Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by inflammation (*raises hand*). I never thought that my fiery Sagittarius nature would include having a fiery immune system. But as soon as I turned 19, I noticed my body wasn’t able to digest food like it used to. Even worse, I was starting to experience severe acid reflux on a daily basis.
Alright, so I’ve never had an amazing health track record to begin with. (I’ve been diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases and have a family history of acid reflux.) But I also willingly sabotaged my gut when I opted for anything drenched in hot sauce paired with beer for dinner 4 weeks in a row.
If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve gone through the stages of grief when it comes to your relationship with inflammation. You take a bite of loaded garlic fries. Satisfaction takes form as a smile spreads across your face. A few moments pass, and then it hits you. You take a sip of water, but the burning in your chest persists. Anger brews internally.How could your body forsake you?You pop OTC medication, bargaining for your gut health to be restored. Hands clenched, a wave of depression overcomes you as you wait patiently for the medication to work. You decide to quit garlic fries, and accept that you’ve become a hollow shell of your former self.
Does any of that sound familiar? We’ve consulted an expert on what inflammationreallyis, and how you can possibly prevent it from happening.
What is inflammation?
Although inflammation has an inherently notorious ring to it, it’s actually “a protective reaction by the body’s immune system in response to something harmful or irritating. When the body detects an insult (infection or injury), white blood cells, as well as histamine, draw blood to the area to help heal the insult,” says Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, a functional medicine physician. Phew, when you put it like that, it’s not so bad—right? Notexactly.
And then there were two
Here are the gritty details about the two main types of inflammation. For all the hypochondriacs reading this, no need to Google your symptoms just yet. Acute inflammation—not very cute, but very essential to our healing process—is the immediate painful reaction that occurs when you twist an ankle or have a sore throat. It can typically last for a few days to a weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.
On the other hand, there’s chronic inflammation. Youmightwant to pay closer attention to that one, because symptoms of this type of inflammation present themselves in different ways. “Manifestations of chronic inflammation can be anything from malaise to fatigue to changes in bowel function,” Lyon says. Other symptoms include chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, rashes, mouth sores, and joint pain.
Cut the risky business
There isn’t much assistance we can offer in regards to acute inflammation. The occasional paper cut and bruise are inevitable. However, there are ways to reduce your chances of developing chronic inflammation. There is a god, and it goes by the name of lifestyle choices.
Yes, my sweet readers, there is salvation at the end of the tunnel. How can you reach it? Dr. Lyon recommends first identifying and removing any food allergies or sensitivities. Then make sure “your diet contains plenty of fresh (organic when possible) vegetables, moderate amounts of in-season fruits, wild-caught fatty fish and free-range lean proteins,” she says. Obvi this also means adopting a healthy lifestyle that cuts junk food and excessive alcohol, incorporates exercise, and includes six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
If your symptoms persist after making those changes, it’s likely time to head to the doctor. “Focus on gut health by addressing any persistent or chronic infection such as yeast/mold, parasites, or viruses,” Lyon says.
But pump the brakes—you don’t have to do everything at once. Take it step-by-step and address one aspect at a time before you dive in head first.