For thousands of years, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have defined chronic inflammation as a blockage of Chi, or blood stagnation, which they believe to be the root cause of many serious ailments afflicting the human body. Modern medicine, on the other hand, typically addresses these issues only when the symptoms (i.e. pain) are no longer manageable. Their treatment of choice usually includes the myriad of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce these symptoms, but all too often suppress one of our most important healing mechanisms as well.
Frequently, we think of inflammation as something harmful, and elect to medicate our pain, swelling, or stiffness with drugs like Ibuprophen, Advil or Celebrex in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. However, what many people may not know is that inflammation is, in fact, a crtically important and beneficial defense mechanism – at least in the early stage. Inflammation is our natural siren to alert us that a body part is damaged and needs attention — much like a distress call to a firehouse, which moves firefighters into action.
Inflammation occurs in two main forms: acute and chronic. The acute pathway is extremely beneficial and works to provide the body with detoxification and repair mechanisms. This is a symptom-free process that begins immediately when the injury occurs. Every day activities can trigger inflammation as the body cleanses and eliminates the buildup of toxins and initiates the repair of any cellular injury that has occurred. When acute inflammation is hard at work, we seldom notice it and will not experience any pain or even be aware it is occurring.
When the acute pathway of inflammation fails to succeed in its mission, a secondary process begins. This mechanism is what we commonly refer to as chronic inflammation.
Contrary to popular opinion, chronic inflammation is not all bad since it plays an important role in protecting the injured body part in order to provide enough time for the healing process to be completed. Chronic inflammation protects our cells from rapid destruction by allowing the tissue to change and adapt to the on-going stress in the area. This process can cause pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function, signaling that there is a serious problem which needs to be addressed. This is the point where most patients will self-medicate or go to their doctor for help.
Unfortunately, when chronic inflammation remains for long periods of time and is not addressed adequately, it will cause the expression of genes that lead to degenerative conditions such as coronary artery disease, arthritis, cancer and others. One thing is certain, chronic inflammation, if not managed properly, will wreak havoc on the body’s immune system, cause constant pain, discomfort, and will significantly compromise our state of wellness, and quality of life.
Since our overall health begins in our gut, many of the causes of uncontrolled chronic inflammation can be addressed by changing our diets, implementing detox routines, and engaging in regular exercise. Below is a list of ten simple ways to reduce chronic inflammation:
1. Plant Based Foods – Anti- inflammatory diet contains an abundance of organic fresh plant foods. Since plant foods contain natural anti-inflammatory properties, it is important to add generous portions of deeply-pigmented vegetables to every meal and snack for their fiber. In addition, many herbs and foods such as turmeric, oregano, garlic, onions, green tea, blueberries, and ginger contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that limit free-radical production in the body and interrupt the chronic inflammation cycle. Please refer to my February article to learn more about the anti-inflammatory benefits of Golden Milk.
2. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) – The best diet to relieve inflammation will avoid Omega 6-rich foods like meat, dairy, baked goods, flour products, and grains (basically the standard American diet). Although Omega 6 fatty acids are essential in any diet because they are the building blocks of healthy inflammation (which helps the body protect itself when it can’t repair itself efficiently), too much intake will cause the immune system to bypass the acute inflammation process and default into the chronic inflammation mechanisms. Thus, it is important to maintain a diet that is relatively low in Omega 6 and consume more Omega 3 fatty acids.
However, because omega–3 fatty acids are in very short supply in today’s Western diet, we recommend that everyone takes an omega–3 supplement daily to rebalance their diet. The health benefits of eating fish used to be an undisputed fact; but since many species today contain unhealthy levels of mercury, PCB’s, radiation, and other bioaccumulated toxins, (which are correlated to many chronic conditions, including cancer), indiscriminate fish consumption is no longer recommended. Although fish from northern hemisphere oceans and the Gulf of Mexico are questionable, fish from southern oceans are still considered safe to eat. Under no circumstances should one eat farm-raised fish that are not open-water systems. Finally, because toxins accumulate as you go up the food chain, smaller species of fish such as sardines, anchovies, and some shellfish may still be good choices.
If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, algal sources of Omega 3 are an excellent choice. Just be sure your EFA supplement has been tested to be free of mercury and other heavy metals — otherwise it might do you more harm than good.
