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Dealing with Inflammation

In the body, to ‘inflame’ is to swell or agitate. Everything from a sun burn, knocking your big toe against the bed, to arriving at work to a boss chewing your head off results in inflammation. Taking your body out of its equilibrium and homeostatic environment will inflict inflammation.  The body uses inflammation as a way to correct and heal imbalances.  When you get a cut on the outside of your skin, that part of your body becomes inflamed in an attempt to deal with that injury.  This acute inflammation is necessary for your body to heal itself.  If there were no resulting inflammation from a burn wound, there would never be a scar to heal.

The same process happens on the inside of your body due in large part to your dietary habits.  Everybody is different in regards to what causes chronic low grade inflammation and what doesn’t. One who is lactose intolerant will deal with inflammation of the gut from dairy products while a celiac will be fine with cheese but grain products will rip apart their intestines. Just because a food is ‘real and whole’ does not automatically assume the body should be able to deal with its consumption on an everyday basis.

Different macronutrients have different inflammatory properties as well. Carbohydrates assist the healing process inside your body in instances of workout recovery by refilling spent glycogen. Sweet potatoes, bananas or white rice after workouts are a way of reconciling the imbalance (lifting heavy results in inflammation, good carbohydrate sources and timing increase absorption of glycogen and keep inflammation low which keeps healing high).  Eating protein is another way.  Both of which inflame your system in an attempt to heal it.  This periodic inflammation allows a maximum amount of healing. Muscles would not grow post work out if they did not get inflamed. The anti-inflammatory stage (recovery) is when muscle grow and become more dense.

The level of intensity, length, and episodic routine regarding weight lifting will determine your inflammation. The body’s breaking down and healing process is happening over and over all the time.  For those not working out, regularly eating foods causing inflammation does not allow your body to fully heal itself. Working out involves the process of breaking down tissue, some fat, some muscle.   Short, intense, heavy lifting requires more ‘healing’ and recovery time than a ‘runner’ who jogs for an hour every day. Their diets to de-flame their systems will differ as well. Often, you see heavy lifters perform best with only enough glucose post exercise to distress their hormonal system. Runners who spend hours on the elliptical and performing bodyweight workouts will function better with more carbohydrates in their diet simply because letting the body know it will be distressed (from fruit etc.) will allow it to optimize inflammation and its turnover.

In our inactive, desk job, long route to destination lifestyle, it becomes easy to see why the large carbohydrate intake of the standard diet is resulting in chronic low-grade inflammation. This exact inflammation, which is prolonged and never dealt with, plays a key role in the development of several chronic diseases. These include but are not limited to: as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s, and many others (http://www.achooallergy.com/chronic-inflammation-disease.asp).

Ridding your body of inflammation is quite simple

The three focal points of inflammation are what leave the body under prolonged pressure: mental stress; lack of sleep; and excessive exercise. Tackling these three aspects is tackling inflammation. Eating in a way to eliminate inflammation will allow for a better mind set, sounder sleep and short sweet to the point workouts.

Chronic inflammation is not acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is best tackled with anti-inflammatory substances like oregano, turmeric, and a sound diet. When low grade chronic inflammation is present, learning to eat in a way to eliminate it is key. Attempting to lift heavy, run or endure any inflammatory activity on top of low grade inflammation is like getting a burn on a broken arm.  Said differently, starting a workout routine to deal with chronic inflammation should be part of the solution but the majority of that solution should come from your diet.

Understanding inflammatory responses will allow you to customize your own diet to benefit your lifestyle. If you just love you some cheesecake but are lactose intolerant, understand and realizing the cause and effect to eating a slice will allow you to set-up and deal with the situation as it arises. Having an idea of what inflames you will allow you to also realize what you need to get rid of it.  Assuming the lactose intolerant individual eats the cheesecake, he should expect water retention, bloating, gas and possible indigestion as well as skin breakouts or rashes. For each inflammatory intake, the body has to hold a certain amount of fluid as a way of processing.  The more fluid your holding, the more inflammation you have, and the more body fat you are likely to store because under stress the body likes to hold onto and store body fat (it is unhappy, so you’re going to also be mentally unhappy when you see what has accumulated in the mirror).  Once again, generally speaking, the more body fat you have will make the processing of these fluids more difficult.

Remember from the fat chapter, omega 6 fats serve as inflammatory agents while omega 3 fats serve as anti inflammatory agents. Both have their place, but need to be balanced for a homeostatic environment in your body. Excess inflammation from years of vegetable oil, excessive processed carbohydrate products and indoor living will often times benefit from extra omega 3.

Take two basic meals and compare inflammation. You will be able to see where people run into problems.

Meal one: Slow cooked rib roast and a salad including a dressing of vinegar and coconut oil (spiced with garlic and ginger) with spinach, shallots, carrots, and dried cranberries

Anti-inflammatory Properties: slow cooked meat allows easier digestion and assimilation, garlic, ginger and cranberries are full of antioxidants and a wide range of benefits relating to decreasing inflammation, coconut oil is an immediate energy source for the body and known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

Meal two: Char grilled chicken breast on stone ground wheat bun with tomato/pepper, side of potato salad (mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt/pepper)

Inflammatory Properties: most people will digest white bread better than a stone ground wheat but both choices result in inflammation, char-grilled food leaves a burnt aspect to the outside of the food and will often lead to digestive troubles and dangerous by-products. Peppers and tomatoes are not a one size fits all in regards to inflammation as some people handle them well and others get inflamed joints, arthritis and other inflammatory symptoms. Potato salad, serves as an excessive carbohydrate intake coupled with the grainy bun, and made with store bought mayonnaise guarantees the omega 6 ratio in this meal as a whole is screaming inflammation.

A note to the chronically inflamed

Better awareness of your body is a means to an end in fixing chronic inflammation issues. Being in tune with your responses to food, sleep or lack thereof, and working out will all enhance your optimal health status.  A long term approach involves all three of working in unison for hormesis within the body. Lack of sleep will elicit a stress response and this response results in a low grade inflammation, as well as reduced insulin sensitivity and concentration. One other area worth looking into if you feel you may suffer from inflammation is the use of antibiotics. Balancing your bacteria in your gut means not flushing away bacteria through antibiotic use.  Antibiotic use, stress, and poor diet can all the balance of gut flora (and this is a delicate balance), resulting in undesirable bacteria overload that can lead to inflammation. You can tackle this with a good probiotic such as acidophilus or bifidus, and also by including naturally cultured foods in the diet.  The obvious ones include sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, and kombucha (fermented tea) and also yogurt and some raw cheeses.

Why you should pack up your scale and mail it to your worst enemy

Scale weight is mostly irrelevant from a day to day basis.  Checking your weight occasionally is fine but many factors contribute to that number and it rarely represents the true nature of your body composition.  When the number is too high it rarely represents just fat, too low and it rarely represents lean mass.  Hence from this chapter, inflammation will play a big role in what the scale read on a day to day basis, even an hour to hour. Taking a weekly weight and noting progression or lack thereof will help you find an idea of what is working for you and what isn’t.

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3979

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331646

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22310233

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