Stress and Inflammation- as Time Magazine puts it, are the “Silent Killers” – but do you really know just how true that statement is?
If you live a life of simple dietary imbalance for long enough, then by time you are in your 30’s you are on the road to diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease- clogged arteries, Chronic Fatigue, Cancer, Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and the hundreds of other diseases that make up the Auto Immune category. Auto immune diseases are diseases that are instigated by your own immune system- your immune system is usually protective of you, but sometimes it turns against you causing disease states.
If you would like to see the vast array of Auto Immune diseases that are instigated by inflammation within your body, there is a list on the Mayo clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-treatments/alphalist-a.html
If Auto Immune disease sounds out of your reality or perhaps doesn’t even register on your “care factor” Richter scale- it really should.
It’s not a life of ill repute gluttony or indulgence that gets you these diseases- Its living in the western world – the 21st Century, it’s simply eating food from a supermarket! Yes, these simple every day foods found in boxes and packets that most of us don’t think twice about eating are highly processed foods – they are not whole foods, they are highly processed to resemble the foods they once use to be, containing lists of preservatives and chemicals which enables them to sit on the shelve of a supermarket for months and years at a time. It’s these foods that induce what is known as inflammation.
Inflammation doesn’t conjure up the concern it should with the majority of the public. What about the fact that you get fat! Oddly enough, it’s this floppy superficial symptom that motivates people to make a change- more so than the truth of imminent death caused by chronic inflammation. Aren’t we a funny physical worshiping bunch! If only more of us paid attention the more significant levels of ourselves rather than just the physical.
So what exactly is inflammation?
Inflammation is a process in which your body’s white blood cells and chemicals within your body such as histamine, protect you from viruses and bacteria. We need levels of inflammation within the body to heal wounds and tissues etc – this is the inflammation you are familiar with, the redness, warmth, pain, swelling and loss of function you get at a joint, tendon, muscle or site of a wound. Those symptoms are the positive and necessary inflammatory responses for the body to heal.
However, there is another type of inflammation- the type of inflammation that leads to auto immune diseases and heart disease- Intra cellular inflammation.
Intra cellular inflammation is atherosclerosis – the build up of plaque deposits on your arteries. Common causes of intra cellular inflammation are prolonged emotional stress, physical stress, digestive imbalance, poor diet, elevated Insulin levels, food allergies, hormonal imbalance, synthetics and chemicals. Inflammation causes the arteries carrying your blood to harden, the arteries become in-flexible to the pumping pressure of your blood and you soon find yourself with embolisms which may dislodge- the result is a stroke. Embolisms can be fat globules and or blood clots.
Out of all those triggering inflammatory factors, one of the standout inflammatory markers is nutritional deficiency and dietary imbalance- an example of this dietary imbalance is the ratio of the Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats in your diet. Be careful not to take the wrong message here- fats are not bad for our health “good” fats are great for us- omega 3 fats are an example of a good fat that is great for us. Eating enough Omega 3 fats with a well proportioned amount of Omega 6 fats is essential for reducing inflammation.
Our ancestors evolved on a diet with a ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 of about 1:1, a massive change in dietary habits over the last few centuries have changed this ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3 to something closer to 15:1, this imbalance is having dire consequences on our life expectancy.
Omega 3 fats that are unsurpassed for our long term brain, heart and cardio vascular health.
Stress is also a heavy contender in the instigation of Inflammation, and it is a part of your practitioner’s job to find out what the stress factors are in your life and where any toxicity may lie.
Stress Response, how stress can kill you.
Stress levels are a major contributor to high Cholesterol and Triglycerides. Stress induces a cascade of hormone responses throughout the body to help you survive your stressful period. Once you begin to feel stressed, your adrenal glands will release adrenaline and Cortisol. Cortisol is one of the key hormones which acts to keep your blood pressure up and sugar in your blood, Cortisol also keeps cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood- this is not ideal in the long term. Cortisol is a very important protective hormone which works against us when called upon to often- if we are constantly stressed. Adrenaline and Cortisol in your blood stream will signal the liver to release its Glycogen stores and convert glycogen into glucose, which will supply you with a steady flow of energy- ie, sugar, to get you through your danger or stressor. If this stressful situation is long term- chronic, it begins to push fat into your abdomen, it’s this storage of fat in the abdominal cells that effects your insulin levels and makes your cells less sensitive to insulin in your blood- inducing insulin resistance and a cascade of potentially life threatening stress responses.
