Barbara sat in her doctor’s office while she rattled off a litany of complaints. She had arthritis in her hands and knees, and they ached all the time, her dentist just told her she had gingivitis, and now, she had just been diagnosed with gastritis. She was only forty-five. She wanted to know what was going on. “My body seems to be falling apart,” she said.
Of course, her doctor prescribed pain pills for her and told her to take Aleve, but he failed to inform her what the underlying factor contributing to all her health problems was: it was inflammation. Words that end in itis mean inflammation, like laryngitis, the inflammation of the larynx, or conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the membrane that covers the eye (known as conjunctiva). She had arthritis, the inflammation of the joints; gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums; and gastritis, the inflammation of the stomach. Her body was telling her that something was very wrong.
Chronic inflammation is a newly identified cause of many health problems from diabetes to heart disease, which is the number one killer in Western countries. In fact, if you can put out the fire of inflammation that is going on in the body, many, if not most, health problems would dissipate. If this is the case, then why are we living with so many diseases in our lives?
When Barbara called to make an appointment, I asked her to bring in a food journal of everything she had consumed for the past week and write down the type and duration of exercise and how many hours she slept, and the quality of her sleep. When she came for her first visit, I could tell by the extra weight she carried and where she carried it (around her waist), that she not only did not exercise, but also ate a diet of refined foods, sodas, and a little too much alcohol. I could also tell that she was suffering from adrenal exhaustion because of the dark circles under her eyes.
After reading her food and exercise journal, I was not surprised to find out that my suspicion was right. She did not exercise and consumed a diet of sugar and refined foods. I explained to her that both her diet and sedentary lifestyle, along with a lack of sufficient sleep and increased stress were causing all her health issues. She was not a happy camper.
I presented several suggestions that could help quell her inflammation and improve her overall health. These included changing her diet, finding stress-management techniques other than alcohol, and getting a half-hour of exercise on a daily basis. Also, I encouraged her to get enough sleep and take anti-inflammatory supplements. Had she continued with her current lifestyle, she would not only be shortening her life-span, but she would also be creating the perfect storm for chronic disease.
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Scientists have searched for and recently found out why some people live to be over one hundred, while being physically active, happy, and healthy. A team of experts in Tokyo researched which processes in the body may be responsible for not only successful aging but also for longevity. They have identified the common denominator, and that is inflammation.
Inflammation increases with age, but those people who were successful in keeping inflammation under control invariably maintained good cognition, independence, and had extended years.
This study showed for the first time that the level of inflammation predicts successful aging. It is hoped that this understanding of extreme longevity can translate to the general population, helping them achieve an extended healthy life-span. Dr. Yasumichi Arai, Head of Tokyo Oldest Old Survey on Total Health said, “Our results suggest that mitigating chronic inflammation might help people to age more slowly.”
Severe inflammation is an aspect of many aging-related diseases and the lifelong accumulation of molecular damage resulting from chronic inflammation has been suggested as a major contributor to the process of aging.
What Is Inflammation?
The concept of inflammation is probably one of the most exciting revelations to come to light in recent years because it points to the common denominator behind practically every disease.
What most health care practitioners neglect to inform you is that you can reduce inflammation in your body, thereby eliminating one of the major causes of disease and premature aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control, seven out of every ten deaths are attributed to cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. What do these all have in common? They are all linked to inflammation!
But what exactly is inflammation? We all have heard the term inflammation before, but we don’t know exactly what it is and how big an effect it can have on our lives. At some point, we have all encountered inflammation. If you’ve sprained an ankle or bumped your head, you may have noticed swelling at the point where the injury happened. This is inflammation. It is the body’s way of telling us that there is something wrong and that it is protecting itself from further damage by essentially padding the affected area. Acute inflammation also helps in the healing process by removing dead cells and helping in the regeneration of new cells.
However, there is a huge difference between acute and chronic inflammation. When inflammation becomes chronic, it is no longer a healthy immune response for healing the body; instead it becomes the root cause of a disease. Practically every chronic disease has inflammation as the underlying cause. Many common everyday health issues experienced by people are the result of chronic inflammation. A well-known form of inflammation is arthritis. You may think of this as an old people’s ailment, but even younger people are showing symptoms of this inflammation much earlier in life than normal.
The Causes of Inflammation
When it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss. Most of our health problems are in one way or another attributed to inflammation. For example, we know that arthritis, bursitis, diverticulitis, and other -itis problems connect directly to inflammation. But other diseases, such as heart disease and cancers, can directly result from inflammation. Knowing this, we need to find the causes of inflammation so that we can stop chronic health problems before they begin.
