Dr. Katie May 2014
Chronic Inflammation-What is the deal?!
From time to time, everyone will experience some sort of acute inflammation in our bodies. Whether it be from working out and having sore muscles or from a wrong move out on the golf course causing some tightness in the low back. Short term inflammation in our bodies is normal, but when it starts to hang on too long and turn into long term inflammation it becomes a problem. Many of us will reach for the bottle of anti-inflammatory and hope that it will be a quick fix, but what happens when it is not?
First off, what is inflammation and what causes it?
Inflammation is our body's emergency response to an injury caused by an infection, environmental toxin, trauma or biomechanical dysfunction. It is our body's way of protecting us and trying to remove these harmful stimuli that lead us to repair and the healing process. Inflammation will result in increased swelling and pain, warmth and redness, and irritation to that part of the body. For instance, say you twist your ankle, what happens first; increased swelling, color changes, and pain. This is our body's normal response to an acute trauma to aid in the healing process. Typically, with an acute inflammation, it will come on rapidly and last for a few days or weeks. But what if the inflammation continues, say months or years, now we hit the chronic stages of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause generalized joint and muscle pain and the longer it goes on the more likely it will lead to more serious health problems such as insulin resistance, degenerative joint disease, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and dementia. What would you do to fix your inflammation problem? Pick up a bottle of NSAIDs?
NSAIDs-what is this?
Typically speaking, most people will grab Advil or Ibuprofen anytime there is any sign of inflammation or pain. These are a group of over the counter NSAIDs-NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs-they help to relieve pain and decrease inflammation, but these drugs are only masking your symptoms, they are NOT fixing the underlying problem. It is okay to use them intermittently, but overuse of these drugs can lead to breakdown of joint cartilage, they can increase the risk of developing nausea, an upset stomach, or an ulcer, and they also may interfere with kidney function. So how do we keep chronic inflammation at bay?
So now what?
There are other ways to help rid and alleviate inflammation in our bodies. One of the first things you can start doing for yourself is get a proper balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, a group of poly-unsaturated fatty acids that are essential to our bodies but we can NOT produce them, so we have to get them from our diet. You want to make sure there is a healthy balance of omega-6 to omega-3, the 6s can be pro-inflammatory and the 3s help to reduce inflammation, meaning that if you have more 6s to 3s, than you are actually adding to the inflammatory response in your body! The problem that is happening in our diets today is that we ARE getting way more 6s than 3s and in return increasing inflammation throughout our bodies. Some things in our diets that increase and cause the pro-inflammatory response are fried foods, processed foods, grains, cooking oils made with corn and safflower oil or any other type of vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils, sugar, alcohol, MSG (monosodium glutamate), gluten, and diary. The proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 2:1, in today's society it is more 25-50:1, VERY inflammatory!
So how do we deal with inflammation without grabbing that bottle of pills every time?
First of all, you can start by changing up your diet. Try to eat more grass-fed meat over grain fed meat. What does it matter what the animals we eat, eat? Ever hear the saying you are what you eat? Well how about you are what you eat, eats? When these animals are fed grains such as soy and corn it increases the inflammation in their bodies as well. So when we eventually get to eat them, the meat is already inflamed leading to more inflammation in our bodies. Research shows that grass fed beef has up to 5 TIMES more omega-3s than grain fed. Do you like fish? Start eating more! The American Heart Association recommends that people without coronary heart disease eat at least 2 servings (6-8 ounces) a week of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and halibut. What if you don't like fish? You can pick up a fish oil supplement, in fact, you can grab one next time you are at the office. Omegavia, the product we have at the office, is pharmaceutical grade fish oil-which means fewer pills, two-three times the amount of omega-3, less of the stuff that is not omega-3, more effective, and less smell. How about green leafy vegetables, are you getting enough of them? Flax seed and chai seed are also high in omega-3 and are easy to incorporate into your diet.
Another thing relating to our diet is to avoid trans fats and limit refined carbs. Trans fats inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down omega-3 and omega-6 fats, enabling our body to process healthy fats normally. Refined carbs, AKA excess refined sugars, contribute to inflammation by both raising the insulin levels in your body and increasing the production of pro-inflammatory lipids. Over time, the increase in insulin levels will lead to increased inflammation.
How about getting adjusted?
It is no secret that correcting segmental dysfunction helps with pain and edema associated with local inflammation. In fact, a 2006 study conducted by the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College showed that chiropractic manipulation lowered the systemic levels of inflammatory proteins, suggesting that regular chiropractic care can actually REDUCE chronic whole-body inflammation.
The choice is yours, take action against inflammation the right way. Try changing your mind set and maintain a healthy life style and diet to keep chronic inflammation away!
Resources: Dynamic Chiropractic-Make Sense of Chronic Inflammation, www.clevelandclinic.org, www.pubmed.gov