3. Nuts, Seeds, and Healthy Oils – I encourage you to include a small handful of nuts and seeds in your daily diet, especially walnuts and freshly ground flaxseed, which are good sources of Omega–3’s. Some practitioners also recommend adding an omega–6 supplement called gamma linolenic acid (GLA) if you have rheumatoid arthritis. For cooking purposes, my oil of choice is non-GMO, organic cold pressed coconut oil; and for dressings it’s non-GMO, organic, extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, which is high in oleic acid, an omega–9 with anti-inflammatory polyphenols. With the recent expose by 60 Minutes on the contaminated Italian Olive Oil industry, I’d be very cautious when shopping for an “Organic EVOO” – since 80% of the varieties which are imported from Italy, have been adulterated with cheaper unhealthy seed oils.
4. What to AVOID – Number-one on the list of inflammatory triggers are trans fats — hydrogenated oils. Next would be the sugars, refined carbohydrates, and gluten. These and many other additives and preservatives are well hidden in processed convenience foods, making them very difficult to identify. The best and the safest route is to avoid all commercially prepared, packaged foods. Instead, stick to real foods – organic, non- GMO, whole foods which can be found in your produce section and the bulk grains section of your local health food store.
You will also need to steer clear of known allergens, and be aware of increasing food sensitivities as well. Gluten, eggs, dairy, unfermented soy products (tofu and soy sauce) and nuts (especially peanuts) are some of the most common dietary irritants. To help you identify food sensitivities that could be causing problems for you, follow an elimination diet, avoiding a substance for two weeks, then reintroducing it for a day or two.
5. The inflammatory response depends on a healthy immune system. 70% of the cells of our immune system are found in the gastrointestinal tract. These cells are fed by short chain fatty acids (that do not exist in nature), which are the result of fermentation of complex carbohydrates — whole grains, vegetables, beans — by the friendly bacteria (probiotics) that live in our intestinal lining. So it is essential for anyone suffering with inflammation to take an ample supply of probiotics on a daily basis.
6. Hydration – We require water to serve as the vehicle for all chemical reactions in the body as well as to flush out toxins, therefore, proper hydration is paramount. As a general rule, one should consume about half their body weight in fluid ounces per day – for a 160-pound person, it means, 80 ounces of filtered water per day!
7. Detoxification- once again, we live in a toxic soup! We are constantly surrounded, assaulted, and bombarded with toxins. Cleansing and ridding the body of harmful materials is a crucial step towards optimal health. Far Infrared Sauna Therapy can significantly expedite the detoxification process, as it heats your tissues several inches deep, which can enhance the natural metabolic detoxification processes. It also enhances circulation and helps oxygenate your tissues. The difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional steam saunas is that the latter heats you up from the outside in, like an oven, melting the fat cells so they can purge the stored toxins.
8. Increasing Micro Circulation – Blood flow is the essence of healthy body, and nothing improves blood flow like aerobic exercise. At Wellosophy 360 our BodyWorx360 program utilizes a combination of functional movement exercises, whole body vibration, and Near Infrared Therapy to stimulate micro circulation, and cellular repair.
Regular exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can be a part of your life no matter what your age.
In fact, staying active becomes increasingly important as you get older. Even frail seniors of advanced age can improve muscle strength and agility with exercise, which is important for preventing falls and injuries. For seniors who have a hard time performing aerobic exercise, using Whole Body Vibration (WBV) can help them improve performance, allowing them to become stronger, faster and more agile, according to many recent studies.
Other studies have also demonstrated significant gains in most measures of muscle performance in sedentary and elderly individuals when using WBV. It has also been shown to provide a number of additional health benefits in the elderly. For example, one study, performed by the University of Liege in Belgium, investigated the effects of controlled whole body vibrations exercises on overall health in elderly patients and found that after six weeks (performing 4 one-minute sessions, 3 times a week), the participants experienced:
· 143 percent improvement in physical function
· 57 percent improvement in the quality of walking
· 77 percent improvement in equilibrium
· 41 percent reduction in pain
· 60 percent improvement in vitality
· 23 percent improvement in general health
Weight-bearing exercise, like resistance or strength training, can go a long way to prevent brittle bone formation, and can help reverse the damage already done. WBV training can also be helpful here, especially in the elderly. In a study by Medical College of Georgia researchers, using vibration therapy 30 minutes daily for 12 weeks improved bone density in mice, a finding that adds support for their use in humans, especially the elderly. It’s thought that the vibrations prompt movement of the cell nucleus, which may trigger the release of osteoblasts to build bone. Previous studies have also found that WBV training increases bone density in the hip and inhibits bone loss in the spine and hip areas.
9. Cellular Repair – Near-InfraRed light treatment modifies cellular function, promotes cell survival, and improves outcomes in laboratory and mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. The effect on cells of near-infrared light, which has a wavelength of 670 nanometers, was first reported 40 years ago. The light causes mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, to produce more ATP, a compound that provides the cell’s energy.
