Over the past several years, researchers are starting to discover more and more about how our bodies handle stress, and what happens when we cannot properly regulate those responses. They have linked many of the biggest diseases of our day to faulty regulation of our inflammatory processes, and have officially declared chronic inflammation to be a serious health threat. Major illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies, and autoimmune diseases all appear to have their root in inflammation, and the more tools that we have to combat this runaway phenomenon, the better. You see, our bodies actually need a certain amount of inflammation- this is a natural and effective way that our bodies fight off infections and help stimulate healing. But the problem happens when we don’t know how to turn off the inflammatory process, and we end up in a state where the switch for this mechanism is permanently in the “on” position! We want inflammation when we cut our finger or get exposed to the flu (these are “acute” conditions), but not day-in, day-out. But thanks to a variety of factors, like diet, environmental exposure, and mental/emotional stress, our bodies just keep on acting like they’re constantly under attack. And that can take a serious toll over time.
Since chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, you may not even notice it at all, which is one of the most dangerous parts of this process. You could go years or decades without ever knowing that your body is slowly fighting itself and making you sick. However, there are many ways that you can tap into your body and evaluate your risk for chronic inflammation. And there are also many healing modalities that can communicate to your body that it’s okay to turn off those mechanisms for a while, which have an additive effect over time. Inflammation is a key factor in most disease processes, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. You just need to know how to spot it and control it!
Our bodies are finely tuned to the environments around us, and so, most of the things that cause chronic inflammation are within our control. If any of these things sound like you, you are probably experiencing some level of ongoing inflammation, which could be adversely affecting your health:
Things that are pro-inflammatory:
- High-stress, highly-demanding career or job
- Lack of sleep (either not enough, or poor quality)
- Diet rich in sugar, refined grains, GMOs, alcohol, and caffeine
- Overtraining/pushing your body too hard
- Negative life outlook
- Inadequate stress-relief strategies
- Lack of meaningful connection or social interaction
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals
Most of us, living in the modern age, have at least a few of these on this list, which is why it’s so important to start making your health a priority! When you can mindfully make choices that lower inflammation, instead of encourage it, you can start shifting your life into a state of balance, wellness, and vitality. Every choice you make is either pro- or anti-inflammatory, so you have a tremendous amount of control over how you want to feel every day. Pretty cool, huh? Chronic inflammation, and the associated diseases, is not a given- we are not all destined to suffer!
Our bodies are inherently intelligent, and really are doing their best to keep us healthy and safe. Like we mentioned, inflammation is not a negative process in and of itself. We need to light those small campfires now and then, to heal injuries and drive out illness, but it’s when they grow out of control, and ignite raging forest fires, that the real health issues begin to surface. Looking at the risk factors above, you may still not be sure if chronic inflammation is affecting you. Here are a few of the signs and symptoms you should watch out for, that can tip you off to the fact that there might be a smoldering fire going on!
Signs of chronic inflammation:
- Ongoing pain or discomfort in the body (especially joints and muscles)
- Constant fatigue, lethargy, or apathy
- Aggravated allergies or asthma
- Unexplained depression or anxiety
- Skin issues like redness, itchiness, rashes, or blemishes
- Digestive upset or irregularity
While Western medicine is beginning to understand how chronic inflammation works, there are still very few treatment options available. I encourage you to talk with your doctor about any symptoms you are having, get the appropriate tests done, and put together a holistic treatment plan to reduce your inflammation and support your body’s natural healing processes. However, it’s great if you can look above and beyond the usual interventions, and incorporate a wide range of alternative modalities, and find opportunities for not just physical healing, but also spiritual growth and emotional balance.
There are many amazing ways to reduce inflammation in your body, many of which you can start on right now! A diet that is filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats is a great place to begin, and also emphasizing good sleep hygiene, regular moderate exercise, Reiki or other energy work, and meditation/stress relief practices is wonderful. One of my favorite ways to reduce inflammation is through the practice of grounding, which I am excited to share with you over the next few blog posts.
So stay tuned on how grounding can help your body heal from chronic inflammation, and set you on the path to wellness!