Here are some factors that can contribute to chronic inflammation:
- Being obese or overweight: having a waist size of over 35 inches if you’re a woman, and over 40 inches if you’re a man
- Eating a poor diet, high in sugar (even fructose) and refined carbohydrates and unhealthy oils
- A genetic predisposition or history of heart disease
- Prediabetes or diabetes
- A sedentary lifestyle, sitting too much
- Smoking tobacco, drinking too much alcohol (more than 4 oz. per day)
- Having a chronic infection or autoimmune disease
- Chronic stress
Inflammation has direct links to our diet and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the common factors that lead to inflammation that we can take control of right now.
When it comes down to it, the standard Western diet is largely responsible for inflammation. One hundred years ago, you wouldn’t hear half the health complaints that we hear of today. What is one of the key differences between how they lived then and how we live now? People ate healthier and they got regular physical activity.
The story of Dr. Terry Wahls has some fascinating ties to how a diet can help, if not cure, illness. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was essentially crippled. While she followed the advice and treatments that were common to MS, she was still feeling its crippling effects.
By taking on a paleo, whole-foods diet, she was able to reverse the effects of the disease and actually cure it. She basically eliminated all of the foods that are linked to inflammation! The processed and refined foods that are common in the Western diet were purged from her diet, and she was able to reverse the effects of a crippling disease!
This goes to show that diet can play a huge role in how our bodies react to disease. If we can support our health by eliminating foods that can cause disease, we can make a huge change to our overall health.
If I have to point to the worst dietary culprit, I would have to cite sugar. People are consuming 128 pounds of sugar a year. When sugar enters the body it releases inflammatory toxins that result in different types of inflammation. The sugar causes something known as glycation, which turns proteins into toxins. These hybrid proteins are called AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products).
By eliminating or limiting our sugar intake, we can prevent these AGEs from forming in our bodies. Learning to substitute refined sugar with natural alternatives can make a huge difference in the ways in which we enjoy our foods.
Understanding the processes in our bodies that can result in inflammation will make us think twice the next time we want to dive into a sugary dessert!
Another key factor in chronic inflammation is our modern lifestyle. Instead of walking, we drive places.
Inactivity, combined with a diet high in processed foods can lead to weight gain and inflammation. In fact, obesity is a problem we are now seeing even in children. At the beginning of this chapter, one of my main recommendations for Barbara was to get thirty minutes of activity in a day. This doesn’t mean going to the gym and sweating it out on a treadmill. You can simply take a walk and enjoy nature!
Along with diet and lifestyle, many people have adopted the mind-set that certain diseases are just a part of aging. This is simply not true. However, by thinking this, they live their lives expecting to have arthritis and other health problems. I am seeing more people now than ever before with several autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and cancer.
Getting older does not mean you have to succumb to illness and disease. It is not necessarily a natural part of aging. Also, not all old people are confined to walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. Most importantly, they don’t take handfuls of prescription medication on a daily basis.
Recently, I watched a video on the internet about the world’s oldest gymnast. She was ninety years old, and she had the flexibility of a teenager! She didn’t let the standards of old age determine how she aged. When asked what her secret was, she stated that she ate right and exercised frequently. She didn’t take supplements or other things to boost her health. She simply led a healthy lifestyle.
Stress has a huge effect on our bodies in various ways. Additionally, when we are stressed out or don’t get enough sleep, the body secretes more cortisol, which is the driver of inflammation. Knowing this, it becomes paramount that we learn how to handle stress.
©2017 by Elisa Lottor.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press. www.InnerTraditions.com
The Miracle of Regenerative Medicine: How to Naturally Reverse the Aging Process
by Elisa Lottor, Ph.D., HMD.
Harnessing the advances of the new paradigm of medicine--which focuses on the regenerative abilities of the body rather than symptom management--Elisa Lottor, Ph.D., HMD, explains how each of us can turn on the body’s self-healing abilities, prevent illness before it starts, and reverse the aging process to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
About the Author
Elisa Lottor, Ph.D., HMD, is an expert in nutrition, homeopathy, and energy medicine with a special interest in regenerative medicine and women’s health. An international lecturer and consultant, she has had a homeopathy and nutrition practice for more than 30 years. She is also the author of Female and Forgetful. Visit her on Facebook
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