Stress activates high blood pressure, high blood sugars, high insulin, high cholesterol and belly fat – major risk factors of heart disease.
Managing the symptoms of inflammation
When we are in pain, the first thing most of us do is head to the Doctor (my face grimaces at the thought of that), but it is true, if you don’t head to the doctor- you head down to your doctor’s pusher- the local chemist, and grab a packet of commonly prescribed pharmaceutical anti inflammatory drugs called Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatories. Whilst these NSAIDs are very effective at stopping the body’s natural inflammatory response- NSAIDS do not address the cause and are always associated with risks and side effects- always. When was the last time you had a look at the list of side effects on a pharmaceutical drug you purchased from the chemist- check them out, they can be quite comical because of the disbelief of their severity.
What you need to remember is that there are many naturally derived anti inflammatories that you can choose from that will prevent you from developing chronic disease- but who’d know! If you are listening to most doctors and pharmacists you will be jumping on the NSAIDS band wagon, without even knowing you have the choice of some other wagon to ride on- the natural band wagon! Don’t underestimate this little green wagon- and don’t judge it because its green!
To enable a return to good health, and resolve any further progress of inflammation, there must be changes made and there are many options available to you. It MUST start with your diet – in fact it’s absolutely 100% about your diet- it really is that simple. Something I often find myself saying to my clients is that “You ate your way into this disease, you are going to have to eat your way out of it!”
You need to include fresh fruits and vegetables- across the day, all day every day, good fats from fish and nuts, eliminate processed foods, high sugar foods, and any foods that are high in artificial ingredients- as I mentioned in the beginning of the article- the foods you buy in a supermarket in packets, boxes, tins and plastic need to go! Buy fresh protein sources such as fish, lentils, grass fed beef, nuts and seeds, use seasonal fruits and vegetables to create your own meals. I am not suggesting you eat like a rabbit- no way, i love my food and savour the indulgence of it, i am advising you to get creative and cook- spend time in your kitchen, its fun to cook when you are relaxed and have the time- its creative, therapeutic, social and great for you. If its mid week and your flat-chat, there are endless possibilities for meals you can quickly whip up- bolognaise on vegetables – its embarrassingly basic, but the old spag bol just tastes so good- it’s your signature sauce that tastes so good- not the pasta your sauce on- no pasta!
Based on your individual case, a practitioner will tailor an anti-inflammatory diet and carefully chosen protocol of supplementation to suit your individual needs, and usually, that is all you need to turn your health around. I have personal experience of being hospitalized due to long term stress – at a fit and healthy beach loving, Triathlon training 32 years of age, i was under immense emotional stress due to a life situation that most of us go through. This stress lasted many months, eventually hospitalizing me with the diagnoses of a T.I.A- Trans Ischemic Attack, which is essentially a prelude to stroke. I was so shocked- how could this happen – little did i know, the emotional stress that was literally killing me was sitting at the end of my hospital bed with me – needless to say, the relationship ended and my health and wellbeing has never been better.
Stress that can kill you can come from simply not being able to cope with a person in your life- and how many of us are in stressful relationships, whether that be at work, at home – life in the 21st century is stressful, you must protect yourself as best you can- Optimal nutrition is your best defence. If you don’t address your diet, then sadly you’ll be falling off your perch far to early. If you are over 30, i am talking to you. I’ve said it before and ill say it over- you want as many years as you can get out of life- 100 years for sure- given our intellect, knowledge of human nutrition and the good food available to us if we chose to eat it. We can live a long and healthy life with our physical and mental facilities still in tune until hopefully one day we fall asleep next to our loved one and simply don’t wake up- ok, so there is the idealistic romantic in me.