About a month ago I went to a see dermatologist/nurse practitioner about a rash that had developed on my face. She told me I had a condition called perioral dermatitis – an inflammation of the skin.
Last week, I had a dentist evaluate my teeth and gums. She advised me that I had inflammation in my gums – particularly in the gums around the teeth with metal (amalgam) fillings.
This week, while I was getting a deep tissue massage (similar to physical torture, but with nice music and no lasting effect), I was experiencing a great deal of stinging pain in my left upper arm. She said to me, “It shouldn’t hurt that much. You may have some inflammation there. Put ice on it.”
Hmmm…there is definitely a theme developing here. So what’s going on? Am I just getting old? Or is there something more devious lurking under the surface of my otherwise tolerably good health that I should be addressing?
In and effort to get to the bottom of my inflammation problem, I’ll start with that wealth of infallible online knowledge – Wikipedia:
"Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process."
We notice and recognize inflammation right away as a response to infection--the skin turns red, swells up and hurts like heck, usually prompting us to do something about it.
In a healthy body, our immune system can usually fix what’s ailing us within a relatively short period of time, sending out the antibodies to seek and destroy the invading substance—whether it be bacterial, viral, or some kind of chemical toxin. And sometimes, like a national army attacking its own citizens, the immune system will turn on the body, attacking the very cells it was created to protect—this is called autoimmune disease. Arthritis is one (I have that too), but there are many others. And finally, the immune system’s inflammation response can even be triggered by stress. Stress raises the cortisol level in the body, which results in an immune system response—only in this case, the immune system is fighting a shadow. In his book, The Body Electric, Dr. Robert Becker suggests that low-level electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF) trigger stress in the body because they disrupt the body’s natural electrical pathways by which cell information is passed, creating a condition akin to internal confusion. When the immune system struggles over long periods of time attempting to remove injurious stimuli that cannot be removed (such as stress or amalgam fillings), eventually it becomes weakened. A weak immune system is like a weak army...when new invaders show up, it may not have the resources it needs to win the battle.
Inflammation, then, is the evidence that the body is fighting against something, foreign or domestic.
When the inflammation persists, or shows up in multiple places, it’s because our immune system is not strong enough to fix the problem without a little outside help. Typically, that’s when we run to the doctor… followed shortly thereafter by running to the pharmacy.
There it is-- I have some harmful stimuli...so, what is it? The fillings are obvious, and it wasn't surprising to hear they were the likely cause of my tender and bleeding gums. But what about the dermatitis? Or the stinging muscle? The problem is, sometimes we don't know the underlying cause of inflammation. And, frankly, more often than not, neither does the doctor. So how do you treat something without a known cause?
When the psalmist said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" Psalm 139:14 (translation: God's handiwork is awesome!), he wasn't kidding. The body has amazing potential to heal. But we have to give it the tools it needs. A starving or malnourished body will do a very poor job of healing.
So what should I be eating--or not eating--to give my body the tools it needs to overcome the inflammation and heal? There are a lot of opinions out there about what's healthy, and everyone should do their own research, but here are some of the things I found. Among the more mainstream advice found in sites like About.Com and Healthline.com, they give the following suggestions (among others I haven't repeated because I don't agree with them)...
- Foods to avoid: junk food, processed food, sugar, trans-fats, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers), alcoholic drinks, corn oil, dairy products
- Foods to eat: green vegetables, berries, lots of water, fish
- Get lots of sleep
In short, the key to good health is the gut. That's right. Bowels, intestines, the gut. According to Dr. Mercola, a prominent naturalist physician and nutritionist, a healthy diet won't matter if your digestive system isn't operating properly. So this is the first place to start. Adding foods to the diet high in probiotics, such as raw milk (good luck finding THAT), and fermented foods such as kefir, raw-milk cheese, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, along with other lacto-fermented foods that you can actually make yourself, believe it or not (check out PickleMeToo). If you're not able to get enough natural probiotics, there are good quality supplements you can take to build up the "good bacteria" in your gut and help your body regain its optimum gut flora. Be sure to look for high-potency probiotics free of additives (particularly soy).
Another place to look for healing help is in the medicinal properties of herbs. One that I have added to my diet in the past week is Turmeric, a root herb long valued for its anit-inflammitory properties. Among other herbs known to fight inflammation are ginger, licorice (yum), and chamomile.
Who knows... maybe I AM just getting old. But, isn't the ultimate goal to get there as comfortably as possible? That God has put within our reach the means to be healthy even in a cursed world shows His great love for us.
Knowing something and doing it are two very different things. The question is, can I stick to the healthy stuff and stay away from the "devil's food?" You know what I mean... the stuff that tastes so good, but is SO BAD for us. (I need to build some side-rails on that wagon I keep falling off of!)
The battle against inflammation begins!