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Chronic Symptoms: What You Need to Know About Inflammation

We all know that feeling. You wake up one day and something doesn't feel right. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you just don't feel like yourself. Before long, that nagging sensation has blossomed into a full-blown headache, fever, or worse. For some people, this is simply the reality of life. But for many others, this experience may be indicative of an underlying chronic condition - one that is often linked to inflammation. If you're experiencing chronic symptoms and you're not sure what to do next, read on for some essential information about inflammation and how it can impact your health.

A Deep Dive into Inflammation

Think of somebody who has been having problems for a while. They have tried different things, but their symptoms haven't gone away. This problem might be new joint aches and pains that started a while ago and they haven't gone away yet. Maybe they are taking ibuprofen which helps them feel better temporarily, but the pains always come back.

Then they see their medical provider who gives them a diagnosis and prescribes a specific regimen to follow. Maybe they also have been advised to eat better and exercise more. But then after making the recommended changes, the symptoms just never seem to improve or they only improve temporarily but then always come back.

There's an underlying theme in any of these types of scenarios where you have a chronic symptom – it’s inflammation. We believe inflammation is at the heart of all diseases. In contrast, if you don't have inflammation, you won't have chronic wear and tear. You won't have a disease that kicks up.

Our goal is always to find the root of inflammation, take care of it, and then watch the disease processes either get reversed or stop where they're at.

Needless to say, inflammation is indeed a big deal. Many different biochemical reactions are involved when someone has inflammation. This can include inflammatory cascades and genetic predispositions – and if you have any of these, you are more likely to have issues with inflammation and diseases related to inflammation. That’s why it is best to dig in and find out what the root cause is and where it is coming from.

Pay attention to these

The first thing to address is diet.

It's important to note that diet alone can help you improve 80% of your issues, or helps us tease out where the problems are stemming from. Take the anti-inflammatory diet, for instance. There are different levels of implementing an anti-inflammatory diet. You can try doing it in a less intense way where you’re more so just dabbling in it, or you may be so tired of dealing with your symptoms that you are ready to go full steam ahead in adopting any and all diet changes recommended to you.

It turns out sugar is one of the worst, most inflammatory foods you can consume. Second on this list of most inflammatory foods would be dairy, followed then by gluten. It can definitely be challenging to avoid these or cut them out of our diet entirely. But knowing these three food groups are the most inflammatory things you can put in your body can help motivate us to avoid them.

If you want to know whether cutting these out will truly help you in the long term, try doing a trial run where you cut out just one of those food groups for two weeks. If you eat a lot of cheese or dairy, cut it out for two weeks and see how you feel. You'll recognize there are improvements in your inflammatory conditions based on those simple changes.

80% of inflammatory issues are related to gut health.

So why does food trigger inflammatory responses?

The gut is one of the most important parts of our body. It’s where we digest food and host 80% percent of inflammation, which means, if something goes wrong with this area then it can cause you to have an inflammatory condition.

If you have any of these symptoms: bloating, heartburn, gassiness, changes in bowel habits (like diarrhea and constipation), appetite fluctuations, or feeling bad after eating certain things – it means that your gut is not happy.

Most inflammatory molecules – either the triggers, signalers, or the actual inflammatory molecules themselves – come from your intestinal tract. When you eat, the food goes from your stomach, then on to your small intestine and lastly, it passes through your large intestine, where your body will decide if the food is a friend or a foe.

If your body thinks there is a problem, it will try to get rid of the problem. This causes a lot of waste products that can affect and change the bacteria that are normally living there. Those bacteria are important for getting nutrients and for helping your immune system operate as it should. Your gut is extremely important in controlling inflammation, therefore, you will not be able to heal from an inflammatory condition until we fix your gut.

Mrs. K’s story

Her case is unique and this is not your normal scenario for inflammation. But this will tell you how, from a functional medicine perspective, we approach things.

Mrs. K is an amazing lady. She was in her mid-sixties. She had had three stents already placed in one full-on heart attack.

She came to see us because she no longer wanted to be on her statin medication. She wanted to do everything she could to get away from taking those. She just felt like it was not the answer for her, and she wanted to try something different. Of course, we do have an obligation to always discuss the pros and cons of these kinds of changes. With her cardiac history, there was a big concern about her wanting to completely depart from the recommended treatment regimen, which has been shown in some areas to be helpful. But we gave her a short leash but went at it with the intent to make aggressive changes to her regimen in a short time frame and see how she responds. We took it one day at a time.

When she originally came in, she had a cardiac CRP level of 15. CRP is C-reactive protein, which is a protein that increases in the blood with inflammation and infection as well as following a heart attack, surgery, or trauma. The ideal value for this is <1. Anything registering above 3 is a bad indication, so her reading of 15 was just extremely high. This fact certainly made us nervous.

We decided on a plan that would ideally give us big results within a 30-day window. We implemented something called the Coronary Disease Reversal Diet, which is a strict vegan, no-oil diet. There is amazing research on this diet being able to reverse heart disease. At the end of the 30 days, we planned to recheck her markers.

She was absolutely on board with the plan, but when she came back, she had only lost a couple of pounds which is unusual with this kind of change in diet. Her cardiac CRP had only decreased from 15 to 13. This was certainly not the dramatic change we were hoping for, and we had a hard time understanding why this didn't work better for her.

At this point, we started digging a little more into her symptoms. She reported having some general inflammatory-like symptoms, like heartburn and joint aches and pains. Thinking back to the whole concept of inflammation being the heart of disease, we began asking ourselves a few questions that got us thinking outside of the box:

  • “What if she has a general underlying inflammatory condition causing that vascular inflammation that we see in her cardiac CRP?”

  • “What if we targeted her from an inflammatory perspective, instead of this cardiac disease reversal perspective?”

  • “What if we switched from that approach to an anti-inflammatory approach?”

We ran this idea past her, letting her know that there's no concrete evidence this was going to work. It may or may not work, but it seems to make the most sense that we would try to target her condition from an inflammatory perspective because her inflammatory markers are so high. Ultimately she agreed and was on board to move forward.

We put her on an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of no sugar, no dairy, and no grains. It allowed lean meats and loads of vegetables for 30 days. The calorie intake from this diet is very different from a strict vegan diet with no oil. When she came back in 30 days, she had lost 18 pounds. She felt amazing. Her aches and pains were gone and her heartburn was gone. When her cardiac CRP was rechecked, it had fallen from 13 down to 5 – the lowest it had ever been in her entire cardiac history.

This is how we, in functional medicine, want to approach your health. We understand that every patient is different, and you need somebody who's going to listen to you and be able to think outside the box. Not every patient fits the same specific pattern or plan of care in terms of what their body needs. With Mrs. K, she had a very significant inflammatory issue going on. It was changed significantly by diet, partnered with some other necessary changes so that we were finally able to get her cardiac CRP level under 3. Not only did she continue to lose weight, but she continues to do well and feel better!

Knowing that inflammation is the heart of disease, then addressing those inflammatory issues and being able to think outside the box were really key in helping her improve her health. It’s highly important for you, the patient, to also be open-minded when figuring out what you can do to improve your health.

As we’ve seen, chronic inflammation is at the root of many health problems. If you are struggling with any long-term symptoms, it’s important to take a closer look at your diet and gut health. We hope this article has given you some useful information on how to start tackling inflammation head-on. If you would like more personalized advice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation. We would be happy to help you create an individualized plan that will get your health back on track.

If you’re experiencing indications of chronic inflammation and would like help getting to the bottom of it, we’d be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.

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DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional

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