How Chronic Inflammation works – and how you can better deal with it.
I usually post about following an anti-inflammatory diet, especially for those who have an autoimmune disease, like me. Lupus made me change all my habits, and its impact on my diet was the biggest one.
Today, I avoid eating gluten, dairy, red meat, sugar, and drinking alcohol, beyond other foods, like alfalfa. Making these changes in my diet permitted me to decrease my level of inflammation caused by the disease.
When most of us think of inflammation, we see images of a hot, puffy, red, irritated, and painful body part, like when a cut gets infected. However, inflammation is more than an acute response to injury, and it’s not localized to one part of our body. Inflammation is an intricate and complex response by the whole body to what it perceives as a threat.
There are five main triggers of inflammation in your body: food, environmental allergies, environmental toxins, infectious diseases, and stress. Eleven foods cause 90% of our food sensitivities, so it’s often necessary to modify both your diet and environment to help alleviate unwanted symptoms.
When dealing with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation in general, the body is overflowing with inflammation, preventing its immune system from working optimally.
Since we can’t cut down all the trees and dig up all the grasses, we look at the aspect of the person´s environment that we have the most control over: food. We minimize her processed and packaged foods; add in more vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins; replace high-sugar drinks with water; and potentially, gradually remove dairy from her diet.
As we decrease systemic inflammation, the inflammation in the body will go from overflowing down to half full. Then, when spring and fall allergy seasons come along, or the individual is exposed to a virus, his inflammation goes up, and maybe the body fills up again, but it only gets to three-fourths full. Suddenly, he may get through allergy season with little to no allergy medication, and he may not need his Albuterol rescue inhaler as much as he did the previous season, for example. And possibly, the laxative he’s been taking for two years is no longer needed.
The higher the amount of baseline inflammation, the longer it may take to get the inflammation under control. Sometimes this means adding more medications or supplements at first to treat the person´s illness and strengthen his or her immune system.
Food allergy tests look for allergens that can trigger a powerful, profound, and fast inflammatory response and can lead to hives, lip swelling, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, and trouble breathing. True food allergies are severe and can be life-threatening. The reaction typically occurs within 15-30 minutes of exposure, or it can be delayed up to 12 hours.
Unfortunately, a negative outcome on an allergy test doesn’t mean the person´s diet isn’t creating inflammation. That’s where an understanding of food sensitivities comes into play.
Food sensitivity tests are fortunately in widespread use by integrative and functional medical practitioners, and you will get a faster answer with food sensitivity testing versus an elimination diet. But when a person’s system is inflamed, many foods may test positive on one of those tests. Some people might be overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to remove several foods all at once from the diet. And since we know that eleven foods cause 90% of our food sensitivities (with dairy being at the top of the list), you can start with the primary culprit and then do testing if and when needed.
The important thing is to be pragmatic and remember that each trigger of inflammation carries equal weight. If we address one area with 100 percent effort but ignore the others, you may not see the true health transformation you’re seeking.
Understanding these inflammation triggers can also help you partner more easily with your doctor to find the root of chronic and recurrent inflammatory illnesses more efficiently.