Inflammation in the body is not limited to those that are not taking care of themselves. Overtraining, protein imbalances, stressing the body, alcohol, recreational drugs and dehydration are also big factors when it comes to how inflammed your body is. Take for example a person who is training extremely hard for a marathon. This person is adding HUGE amounts of stress to their body, increasing cortisol production; which is our stress hormone, and can lead to a bunch of other side effects including inflammation. This inflammation often leads to injury, sore and stiff joints and can make the person more susceptible to things like colds and flu. Am I telling you to STOP your training at this very second and revert to a sedentary lifestyle? Of course not! This would just lead to inflammation in the body for the exact opposite reasons. If we look at the other side of it we can see why inflammation arises as well. If we are to find ourselves in a lifestyle that has little to no movement, high amounts of sugar and processed foods we are also stressing our bodies out and requiring them to work really hard to eliminate the junk. The sugars and chemical preservatives in our "foods" (I say foods lightly because these chemical shit storms should not be considered a food, but I digress.) have been shown in many studies to be extremely inflammatory within the body.
I have been practicing in the alternative health care field for over 20 years (don't do the math, haha) and in the last couple months I have noticed a HUGE increase in the amount of clients with chronic systemic inflammation. These clients present with joint inflammation, soreness in the soles of the feet, stiff muscles, chronic back pain that won't relent, stomach upset (or constipation) and a denseness in the tissues that is really hard to explain in writing. I had started to notice that there wasn't a common "theme" with these clients. Some are extremely active, some like to binge netflix on the regular, and most are just your everyday average hardworking Canadian.
This realization caused me to want to learn more. I really started to dig deeper to find answers, afterall I want to be able to help my clients as much as possible. WELLLLL, Let me tell you, this led me down a TON of long dark rabbit holes, most of which I think I will leave for another time. However, the one thing I kept coming across was the effect chronic stress and fear have on the body, and how it can lead to systemic inflammation. The last 18 months we have been bombarded with fear narratives and stress. Those that watch the news or are on facebook can admit that on the daily there are posts that cause a fear or stress reaction within the body. Many are also now addicted to the "high"they feel when fighting these online battles, but again that's a rabbit hole I will save for another day.
These responses are catching up to us. Our bodies can not stay in a heightened stress response for months on end like this, it starts to wear down. Being in a chronic stress response can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems, including:
Anxiety and depression
Headaches and Migraines
Heart disease, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
Memory and concentration problems
Problems with digestion - too much and too little
Weight gain, weight loss, muscle loss
Any of the above sound familiar? I bet most of us can tick off at least 3 of these. I know I can.
So, what can we do? How can we start to decrease this state of chronic inflammation and increase our bodies abilities to handle and process these external stresses?
Try These Steps (and grab these resources) to TAKE YOUR BODY BACK, decrease the systemic inflammation and start to feel great again.
Turn off the stressors; log off the social media, turn off the news and take a break for a bit. Like we talked about last week being connected and "in the know" all the time isn't always a great thing.
Hydrate; sounds simple enough, right? It should be, but many are really dehydrated from overuse of caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs. Combine that with the common "I don't like water" narrative and you have dehydration! These substances pull hydration from our tissues, tax our livers and endocrine systems and often leave our bodies inflamed and depleted of nutrients. If you are serious about flushing the chronic inflammation from your system I highly suggest a looooooong break from these with a HUGE increase in your water intake.
NOURISH! We really tend to underestimate the POWER of clean, whole foods. What we eat directly affects the way our bodies work. Our bodies can respond to different foods with inflammation, especially foods that are chemically processed or contain sugar. After chronic use of sugar and chemicals our bodies ability to absorb the good stuff starts to decrease as well. Often we will see inflamed intestinal tract and even type 2 diabetes. Creating a more balanced meal plan and lifestyle can help you heal your gut and decrease the inflammation. Making sure your body is getting the proper ratio of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids is also important. Supplementing with a bioavailable complex like the ones found in The Healthy Habits Kit will help you make sure you aren't just peeing your money down the drain.
MOVE; moving your body in a way that makes you feel good is very important. If you are already stressed out and in a prolonged state of stress response adding high intensity workouts may not be in your best interest. Think about it this way. Your body isn't able to tell the difference between you needing to run super fast to escape a tiger, or to win a marathon, it just knows there is a stressor that you are literally trying to outrun. So when you are in chronic stress, finding movement that relaxes your body is a better option. Maybe try a walk, gentle workout, or yoga. Allow yourself to decrease the inflammation / stress response in your body, then work back up to the high intensity workouts. If you are noticing that you are feeling drained and lethargic after your current workouts, adrenal fatigue and chronic stress factors are important things to examine. Also, for women certain stages of your cycle require different types of physical movement. Working out too hard in the wrong phase of your cycle can cause a lot of extra stress on your body as well. We will talk about this in another blog so stay tuned.
RELAX; This is so much more than just passing out binge watching RuPaul on netflix. Although that is an important part of my life every once in a while,,,,, for these purposes I mean intentional relaxation. Meditation, Yoga Nidra, Massage, Energy Healing. Something that you can do where the only intention is to intentionally relax your mind and body (notice I didn't say quiet, because as we have discussed before, minds are often NOT quiet during meditation). Make this a daily habit and routine. Allow yourself the time each day to turn off the chaos and find stillness. Journal about it. Not sure where to start, try taking a course that will help guide you towards a calmer mind, like REClaim Your Calm