti-inflammatory lifestyle includes altering the foods we eat and the products we put in, on, and around our bodies, as well as lowering stress. Each of these critical changes addresses contributors to chronic inflammation and the conditions that can arise from it. Here’s how:
Build a healthy gut
Our digestive system has the highest concentration of immune cells in our entire body and is charged with preventing toxins and pathogens from entering the bloodstream. To do this job properly, your digestive lining should be woven tightly, like a piece of cheesecloth. If it becomes too permeable, or a “leaky gut” (from a poor diet, environmental insults, overuse of antibiotics, and so on), it can allow undigested nutrient particles to get into your bloodstream. Various toxins and bacteria can also pass through. These escapees can trigger your immune system, leading to inflammation.
Maintain proper hormone levels
Hormones like insulin (triggered by refined carbohydrate intake) and cortisol (triggered by stress) are inflammatory to your system. Endocrine disrupters (found in many personal care products and pesticides) can suppress thyroid hormones, which not only regulate metabolism but are involved with gut health and inflammation and play a critical role in nearly every…
Read the complete article here.