Chronic Inflammation: Your genetic code is not hard-set. Lifestyle and environment can alter your genetic code.
Let’s just start Part II by saying that the body is one amazing creation! You do something, eat something, think something and there is an entire cascade of events that happen inside your body. The result is good/bad, necessary/unnecessary. Whether you like it or not, it’s happening. But there are ways to alter the cascade. Part II will be looking more into empowering you–you just have to make a choice.
So last time (Part I) we looked a bit at the inflammatory process and where your medicines (NSAIDS, corticosteroids) come into play. And how dietary nutrients can also alter the inflammatory process by halting the very enzymatic processes that the medicines do, without all the unwanted effects. (I had a doctor friend that used to say “there are no side effects, those are the effects. It just happens to be that they are unwanted”).
Now lets say that you may be at risk for or already have symptoms of some of the disease processes mentioned in Part I: cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s/dementia, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders (Celiac, Crohn’s, Diabetes Type 1, Systemic Lupus, Sjogren’s, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis) to name a few. As I mentioned in Part I, “many of the risk factors for chronic inflammation are modifiable and genetic factors play a modest role in most chronic inflammatory conditions.” Seventy percent of autoimmune disorders are environmental, while 30% are genetic.
Well then, that means we can do something about it. The control is in your hands–what activities you do (or don’t do), what you put in your mouth (or don’t) and how stressed you are (or not).
Lifestyle & Environment
Lifestyle and environment can affect genomic expression, meaning you can alter your genes for a more favorable (or unfavorable) outcome. Here are some ways.
- Anti-inflammatory lifestyle= Omega 3-fatty acids (more on this in Part III), high fiber diet, low glycemic diet (click for more info), more frequent bouts of physical activity (5 minutes every hour at the least); Supplements and dietary nutrients (more on this in Part III).
- Lifestyle factors contributing to chronic inflammation:
- Exercise too much or too little
- Standard American diet (diet high in trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, high glycemic diet, low fiber diet)
- Obesity (by the way, you can be “skinny fat” where you have low muscle mass but high visceral (around your organs) fat. So just because your thin on the outside, doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about chronic inflammation.)
- Sleep deprivation
- Acute and chronic stress
Lets talk a little more about stress. Stress can be a cause of chronic inflammation just on its own. Say you have a high stress job and kids and you’re running around on caffeine and very little sleep, but have a moderately good diet–the stress of your life can still be at the root of your chronic inflammation.
- Stress and Inflammation
- Acute physical and emotional stress can lead to increase in inflammatory markers (IL-6, TNF-a)
- With acute stress, Cortisol is released, which in turn releases glucose for energy use
- Cortisol is necessary and should not always be thought of as “bad.” It’s mobilizing energy when you need it, (ie you have to run across the street to miss a car). It becomes an issue when we have overload from chronic stresses and cortisol levels stay elevated.
- Long-term cortisol leads to increased levels of blood sugar which leads to increased weight gain which in turn causes shrinkage of the hippocampus (short-term memory center in the brain)–these are the cascades you want to avoid.
- Eventually cortisol production will shut down in the presence of long-term stimulation, leading to immunosuppression with increase in inflammatory markers such as CRP.
- How to combat it?
- Hmm, I’m kinda partial to yoga and meditation. See my post here about how to create balance in your life.
- Breath awareness, see this link for a handout on breath awareness
- Do more things that make you smile.
- Change your work/life situation if you can.
How much sleep did you get last night? Or the night before? Well, chronic sleep deprivation can also cause chronic inflammation.
- Sleep Deprivation
- Higher inflammatory markers are present
- Single night of deprivation results in inflammatory markers that persist for days (so thinking about playing catch-up tonight? Those inflammatory markers will still be with you even after a good nights sleep. Think about the implications of every night being a poor sleeping night)
- Those with sleep apnea have increased levels of cytokines
- It’s important to get to Stage IV of the sleep cycle, where the growth hormones are replenished. If you are stuck in REM cycle (dream cycle) the entire time, you haven’t fully slept. Sleep aides/medications often leave you in the top cycles and never allow for Stage IV, so you feel like you’ve slept, but you’re still tired. See this link for an infographic on the sleep cycles.
- Magnesium: 400-800mg, 30 minutes prior to bedtime–this must be in check first before you try Valerian or Melatonin, otherwise these may not be as effective. Decreases sleep latency, improves sleep efficiency and increases total sleep time. See Dr Hyman’s post on Magnesium. Please also check out this link to precautions for Magnesium supplementation.
- Valerian: 450mg Valerian Extract one hour prior to bedtime–improves sleep quality and latency, watch for withdrawal symptoms upon stopping after long-term use
- Melatonin: 0.3mgto 3mg, 30 minutes prior to bedtime–reduces sleep latency, improves sleep quality and associated with circadian rhythm
- Sleep Hygiene: Also important to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. First thing upon waking, open the blinds for natural light. No bright lights/computer 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime.
Exercise & Movement
A sedentary lifestyle may also be a predictor of chronic disease. We spend an average of 9.3 hours/ day sitting–even more time than we spend sleeping (~7.7 hours).
- Cascade of sedentary lifestyle:
- Increased abdominal adipose–>
- Macrophage infiltration of visceral fat–>
- Chronic systemic inflammation–>
- Insulin resistance, Atherosclerosis, Neurodegeneration, Tumor growth–>
- Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, breast cancer, dementia and depression all mediated by inflammation (See my post for more on depression and inflammation)
- Evidence suggests the protective effects of exercise may be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of regular exercise.
- Evidence that regular yoga practice lowers pro-inflammatory markers
- Cascade of sedentary lifestyle:
Starting to get some ideas about how you can reduce inflammation and alter your pathway? Less stress (it’s going to be there, but how will you let it affect you?), more sleep (what’s one thing you can carve out of your day to allow 7-8 hours), and more activity throughout the day (how about that lunch time 10 minute walk instead of surfing the web?). And of course, get away from the Standard American Diet……
Part III will bring it down to the nitty gritty. I will provide a handy take-home for recommended supplements to lower your overall inflammation–making you less susceptible to the chronic disease. It’s all up to you!
I welcome your feedback and hope that if you find this helpful, you will share with your colleagues and your friends. Click here to Contact Tianna to see how she can assist you with learning how inflammation might be affecting your life, and what you can do about it.
Living: Inflammation Free eBook
I usually reserve this for clients only, but I wanted to share it with you too. I know information and books can be expensive, so this one is FREE. Do you have lasting pain? Are you feeling sad and don’t know why? Wondering if those medications are really helping decrease your inflammation? Or are their side effects wreaking havoc on your body?
Find out why you should be concerned about chronic inflammation, how it causes lasting pain, perhaps depression and how you can make positive changes just by changing a few things in your life. Hint: it’s not the same for everyone! Anti-inflammatory Shopping list and Recipes included.
1. Chronic Inflammation: Special Focus, Nutritional Interventions; by Dr Mike Lara, MD, Berkeley, CA; October 2, 2014, Sponsored by Institute for Brain Potential
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