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  • Chronic headaches.
  • Chronic fatigue or lack of energy
  • Chronic nasal congestion.
  • Depression/Anxiety.
  • Chronic abdominal discomfort (including ulcers, constipation or diarrhea)
  • Chronic bloating and/or gas
  • Chronic pains in the body (joints, muscles)
  • Persistent allergies or asthma
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Skin problems (acne, rashes, redness, bumps)
  • Repeated or reoccurring bacterial or viral infections.
  • An inability to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight no matter how hard you try. (Especially in your abdomen)

 

Do any of the symptoms above sound familiar to you or someone you know? Chances are the driving force behind these symptoms is inflammation, specifically, chronic inflammation.  Over the past 5 years I have become convinced the source of 90% of what ails us is caused at least in part if not entirely by the inflammatory diets we eat and lifestyles we lead. This is of course my opinion. It’s an opinion rooted in my own experience and my observations of those around me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am merely a mom who, until last August, has spent the last 10 years as a single mother, raising two children while holding down a demanding career. I was doing my best to “take care of myself” using the mainstream health and diet advice available to me at the time.  It was precisely this lifestyle and the prevailing “healthy” dietary advice of a low fat, slow carb, “calories in/calories out” mindset that got me into so much trouble. Let me explain.

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning you may now this. I apologize for being redundant. By the time I gave up on traditional medicine and traditional diets my health had deteriorated so much that:

  • I woke up everyday with a headache that required Ibuprofen to manage.
  • I suffered from sinus infections and reoccurring coughs caused by a chronic postnasal drip I couldn’t control without more medicine. I thought they were allergies.
  • I couldn’t sleep well without medicinal assistance.
  • I had very little energy and was tired all the time.
  • By 3 in the afternoon my ability to focus or concentrate was pretty much gone.
  • In order to maintain my weight I exercised like a maniac and continued to eat less and less.
  • Due to all of this I was becoming more and more anxious and depressed. Which of course lead to yet another medicine.

At this point I was 38 years old and on 6 different medications to manage my daily discomfort to the level I needed just to function. Did you catch that? Let me repeat that: 6 DIFFERENT MEDICATIONS! Are you kidding me?  I was 38 years old, not 88!! No matter how many medications I was on or doctors I saw I finally realized I wasn’t getting better. I wasn’t healing. I merely existed.

It was through finding a healthcare advocate who thought outside the box that I finally came back to life. It was through healing myself from the inside out that I realized how inflamed my body was as a byproduct of the lifestyle I was leading and the foods I was eating. And in many cases those foods were the exact foods that the ADA and the FDA recommend we eat the most of. I know…..tragic.  There is no other word for it.

Now, to clarify, inflammation can be a good thing. If you’re injured or contract an infection acute inflammation comes to the rescue. Lets say you fall and break or injure an ankle. Increased blood flow warms the area causing redness and swelling indicating your cells and immune system are working to heal the injury. The pain that usually accompanies an injury is what tells you to lay off the ankle so you don’t cause further damage.  If you contract an infection your immunological response may include a fever or increased mucus indicating your intracellular immune system is trying to kill off and carry the offending pathogen away.  But what happens when that inflammation becomes chronic and appears to be fighting off an injury or infection that doesn’t seem to be there?  This is when our immune system goes into overdrive causing damage to otherwise healthy cells potentially wreaking havoc on every bodily function that would otherwise function normally. The longer this chronic inflammation goes unchecked the more severe it becomes and the more damage it causes. In many cases (including my own) you may not recognize the inflammation until the condition has gone on for a long time or has reached a level so bad you are diagnosed with some awful sounding disease or condition.

This is where so many of us run into trouble. Years of poor dietary choices, poor lifestyle choices, environmental and lifestyle stressors lead to chronic inflammation causing a myriad of diseases including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, various auto-immune conditions, even cancer.  It also causes all the symptoms I listed in the beginning of this post as well as many others. Basically if something is physically bothering you, some sort of inflammation is often the cause. The question is what is causing it? For some reason far too many of us never ask that question. We just treat the symptom with medication and hope it goes away. And often it does! The medication can treat the symptom long enough for your body to heal itself. There is one thing that must be true in order for that to happen though. The source of the inflammation must eventually go away for the symptoms making you feel bad to go away as well. Makes sense right? The virus needs to take it course, the wound must heal, etc.

Here’s where the plot thickens. What if that source causing the inflammation never goes away? What if it is always there? Continually causing damage to your cells until your immune system is overworked and your adrenal glands can’t pump out enough hormones to overcome the stressors? That, my friends, is what many of us suffering from these chronic nagging issues are doing to ourselves.  Yikes!

