What It Is
Inflammation isn’t a new concept to this blog, but perhaps you’re still feeling a little unsure about the true dangers of inflammation, or you need a little more clarification about what it looks like, how to know if you have it and how to heal it. I’ll start off by telling you this: Inflammation is the root cause of almost ALL weight gain and chronic disease, and almost ALL of us have it for one reason or another. There are two main types of inflammation (good and bad, believe it or not). Let’s dive into distinguishing between them, and take an in-depth look at how we can heal the type we don’t want.
The “Good” Inflammation
The first type, acute inflammation is probably what comes to mind when you hear the word “inflammation.” You stub your toe, you get a cut or a burn, or maybe a black eye: your body’s natural inflammatory response is redness, warmth, swelling and even loss of function. This acute inflammation is necessary and is your body’s mechanism to help protect and heal itself—it’s a good thing.
The “Not-So-Good” Inflammation
The second type, chronic inflammation, is different, scary and a bad thing—especially because the symptoms aren’t obvious like they are with acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation manifests itself in different ways from one person to another. In one person, inflammation may show up as heart disease, in another person as acne and in another as obesity. Chronic inflammation contributes to everything from achy joints to asthma to irritable bowel disease to diabetes to heart disease to migraines to skin rashes, and the list goes on. Chronic inflammation is low grade and systemic, constantly engaged, silently damaging tissues and blocking you from reaching various health goals and increasing your risk of disease. You may not FEEL inflammation accumulating in your arteries, but that doesn’t mean you won’t eventually suffer a heart attack. Chronic inflammation is the kind that festers deep inside your tissue. Your body sees it as a fire and is always going to prioritize taking care of the inflammation before anything else, which means that if you’re struggling with lack of energy, difficulty losing weight, or even digestive issues, it’s going to be nearly impossible for your body to fix these without reducing inflammation first. Whether we want to lose weight, or simply be healthier and at a lower risk for disease, we need to take care of this debilitating chronic inflammation.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
In order to understand how to heal chronic inflammation, it’s important to get to the root cause and understand how this problem developed in the first place.
Inflammation can be caused by:
- Over exercise
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Trans Fats
- Processed Vegetable Oils (canola, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, etc)
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal, crackers and of course, cookies, muffins and bagels)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Food sensitivities
- Antibiotics in conventionally raised meat
- Lack of sleep
As you can see, most these are lifestyle habits that YOU can personally manage. How empowering is that?! That said, who would have thought that sandwiches on whole grain bread could cause inflammation? And didn’t they say exercise was good for us? Weren’t we told that vegetable oils were healthy for our heart? And aren’t artificial sweeteners supposed to be a better alternative to sugar? Let me explain: Eating foods that our body cannot process and embracing bad habits (like smoking, consuming excessive alcohol, not getting enough sleep, etc.) put a lot of stress on our body over time. Think of it as putting out little fires, except there is likely a fire going on all day every day if you are affected by any of the causes in the list above. Without knowing it, your body, in essence, is in a state of emergency.
Food sensitivities, which are different for every person, also add to inflammation. If you are eating foods you have a sensitivity to, an inflammatory reaction takes place in your body and you are NOT going to lose weight. Your body is going to focus on healing areas that are affected (damaged and inflamed) by the food you are eating. This is why it is important to figure out what foods you may be more sensitive to. Even exercise can produce an inflammatory response (one of the reasons I decided to stop marathon running). How much is too much? It’s different for everyone, but you can bet that if you’re doing too much of it and not giving your body a chance to rest, the physical stress you’re putting on yourself won’t be doing you any favors. Above all, remember to always listen to your body.
How can inflammation halt weight loss?
As we covered, inflammation sets the stage for a host of issues that affect your weight. If you have any inflammation going on in your body, the last thing your body will focus on is weight loss. Your body is designed to SURVIVE so it will want to take care of putting out all of the little fires your body is exposed to daily rather than shedding those pounds. Your body has its own list of priorities, and they may not be the same as yours. If you have lots of inflammation, trouble sleeping, have a hormone problem, or are too stressed out, your body is more interested in healing those issues than burning stored fat. If you learn to listen to your body, give it time, and nourish it with good, healing nutrition, it will thank you by shedding a few pounds once it is ready. The first step is healing the damage with real food and natural supplementation to get our bodies on the right track for weight loss.
*Be sure to check out the next blog post which covers more in-depth, nitty-gritty details about the mechanism of inflammation and action plans to successfully heal from it!