The Three T's of Chronic Inflammation

9 Minute Read

Inflammation has become such a buzz word in the health world in the past several years, so let’s break down what it is, what causes inflammation and what happens when it gets out of control!

Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism in the body that protects you from ANY kind of damage. It becomes a problem when the inflammation becomes a chronic condition. Chronic inflammation is found in ALL lifestyle induced conditions, like obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, Alzeihmer’s disease, metabolic conditions, multiple sclerosis, joint pain, asthma, ulcerative colitis, IBS, and cancer.

How does acute inflammation work?

Inflammation is a NORMAL body response that fixes tissue damage!

Acute inflammation always results from damage to your tissues - your body has to remove the cause of damage AND repair the damaged tissues. Your body has a mechanism to heal itself!

Let’s say you stub your toe on the coffee table (OUCH!) and you damage tissue under the skin. The damaged tissues and surrounding immune cells send out pro-inflammatory chemicals to start the inflammation process (HELP US!!!). This signals more blood to that site to bring in cells to fight infection, clean up the dead cells, and start the repair process.

Once the tissue is healed, the inflammation process ends. You don’t have inflammation in your big toe that lasts forever! This is how acute inflammation should be functioning. Acute means the inflammation is short-lived: it goes away once the problem is fixed!

What is chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is just as it sounds - chronic and long-lasting. Chronic inflammation will make ANY disease process worse. It rapidly speeds up disease processes, which makes it very dangerous for your health.

Chronic inflammation develops because the damage causing agent isn’t removed from the body. So, the inflammation process continues as your body releases pro-inflammatory chemicals.

Over time, chronic inflammation will start to harm the tissues in your body.

Chronic inflammation is associated with numerous diseases, including: obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, joint pain, asthma, ulcerative colitis, IBS, cancer, and Alzeihmer’s disease.

Chronic Inflammation and Associated Diseases

How does chronic inflammation develop?

I like to describe the causes of inflammation as “The three T’s of Chronic Inflammation”:

THOUGHTS

Stress is a major factor in how your body functions and responds to its environment. Decades of research have shown that chronic stress increases your risk for disease, both physical and psychological.

Although the connection between stress and disease is well known, the pathway of HOW this happens is complicated and not fully known. However, we do know that your hormones are heavily involved. Your brain and hormones run the show!

So, what about your brain? Science has also shown that inflammation changes HOW we think. It changes our mood, how we feel and how we make decisions. Both depression and anxiety are associated with chronic inflammation.

Reducing stress and focusing on positivity will change your brain and hormones for the better!

Where does stress come from? Stress can be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and/or from certain lifestyle factors. For example, poor sleep is a form of the stress on the body. Think about how your mind feels the day after a really bad night of sleep. You don’t wake up all bubbly and positive, right???

TRAUMA

Any trauma to the body will cause inflammation as we saw with stubbing your toe. So, how do we end up with chronic inflammation from physical trauma? Again, it will be trauma that isn’t fixed! The most common part of the body that has consistent trauma is the spine. If your vertebrae are out of alignment, you will have chronic inflammation.

How do we end up out of alignment? This includes any injury, sitting all day, poor posture, incorrect sleep position, improper exercise form, etc. Spinal adjustments are the best way to align the spine so that the nerve signals can get from your brain/spinal cord to your organs to heal inflammation.

Not only will an adjustment decrease inflammation, it will allow the necessary signals from the spine and brain to reach your organs!

TOXINS

Anything toxic to the body will cause inflammation. Toxins are defined as anything that can cause tissue damage. If a toxin isn’t removed or your tissues are consistently being exposed to toxins, you will be inflamed!

So, how are you exposed to toxins? Food is going to one of the main areas to look at since we eat every day, especially excess sugar and bad fats.

We also know that our food sources are treated with a myriad of chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, food coloring, preservatives, etc. These are ALL sources of toxic chemicals that the body can become inflamed from! Eating a clean diet will decrease these toxins.

Other toxins include the toxins made by pathogens, like viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Any chronic infection, like Lyme Disease, will continually pump toxins into the body.

Removing toxins is so important to help eliminate the cause of inflammation!

Hidden Symptoms of chronic inflammation

You may not realize that you are dealing with chronic inflammation as many chronic diseases take years or even a decade to develop and diagnose. However, you can be well on your way to developing a disease if you have chronic inflammation.