So what to do about it? Seems obvious enough…..remove the source of the inflammation. But it’s not that easy for many of us because we don’t know what the source is. Well, here are a few of the most common sources causing stress and inflammation to our bodies. Are any of these sources relevant to your diet or lifestyle?

  • Lack of sleep (less than 7-8 hours on a regular basis)
  • Constant external stressors like work stress, juggling too many things at once, money concerns, relationship issues, rushing all the time.
  • Not enough time to relax (leisure time). We ALL need it. All work and no play really is a very bad thing. We need this time to decompress and let stress go.
  • Lack of access to the outdoors and/or sunlight.  Vitamin D deficiency is a very real problem for most of us that hold down full time jobs that are primarily indoors. Especially if you live in a cooler climate and spend little time outdoors in your free time.
  • Lack of physical activity. We must move our bodies everyday. We are built to move and move often. If we don’t, stuff starts to break down.
  • Toxic foods: This is a big one and one of the easiest to control. Well, simplest, maybe not the easiest.

This is where the Paleo and diet and lifestyle will help! Adequate sleep, adequate time to release stress, adequate exercise/activity are all part of the prescription for a healthier you. As for the diet, the Paleo way of eating eliminates or reduces most of the biggest culprits. The Paleo Diet:

  • Is grain and legume free – This eliminates gluten and other offending inflammatory proteins. For more information see this post.
  • Is dairy free – eliminates lactose and casein, which tend to be problematic for a large portion of us whether we realize it or not. Dairy intolerance isn’t always a lactose intolerance problem. For me it wasn’t lactose causing digestive issues. Dairy was causing most of my sinus problems. You won’t know if dairy is an issue for you unless you eliminate it and see what happens. For more info see this post
  • Is trans fat and seed oil free – The introduction of these ingredients (including vegetable shortening, soybean oil, canola oil, etc) has been one of the most damaging additions to the human diet in recent years. Especially when used in cooking.
  • Is refined sugar free and low in most problematic dietary sugars. This reduces the excess sugars that bounce around in our blood stream causing huge hormonal imbalances that cause inflammation. For more info see this post.
  • Encourages organic and properly raised food sources whenever possible. There are many articles out there talking about how red meat is inflammatory to the body. This is not true when that meat is raised properly. It is the industrial processing and feeding practices that cause the problem. This is why going out of your way to find properly raised foods for you and your family is highly encouraged. But I would rather eat a steak when I am out at a restaurant than a big bowl of pasta any day. Bite for bite that steak with a side of veggies and a salad is far less inflammatory than that plate of pasta primavera. For more info see this post.
  • Encourages you to cook at home. Part of the reason our grandparents and great-grand parents didn’t suffer from many of these issues is because they ate at home with foods that had access to seasonally, prepared in meals they made with love and an eye for nutrition.
  • Promotes plenty of high quality fats. Dietary fat is a phenomenal fuel source for our brains and is necessary for building and strengthening cell walls. Stay away from any food that has been transformed from a high fat food in its natural state to a low fat food. That requires processing and kills off most of the healthy benefits that food provides. And saturated fat from a healthy source is your friend, not your enemy. For more info see this post.

There are many other benefits to the Paleo way of life. I’ve been living it for 4 years and with the exception of periods of high stress in my life, most of the issues I was suffering from are completely gone and/or dramatically reduced to occasionally. Living a long, healthy, happy life is the goal for all of us isn’t it? The whole notion that life it too short to pass up the cupcake or french fries is completely absurd to me! It’s entirely too short to spend it feeling like crap! Look, there is nothing wrong with indulging in a snickers bar now and then. It is what you eat MOST of the time that matters. What you eat occasionally  isn’t that big of a deal once you’ve put your body back on the road to low or no inflammation.

Give your body a chance to heal itself. Give the Paleo approach to life at least 30 days and see how you feel. 30 days seems to be long enough for most people to feel a difference. Many will feel it much sooner than that but if chronic inflammation has run amuck for a long time and did some serious damage it may really take 30 days. If you need guidance feel free to check out a quick start guide on my home page titled Paleo According to Laura. I highly encourage you to do your own research by checking out any or all of the resources listed in the sidebar on the right.

Give yourself the gift of feeling and looking fantastic. What do you have to lose? And honestly, why would you want to settle for anything less than fantastic?

Until Next Time,

~ Laura, MGP

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One Response to “The Big I: Inflammation and How a Paleo Lifestyle Will Help.”

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