Chronic Inflammation – it’s robbing you of your vitality. What is it and what to do about it?

(originally published 9/19)

Inflammation is a hot topic in the health community as of late. For good reason. But why should the average person who doesn’t geek out on the science of the body care about all the hype? I’m going to break down what inflammation is, how it affects us and illustrate why you should care about it. For those of you who attended my live trainings on this topic, it will be a review. For the rest – yay – new information!

So, what the hey is inflammation really? In simple terms inflammation is a part of your body’s immune response. It is a healthy, normal and necessary body function. There are two types of inflammation: Acute & Chronic.

Acute inflammation is the “good” inflammation. It occurs quickly and on demand when your body needs it to. For example, let’s say you trip over a crack in the sidewalk, fall and accumulate some nasty scrapes. While your friends are trying to be sympathetic but laughing at the same time because it was hilarious to see, your body immediately goes into action. It calls in the troops and sends emergency services to the affected site to begin to heal your wounds. The redness, puffiness, fluids etc. that are sent to triage and start the healing process is inflammation. This is exactly the response we want from our bodies. And after the healing process is underway and off to a good pace, the troops, who are no longer needed, go back to the barracks to await another attack. Any scars that remain can be a great story your friends will bring up when at parties. But that’s the only thing that remains.

Chronic inflammation is the “bad” inflammation. It builds slowly over time, stealthy and silent in its assault. It occurs when we are repeatedly exposed to something our body sees as foreign and most of the time, we have no idea that it’s building a comfy home in our bodies – until we start to feel symptoms from it. Symptoms that are often seemingly unrelated that we may take years (or never) to associate with inflammation. Meanwhile, the inflammation has built a cozy home and taken up residence within your body, creating havoc and unrest while undetected by you. Crazy right? Chronic inflammation can range from a mere annoyance, or mild symptoms, all the way up the spectrum to being debilitating in nature. It also is the root cause for most disease and ALL diseases of the brain.

Chronic inflammation is extremely hard to diagnose as it presents initially as various symptoms that may or may not be related and that most people attribute to various other things: brain fog, fatigue, migraines, headaches, joint pain, sleep issues, slow and steady weight gain, the inability to lose weight, general feelings of being tired or unsettled, stomach pains, digestive issues – the list goes on. Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought – “Wow, I feel old today” or said, “Well, I guess I’m just getting old”? That’s inflammation taking root in your body and FYI – it is absolutely not normal to feel that way as we age. We feel that way because of the massive amounts of inflammation that have built up over years and decades of not treating our bodies properly, of repeatedly ingesting chemicals and toxins in our foods, of using products with toxins on our skin, of eating meat with hormones and antibiotics, of eating fake foods that don’t agree with our bodies – pretty much not taking care of ourselves over a lifetime. By the way – I am a current meat lover, a former smoker (eek I know right), a lover of highly processed and salty potato chips, and do not judge the way people choose to live their lives. I’m just trying to give you some facts.

If that doesn’t convince you that you should start caring about and reversing the effects of inflammation in your body then think about this: Chronic inflammation has been linked to, and is the root cause of, most diseases and ALL autoimmune diseases. It has its hands in cancer, arthritis, alzheimers disease, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, diabetes II, chronic fatigue syndrome, chron’s, ibs….. Are you getting the picture? I want none of those things in my life – do you?? If you want to live a long and vital life as you age, if you want to be free from disease and pain, if you have an inclination to be able to run after your grand-kids or travel with your significant other – well you should start now to stop & reverse the effects of the inflammation that has impacted you already.

Sign me up for the inflammation removal procedure please! Just kidding – there is no such thing. However, there are various changes you can make to help you start to figure out what exactly is inflammatory for you and how to fix it. It will take some detective work on your part along with some hard-work – but it’s most certainly doable!

Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances – Oh My!