What does inflammation feel like in the body? We all know what acute inflammation feels like as you have likely stubbed your toe before: redness, swelling, heat, and pain.

For chronic inflammation, you may have joint pain (especially in autoimmune diseases), but what other symptoms do you experience that may be less obvious?

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • General aches and pains
  • Not feeling well rested
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Addressing chronic inflammation often makes a huge difference in these symptoms. It’s all about looks for the root cause!

How are Obesity and Inflammation Linked?

It’s worth noting the relationship between inflammation and metabolic disorders. Over 34 million people are diabetic and over 70 million people are considered obese in the US!

Obesity CAUSES inflammation in the body! Adipose tissue (aka fat tissue) makes inflammatory chemicals causing low-grade chronic inflammation. ⁠ ⁠ Obesity also causes insulin resistance, where your cells stop responding to insulin. Insulin functions by moving sugar into cells to use it for energy. Insulin unlocks the door into your cells to let sugar in. Without the ability to move sugar into your cells, your body ends up storing the excess sugar as fat. So, insulin resistance will also drive obesity and vice versa.

When your body doesn’t respond to insulin, sugar (glucose) isn’t moved into cells. Repeated high levels of blood sugar cause your cells to stop opening the door to sugar causing insulin resistance. Sugar ends up hanging out in the blood for too long and can further cause more inflammation. ⁠ ⁠ Once these factors are all present, they start to drive one another. Obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance will continue to get worse.⁠

Obesity and Inflammation

What can you do about chronic inflammation?
Testing

First up, it is best to test, not guess! Working with a functional medicine doctor allows you to figure out what tests are best based on your health history and symptoms. I always recommend a functional medicine doctor because they are looking for the root cause of your symptoms. If you don’t look beyond what medications can cover up your symptoms, you will truly never heal!

Work on decreasing inflammation from the three T’s:

Thoughts

Focus on positive thoughts - It always feels like our minds are telling us all the bad things that are happening or could happen. We need to consciously focus on positivity. That may mean writing yourself a note as a reminder. What is one good thing about today? What can I do today that makes me happy?

Focus on gratitude - Just like positive thoughts, we also need to think about what we are grateful for in life. The mind focuses on what you focus it on! Make a list right now if 5 things you are grateful for!

Prioritize sleep - Your brain needs sleep to restore, eliminate toxins, and make new neural connections. It is vital! Start with decreasing screen time before bedtime! The light from artificial screens tricks your brain into thinking that there is daylight. You can also wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening. Third, try to stick to a bedtime schedule! Go to bed at the same time every night and do things before bed that are relaxing to the body and mind - that could be a bath or meditation.

Decrease stress - What can you do to decrease stress? Focusing on positive thoughts and gratitude are great starts. Other ways to help decrease stress are meditation and movement. A meditation practice helps that brain and your body to be in a calm and present state. It doesn’t have to be long, only a few minutes per day! Movement is another proven scientific way to help the brain. Again, it doesn’t have to be a lot - try walking for 10 minutes per day!

Trauma

If you have any physical trauma to the body, acute inflammation kicks in to fix the issue. Our problem is chronic inflammation from chronic injuries or injuries that haven’t healed properly. Getting adjusted at your chiropractor is the best way to minimize inflammation from trauma. As mentioned earlier, trauma from sitting all day, poor posture, incorrect sleep position, improper exercise form, etc. all affect how the body functions.

Toxins

Reducing toxins from your environment will reduce chronic inflammation. Nutrition is the best place to start! Getting tested for food sensitivities tell you what your body currently can’t tolerate. Also, working to decrease processed foods, refined sugars, and bad fats will all reduce inflammation.

Environmental toxins are the next place to visit. Improving your nutrition will naturally decrease toxins as you eliminate sources of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, preservatives and food colorings. Working to reduce toxins from beauty products, household products, or anything that touches the skin will also reduce your toxic exposure.

What’s next?

Chronic inflammation is something that develops over many years and can be caused by so many different issues. I always suggest working with a functional medicine doctor to make sure that you are identifying the root cause and the best pathway for healing. If you are interested in working with me through my virtual telehealth clinic, click HERE for more information!

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