The inflammatory response should be considered synonymous with the stress response. So when we look at inflammation, we need to evaluate the cause in terms of physical, chemical and emotional stress. The main culprit with physical stress can be trauma from recent or old injuries. This is where chiropractic, massage and physical therapy come into play. But the biggest physical stress is a sedentary lifestyle – you have to move your body! Exercise of the joints and muscles stimulates the coordination center of the brain which feeds into the emotional system to inhibit the stress response. In terms of chemical stress, it amazes me in this day and age that people don’t see the connection between how they feel with what they eat, drink and breathe. Sugars, grains (yes, all grains!) and oils are all pro-inflammatory. They will feed into the stress response and increase your pain/inflammation levels. Fortunately, nature provides us with an antidote. The minerals and antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables shut off the stress response in the brain and reduce inflammation in the body. Omega three fatty acids from fish oil and flax seeds are essential building blocks for all your anti-inflammatory hormones in your body and should be included. I’m a very big fan of doing regular detoxification programs to reduce the environmental toxins we invariably take in regardless of how clean our diets are. Emotional stress can be the hardest one. This is the essence of the stress response and since our way of thinking is a habit, it can be hard to change. Just like the diet, you start eliminating negative emotional stress by replacing it with positive thoughts and feelings. This is literally how the brain works. Instead of focusing on all your worries, regrets, and fears, make a gratitude list that you add to every day and review in the mornings and evenings. Purchase a guided meditation c.d. where someone walks you through the process of quieting your mind and reducing the stress response. This should be a 10 minute ritual every day. The biggest thing with emotional stress is simply becoming more aware of your thoughts and learning to cultivate you way of thinking. The brain is just like a garden – it will grow flowers and weeds equally well.
Reducing inflammation may be the single most effective thing you can do to feel better and achieve a higher level of wellness. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, bowel disoreders, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are all directly related to increased inflammation associated with the stress response. Look at some of these tips to see where you can make the biggest impact in your lifestyle to begin turning things around.