There is a difference between food allergies, sensitivities & intolerances. An intolerance is NOT an immune reaction. Sensitivities & to a greater extent, allergies, are immune system reactions caused by slower acting antibodies. Allergies are full on autoimmune reactions with much more extreme consequences. Intolerances can’t be tested for and are quite common (gluten, lactose etc.). The best way to identify intolerances is to test yourself! Eliminate/reintroduce foods over time to see how those foods make you feel.

When life “derails” you from your health goals – and how to get back on track

Have any of you ever been trucking along on your path to reaching your health goals, I mean – you’re just doing the right things, eating the way you feel best, exercising how you want and then BAM. Life bites you in the ass and completely derails you? Before you know it, it’s been 2 weeks since you’ve worked out at all, you’ve eaten more pizza or french fries than you have all summer and you’ve drank more beer or more wine than you have in a VERY long time.

You finally come out of your fog of tiredness or your haze of craziness with schedules, or your vacation vibes, and you look at yourself and think WTF happened to me??!!! I was doing so good. Insert sad emoji here.

And then you think, shit. How am I ever going to get back on track again? I have zero motivation and the carbs and sugars are literally singing me a siren song that I can’t resist.

Well, my friend. I hear you and I’ve been there. In fact, before COVID hit, I was crushing my health and fitness goals, feeling amazing and really embodying my best self as it relates to how I want to treat my body. And then… all my carefully built structure, triggers, habits etc. came to a halt. Life changed completely. And only now, am I figuring out that it’s time to get back on track and get back to normal. Not such an easy task after your body has decided it wants the pizza and sugar that you normally don’t feed it, your muscles feel as if they’ve atrophied and your behind is more wiggly than normal. You feel like poop but can’t seem to stop the madness! (remember susan powder??)

Reality check time. Stop and remember, it’s all a mind game. Getting yourself back on track, although not easy, is NOT impossible. And actually, I feel it’s something you should master over your lifetime. You will NEVER perfectly execute on the lifestyle, eating habits or fitness you want. You’re human, you’re not perfect – and life happens – ALL. THE. TIME. Your failures will lead to your sucesses.

Learning how to balance those “crazy off the rails periods” (and lengthening the time between them) with the “on track and living your best life” periods is life. Normally, I operate in the middle to upper end of where I want to be and I’ve found many tools and habits to help me be happy with that while continuously focusing on my next improvement. I think most of us operate there – and if we don’t – we’d like to. Chasing the impossible goal of living a “perfect” life sets you up for failure.

So, when you get off track here’s 4 things you can do to get back on track (lessons learned from 40 some years of trial and error with about the last 10 of those years working to improve my health and knowledge over mastering my mind and my body):

  1. Forgive yourself. Stop beating yourself up – it’s really not helpful and honestly, if it was a friend complaining to you about it and talking about how awful and stupid they are – you would just be annoyed and want them to get over themselves. Grace and kindness people – shower yourself with it.
  2. Set a hard-line in the sand. Set a date, a time and a stopping point for getting yourself back in line. Reset your goals. Decide when the binge ends, plan for it, shop for it, prep for it. Decide what workout you will do and when or what class you will go to. And then do it. Taking action towards those small healthy habits will encourage you.
  3. Enlist help and support. Call you friends/family or tell your signficant other. Have them help you be accountable to yourself. We all need some help in the accountability area at times. It’s ok and necessary to ask for help.
  4. Lastly, remember your “why”. Take some time to reflect on how you are feeling, if you are happy on the path you’ve found yourself. Remember why you started your health goals or journey in the first place. This is essential. Take the time to really envision the feeling and the life you are looking for. Evaluate the path you’re on and imagine how you will feel if you don’t get back on track. Holding on to your “why” is the most essential component for kicking your own butt and policing yourself.

Life happens. Learning how to deal with the ups and downs, accepting that you are imperfect and always pivoting and resetting so you can move on and up, are important emotional, mental and physical necesseties which will help you meet your goals in the long-run.

And no matter how long its been, it’s NEVER to late to restart, regroup and refocus. You have the strength and the power within. Dig deep, find it, and use it!

Remember to always Be Who YOU Are – because you’re pretty amazing.