Near infrared sauna therapy works on many areas to improve the immune system. Studies have shown that it directly and indirectly can prevent and treat cancer as well. Many viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumor cells have poor tolerance to heat compared to normal healthy cells and are easily killed with near infrared saunas.
But let’s be honest. You don’t get something for nothing. You must be dedicated to your health to prevent cancer and other health issues. It takes 1-3 years of daily sauna use to rid your body of the bulk of heavy metals, chemicals and chronic infections built up over your lifetime. And after this period of intense sauna therapy, one must continue to use a sauna twice a week to rid the body of new environmental insults.
Infrared lamp saunas are a part of many cancer treatment protocols around the world, as they can aid in tumor shrinkage, and promote cellular repair.
Certainly, infrared sauna therapy is not a stand-alone cancer therapy, and should be used in combination with other therapies. However, since tumors tolerate heat poorly, raising the body’s core temperature hastens the abnormal cells’ death. Infrared saunas also rid the body of the toxic body burdens contributing to cancer formation in the first place.
InfraRed Sauna Benefits:
Booster: The infrared light encourages the body to increase production of white blood cells as well as induce sweating, which removes toxins from the system. This causes the immune system to get stronger, making you more resistant to colds, flu, bacterial infections, sinuses, and even allergies.
Cellular Health: During near infrared therapy, the circulatory system is stimulated. This increases the oxygenation of the cells within the body meaning that toxins are more efficiently expelled through the surface of the skin. This results in faster muscle recovery and improved cellular health.
Detoxification: The body naturally rids itself of toxins through sweating. Infrared light heats the body directly, raising its core temperature. This causes a deeper, more thorough detoxifying sweat than happens at the cellular level due to the increased circulation.
Weight Loss: As the body heats up it must work to cool itself. Studies show that a single infrared sauna session can burn 600 calories or even more. It’s like doing cardio while you relax and let the stress melt away.
Better Circulation: When the body’s muscles are heated using infrared rays, blood flow is increased. In fact, it increases in much the same way that it does when the body is exercising. Regular infrared therapy can stimulate your blood flow significantly.
Wound Healing: Infrared therapy has been shown to decrease the skin’s healing time. It promotes human tissue growth and increased cell regeneration which results in faster tissue repair meaning that wounds heal more quickly.
Decrease Blood Pressure: As the infrared therapy stimulates blood flow, the heart must pump faster. This improves circulation, but it also lowers blood pressure. This benefit can be achieved by using the sauna just two or three times a week.
Fibromyalgia: The pain of Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is well documented, but relief is not always easy to achieve. Because FMS attacks the fibrous tissues of the body including the tendons and muscles, patients experience pain throughout the body. Infrared therapy has been used to successfully treat pain from FMS, giving suffering patients great relief.
Stress Relief and Relaxation: The heat of an infrared sauna differs from that of a traditional sauna. The infrared sauna produces a soothing, gentle heat that is therapeutic. It has been shown to improve sleep, reduce stress, and increase relaxation, leaving you feeling refreshed and less stressed.
Anti-Aging: Near infrared therapy stimulates the production of collagen which improves skin tone as well as reduces wrinkles. It also increases circulation, which gives the skin a healthy glow. It is very healing for not only the epidermis, but also the dermis, reducing scars, uneven coloring, and healing the skin at the cellular level.
Pain Relief: Infrared heat is often used as a powerful pain management tool to treat chronic pain, as well as minor aches and pains. It helps to decrease muscle spasms and enhance recovery because it penetrates the tissue, muscles, and joints, as well as promotes relaxation and increased circulation.
Cancer Therapy: Infrared therapy has been used as a powerful weapon against cancer cell growth for more than two decades. Doctors the world over have employed this effective cancer treatment due to its many immunity boosting properties, including the increased production of interferon, T-cells, and white blood cells.
10. Exercise!!!! As you can see, age-related muscle wasting and bone loss doesn’t have to happen to you. Following the advice detailed above can go a long way toward maintaining healthy bones and muscle mass as you age. The earlier you start, the better, but remember, you are never too old to start exercising. Research shows that, no matter your age, you stand to gain significant improvements in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity through exercise.
Many of my clients are in their 80s, and through a sensible regular exercise routine they have gained significant improvements in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density, mental clarity, energy level, self-esteem and entire outlook on life.
It is really THAT powerful, whether you’re 18 years old or 80!
Live well and Thrive!!!
By Liot Sher, JD, CPT