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Inflammation

I want to chat to you about inflammation, and arm you with what you absolutely need to know in order to take care of yourself...


Inflammation is normal and it is how your body protects itself from invaders (germs) and heals wounds and injuries. But, we don’t want inflammation when there are no wounds or invaders, and neither do we want too much inflammation at any one time - even when there is good reason to have an inflammatory reaction. Sometimes inflammation happens when it's not needed, because the body mistakenly perceives its own tissues or cells as harmful. This can cause harm to healthy body parts and can be the cause of autoimmune diseases.



 

You will know when you have marked inflammation somewhere in your body, because the area will be red, warm, swollen, sore and hard to use. This is helpful if you have just sprained your ankle, have an infected toe or something similar, but when the inflammation is generalized, it is a problem. Some people’s bodies are hypersensitive and this can trigger generalized inflammation for example, in the presence of an allergen, like dust or grass.

 

Many lifestyle situations cause excessive and generalized inflammation, including:


  • Stress and high levels of cortisol

  • Lack of sleep

  • Poor diet (excessive unhealthy fats and sugars)

  • Obesity

 

Acute or chronic (ongoing) stress causes inflammation. So does increased focus on negative information, rumination (churning an event or experience over and over again in your mind) and catastrophizing (making something small a whole heap bigger than it needs to be). This focus on the negative leads to negative mood, and symptoms of depression, and it upregulates the stress response. It becomes a downward spiral quite quickly, because when there is a low mood, the brain is primed to see the negative and when the brain is biased towards the negative, low mood is the obvious outcome. Inflammation is protective and it's important to see how the brain orchestrates a heightened level of immune response to attempt to keep you safe and ensure your survival.

 

I was talking to a 64 year old lady who has had a lifetime of debilitating migraines. She shared that as a child, her doctor father would constantly tell her not to do things in case she got a headache. He cosseted her and inculcated a fear of any activity or strain in case it led to a migraine. He was over protecting her. It's clear that this over protection has harmed her in the long term in some ways. She tells of how heat, walking too far or fast, exertion, discomfort, or over working all cause her headaches, and have done all her life. This loving, but over cautious parent was doing what the brain often does. It over protects us, especially when we carry a sense of being under threat or being under supported or over demanded of.

 

Another lady presented in my clinic with all over body aching and pain, a high inflammatory index and a feeling that everything triggers her pain response, even when she is very careful and doesn’t over do it. She reported eating well, sleeping plenty and moving lots. When I questioned her further, it turned out, she was feeling extremely overloaded and under constant pressure with too much to do and not enough help with some really mundane and extremely trying tasks. She also felt under-appreciated and under valued and therefore resentful. The idea that her brain had made inflammation and pain, in an attempt to protect her from this challenging place, made perfect sense to her. We sat together and worked out an action plan to tackle the tasks she needed to do. We turned around some of the recurrent thoughts she was aware of having (that were inflammatory) and I have no doubt that she will feel better. Now we need to do the next stage of treatment and use mobilization and physiotherapy techniques to bring the inflammation down, so she can move more and feel more mobile and physically free. It's a multifaceted treatment she needs and it will take some time, but I have no doubt that with putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, we will get her pain free and functioning again soon. We may also need medication to help, and this will be done in conjuction with a doctor.

 

If you suffer pain and have a suspicion that you have a heightened level of inflammation, don’t live with it. Start trying to unravel it. Consult your doctor or your physio and perhaps have a blood test. Try bring your brain on board with protecting you a little bit less. Support your body with a healthy diet and lots of rest. Manage your stress, and if you need help, our door is always open for you. Don’t try to fix it on just one plane, it won't work. You are a body-mind-spirit complex and all parts of you are intertwined and inter-relate. Keep an eye out for an upcoming podcast with Dr Gareth Tarr, an internationally renowned Rheumatologist who will have much more to tell us on the subject of inflammation and how to work with it in your body.

 

I wish you glowing health and inflammation in the sweet spot (just the right amount of it and only when you need it).


Sue and the team

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