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We hear a lot about inflammation. Internally, it can be linked to accelerated aging, heart disease, cancer, irritable bowel and chron’s disease, and arthritis. So what is inflammation?

Think about what happens when you cut your finger. It swells and turns red as your body sends white blood cells to the injury site to prevent foreign invaders from causing infection. The swelling caused by this reaction is inflammation, and it is good, in this instance. But this same low-grade inflammation can occur inside your body, making you susceptible to pain and disease.

A main cause of inflammation is low-grade intestinal infection caused by parasites, yeast overgrowth (candida), fungus, or pathogenic bacteria. Your immune system is constantly fighting these infections, and similar to the reaction you get when you cut your finger, the attack it mounts on these foreign invaders causes inflammation in the gastro-intestinal tract. The bacteria H pylori is a perfect example: this insidious bacteria always causes inflammation in the gut and can lead to heart burn (inflammation in the esophagus) and ulcers. Systemic inflammation is always implicated in cardiovascular disease, and h pylori has been linked to heart disease.

Eating foods to which you are allergic (most often gluten or dairy) can exacerbate this intestinal inflammation and worsen infections or even cause them, because inflammation damages the gut lining, making it more permeable so that viruses and bacteria and parasites have an easier way in.

Another cause of inflammation is stress, of course. Stress causes high cortisol, and high cortisol leads to inflammation. Correcting cortisol lessens the body’s inflammatory response, so its ability to handle inflammation improves. Cortisol is your body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone, but when stress raises cortisol, it actually causes inflammation. Chronic stress and digestive problems lead to inflammation, causing high cortisol, which causes an inability to burn body fat, and weight gain leads to more inflammation. A vicious cycle!

Other sources of inflammation include toxicity from your food, water, or environment. Pollution, chemicals from cosmetics, use of alcohol or drugs (legal and otherwise), and the Standard American Diet of caffeine, sugar (a HUGE contributor to inflammation), and refined foods all contribute to inflammation.

So, how do you know if you have it? Symptoms include the following:
-high blood pressure
-high cholesterol
-weight gain
-heartburn (acid reflux)
-inflamed skin conditions like eczema or acne
-chronic pain and arthritis
-diagnosis with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colitis, Chron’s disease, or gastritis
-yeast infections or candidiasis
-diabetes

What should you do about it?

First off, clean up your diet. Cut out gluten, soy, and dairy, and consider food allergy testing to determine which foods are causing your gut to be inflamed. Eat dark leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, and chard–high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids–and eat other omega-3 rich foods like salmon, walnuts, and grass fed beef. Cut out sugar, booze, and caffeine. Consider a fish oil supplement to boost your omega-3 levels.

Clean up your gut with a good digestive cleanse. Consider parasite testing, then choose the proper herbs or meds to kill whatever uninvited inhabitants are lurking. Correct dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria) with probiotics and probiotic-rich foods like cultured veggies and kefir. Choose a probiotic with S. boulardi.

Finally, reduce stress and test your adrenal hormones to correct high cortisol. You can bring high cortisol levels down with bio-identical hormones, but you need to test first. Get plenty of sleep and don’t over-exercise! Meditate or do some deep breathing.