Many of us have inadvertently set our bodies on fire. We are alight. We are burning up on the inside. We are hot but not in the way we want to be.
You see, many of us are swamped and swathed in inflammation and we don't even know it. And after seeing more and more signs and symptoms of this issue in my work I too am getting hot and bothered – because the incidence of inflammatory-type symptoms is definitely on the rise, and with this so is the rate of lifestyle-type chronic diseases.
But there is a real state of listlessness, and almost disinterest, from mainstream medicine about getting to the bottom of this once and for all. We need to begin investigating and treating the root cause of the inflammation rather than just simply treating the symptoms or the disease – and by doing so potentially reverse disease states.
We need more ambulances at the top of the cliff than we do at the bottom. The great news is we actually do have the power, via natural lifestyle medicine, to turn things around (after all, lifestyle diseases are called that because they've been created by our lifestyles – by changing our lifestyles we can change the outcome).
In a slow and steady way we can move mountains and we can alter the course of our health. And we desperately need to or there is going to not only be greater suffering of our own health, but there'll be greater amounts of heartbreak from losing loved ones to diseases like cancer that are, more than we realise, within our control.
I've said it many a time before, our destiny is in our hands.
We must understand that inflammation is, in fact, one of many crucial and necessary biochemical processes that occurs within our bodies. It's part of our immune defence system. Inflammation is the response that happens when our body senses a foreign intruder that shouldn't be in our body, or when we injure ourselves it is a primary part of the acute healing process.
For instance, inflammatory agents will be circulated if an infectious bacteria is discovered to attack and dispose of the foreign invader. Or inflammatory pathways will encourage more blood to rush to a sprained ankle to help with healing of the surrounding tissue.
However, when your immune system has been disrupted as a result of being constantly compounded by agents that cause the body to elicit an inflammatory response, it puts itself on constant defence. And this causes continuous ripples of inflammation to torment the body, which in turn will switch the immune system's role around – instead of attacking the antigen (foreign invader) it launches a targeted strike on your own cells, body tissues and other innocent material. The very way autoimmune diseases manifest – the body turns on and attacks itself because it's felt threatened for two long.
Two thousand years ago Hippocrates, a founding father of medicine, proclaimed that all disease begins in the gut. Our digestive system is home to the majority of our immunity and wellbeing – it has the highest concentration of immune system cells in our whole body. It therefore holds a whole lot of power for how we feel and our ability to be well.
Despite the incredible role it plays, most people are still surprised to learn that a problem with the digestive system could be the reason why we experience the vast range of "normal" symptoms, that are all too common these days, that extend beyond bloating, gas, or the characteristics of our stool.
The ordinary workings of our digestive system and the processes it undertakes can be compromised by two general faults:
This essentially means that the good bacteria in the gut (the ones who look after you and come to your defence) are outweighed by the bad bacteria (the ones who cause havoc to our wellbeing and homeostasis); and
2. Leaky gut
Otherwise known as intestinal hyperpermeability, this is when the protective lining of your gut breaks down and "holes" are formed. This enables all sorts of material that isn't meant to be in the blood stream to end up there, meaning the immune system is instantly threatened and put on high alert.
These days most of us have one or both of these faults happening inside us, and this is why we experience the many symptoms we do. Both of these faults are the precursors to chronic and long-term inflammation.
So, you're probably asking what are the inflammatory agents, what things are causing the inflammation?
I'd need to write a dissertation to answer this in full, but here's the start of a list: pesticides, GMOs, food additives, artificial sweeteners, sugar, gluten, dairy, omega 6 fats (not all), food sensitivities, soy products, heavy metals, stress, lack of sleep, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories (irony, right?), antacids, smoking – and that's just the tip of the iceberg!
All of these things have the potential to cause havoc in our systems, and they act very slowly, often without us consciously detecting that anything is awry, until the bigger symptoms begin to show up.
So what are the symptoms of inflammation? How do we know if this is the root of some of our problems?
This has a pretty extensive answer itself, and I'll be covering it in my next instalment. If you'd like to know what the 'flames' might look like in your body, or how to begin extinguishing them, then stand by!
■ Corinne Austin is a health coach and movement motivator (firstname.lastname@example.org ).