In my last post, “Inflammation: What It Is and Why You Should Care About It,” I discussed the two main types of inflammation that exist within our body—acute and chronic. Now that we have differentiated between the two and learned what the different causes are, let’s dive into how to determine what you may be dealing with, and most importantly, how to heal it!
“But how can I be sure that I actually have inflammation?”
If you suspect you might be dealing with inflammation, there are tests that can help determine the type and level of inflammation you may have. However, I’d ask you a few questions before you spend the money, time and effort getting these specialized tests ordered. Are you struggling with sugar or carb cravings? Are you having a difficult time shedding those last 10, 20 or 100 pounds? Do you ever struggle with digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating or gas? What about low energy levels? Have you ever followed a low-fat diet? How often do you eat foods cooked in vegetable oil? Do you sometimes push yourself too hard at the gym hoping to burn some extra calories? Did you find out at some point in your life that you have a food sensitivity or allergy? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you probably have some chronic inflammation going on that needs to heal in order for your health to improve/symptoms to go away. Nearly everyone today is living in a state of chronic inflammation unless you’ve taken the measures to do something about it. Most of us have eaten low-fat, even if we didn’t want to, just based on what was available to us at the time. Intentionally or not, almost all of us have consumed processed foods, vegetables oils and trans fats more than our bodies would like.
There are two tests that can show if you have inflammation:
1. C-Reactive Protein: CRP is a general blood marker of inflammation. It measures a protein that signals a response to inflammation. It doesn’t tell us the specific cause, but it does tell us that an inflammatory response exists. Make sure you don’t have any acute inflammation going on (from a recent injury, sickness or stubbed toe) when you get this test done because CRP will be elevated in response to any inflammation, acute or chronic. You want your CRP level well below 1 and preferably at 0, indicating that no inflammation exists.
2. Fasting blood insulin: A high insulin level when fasting may indicate chronic inflammation in the body. Remember, insulin will be high as a response to elevated blood glucose because insulin acts as a vehicle for removing glucose from the blood into storage. When insulin is high, cortisol (your stress-hormone) is being released to inhibit insulin production. As mentioned in the previous blog, elevated stress is one of the many causes of inflammation. This test would be a second option, as the CRP test is our go-to for testing inflammation.
These two markers can be helpful, but we certainly don’t consider them to be the be-all end-all. Other clues that you may have chronic inflammation are chronic fatigue, being overweight and difficulty losing weight, chronic aches and pains, indigestion, dry skin, acne, psoriasis, and allergies. We recommend following our anti-inflammatory PFC approach to nutrition and embracing a supplement regimen to take care of any chronic inflammation that may exist.
How to HEAL Inflammation
Now that we understand what can be contributing to inflammation, let’s talk about the healing process. Healing chronic inflammation doesn’t look the same for everyone, but if you follow the steps listed below you can be sure you are heading in the right direction. You need to REMOVE what is causing inflammation in the first place and then HEAL the damage. Yes, this will take time, so be patient as you won’t regret the improved life you can live!
Our approach to healing inflammation is a three-pronged approach:
- Remove inflammation triggers by reducing your intake of inflammatory foods and participating in lifestyle habits that are causing the inflammation (i.e. avoid the bullets listed in the previous blog.
- Heal existing inflammation with anti-inflammatory foods and supplements.
- Be patient. Just like the chronic inflammation didn’t happen over night, it doesn’t heal over night. Give your body time to do it’s job and support it along the way.
Fight Inflammation with Healthy Fat
Healthy fats (yes these include saturated fats!) help heal inflammation. Translation: eat more butter, coconut oil, olives and avocado (unless you have sensitivities to any of those) which are nourishing, healing, healthy fats. Fat, including saturated fat, supports many of the body’s critical functions, including protecting against toxic overload, strengthening cell membranes (which make the skin more resilient against inflammation), stabilizing blood sugars, and providing a vehicle for your body to absorb fat soluble vitamins (leading to improved immune function). It’s important to be picky about the fats you’re using. The good ones will promote healing and the bad ones will promote more inflammation! It is also beneficial to make the switch to pastured, grass fed meats, as antibiotics in conventional meat can cause inflammation.
Inflammation Fighting Supplements
Along with avoiding bad habits and potentially damaging foods listed in the previous blog, many of our clients who have been dealing with chronic inflammation for years find that a healing supplement regimen is necessary. Three key supplements that combat chronic inflammation are: probiotics, L-glutamine, and fish oil. A probiotic supplement helps repopulate the healthy bacteria in the gut, which are essential for the healing process and get depleted over time from eating processed foods, sugars and trans fats (the foods that cause inflammation). L-Glutamine works on the integrity of the thin lining of the digestive tract, which can become inflamed over time. Fish oil specifically targets that inflammation and reduces it. This is why many of our clients find relief in back pain and joint pain when they start using our fish oil.
The amount of each supplement is individualized and depends on your lifestyle, your history, your goals and how much healing needs to happen. In general, we recommend starting with an intense regimen, taking all three of these, three times each day (ideally 15-20 minutes before each meal). Our recommendations may increase or decrease based on your specific circumstances, but this is a good starting point for most people.
Changing habits, eating nourishing, real foods in balance, listening to your body, and giving it time to heal is imperative. Because chronic inflammation is the root cause of SO MANY health issues, it’s worth it to make the effort to calm and eliminate the damage that is taking place in your body that you can’t see. Once your body begins to heal, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. The damage didn’t occur over night, so to expect your body to be able to heal overnight can just cause frustration. You must be patient, and allow your body to do what it was meant to do, which is to use the healthy nutrients you consume to help it function at its greatest potential.
As always, we suggest working with one of our dietitian coaches for individualized recommendations if you feel you aren’t sure where to start, or how to go about cutting out certain foods or changing some unhealthy habits. We are here for you!