Inflammation is like a ravaging fire burning through the body and is known to be the central cause of many different diseases including arthritis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, peripheral neuropathy, ADD/ADHD, and the list goes on. Since chronic inflammation negatively affects health in so many ways, addressing the cause is the only real way to treat these diseases at their core, instead of just treating the symptoms. Since typical allopathic doctors prescribe medication for the symptoms of a disease, the real cause, inflammation, is never addressed. While treating inflammation is not an easy task, it can be done with a holistic understanding of the body. Without further ado, let’s dive into the subject of systemic inflammation, its underlying causes, and treatment options.
Inflammatory diseases throughout the body are a direct result of improper gut physiology. Since the intestines have to be semi-permeable to allow digested food particles to enter, here in lies the problem, holes in the intestines. When these holes are too large, the intestines are far more permeable and allow larger micron substances to enter the bloodstream. The main reason for excessively large holes in the intestines stems from a Candida overgrowth, which often originates from antibiotic use. The fungal form of Candida punches holes into the intestines with its hyphae. These hyphae are like hooks that dig directly into the lining of the intestines so Candida can secure a foothold. i
These holes contribute to a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) that creates a wide range of problems throughout the body. Leaky Gut Syndrome contributes to increased gut permeability and allows larger particles to enter the bloodstream. These foreign invaders are then immediately attacked by the immune system. These substances include undigested food particles, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and yeast, things that certainly don’t belong in the bloodstream. Constantly attacking these invaders places an enormous burden on the immune system, and leads to a state of chronic inflammation. An unrelenting immune system response causes inflammatory cytokines to circulate throughout the bloodstream, attacking anything and everything, including healthy tissue. ii
So in other words, dealing with a Candida overgrowth by replacing it with a healthy gut flora throughout the intestines and allowing the holes in the gut to heal are the first steps to reducing inflammation levels throughout the body. We will focus more on treating a Candida overgrowth a bit later.
Other contributing factors to Leaky Gut Syndrome include elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and abnormal thyroid hormone levels. Since the thyroid and adrenal glands work in a pair, when TSH levels go up, cortisol levels also increase. iii
In the situation of reoccurring Leaky Gut Syndrome, the microvilli, cells on the lining of the intestine, responsible for nutrient absorption, lose their functional ability. In this case, digestion becomes extremely inefficient, as essential nutrients aren’t absorbed properly.
As inflammation becomes commonplace throughout the body, inflammatory cytokines circulate throughout the bloodstream and affect everything they come in contact with. In many cases, this results in pain and dysfunction throughout the nervous tissue, organs, connective tissue, muscles, and the joints. iv In short, all bodily tissues are subject to an autoimmune assault.
What Diseases Are Associated Directly To Chronic Inflammation?
The list of diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation are quite long. If you are suffering from one or more of these diseases, inflammation is something that clearly needs to be addressed.
As you can see, so many common diseases stem directly from chronic inflammation. While inflammatory cytokines aren’t necessarily bad, in fact, they are required to mount an immune response and keep the body healthy overall, chronic inflammation must be addressed to treat autoimmune conditions.
So now let’s focus on addressing inflammation, both from the perspective of allopathic and naturopathic doctors.
Allopathic doctors, typically known as Western medicine doctors, generally look to suppress the immune system with various drugs, stomping out chronic inflammation. The goal of this approach is to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases through immune system suppression. Typically immunosuppressive agents or steroids are used, but they don’t address the actual problem beneath it all, chronic inflammation.
If you talked to your doctor about an autoimmune medical condition and they responded by writing a prescription for any one of the immunosuppressive drugs on the market, realize that this doesn’t correct the true cause of the problem. In fact, these drugs cause some unwanted side effects, like liver damage. Some of the drugs that are typically prescribed include Methotrexate, Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade. v
From a Functional Medicine perspective, the goal in treating autoimmune conditions or diseases is to target the source of the problem, inflammation. In all reality, inflammation stems directly back to an unhealthy gut flora. Even in situations where someone doesn’t experience pain in the abdominal region, they may still be suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Dr. Maios Hadjivassiliou, a world authority on gluten sensitivity, stated that “gluten sensitivity can be primarily, and at times, exclusively a neurological disease.” What this means is that many people have neurological issues associated with gluten, sensitivity but no abdominal pain, as the antibodies that the immune system creates to target gluten are toxic to the brain. As these antibodies circulate throughout the bloodstream, they have the potential to target any number of bodily tissues, ultimately resulting in chronic inflammation.
The same is true with Celiac disease. Often, people who are suffering from this condition don’t have pain in the abdominal region, but instead, suffer from neurological problems that include a chronic headache, learning disorders, ADHD, and hypotonia. v
It is clearly evident that chronic inflammation creates a diverse number of problems within the body. So how do we target inflammation at its source and improve gut health, so we don’t suffer from autoimmune conditions?
The importance that gut health plays in our overall health is becoming more and more apparent due to a wide range of recent studies on the gut flora. In fact, it is safe to say that we are as healthy as our gut flora allows us to be. There are some ways to improve gut flora, beat back a systemic Candida infection, and reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body.
First, let’s focus on the most important aspects to address, as they lead to gastrointestinal dysfunction and result in chronic inflammation.
First and foremost, diet has a huge impact on the gut flora, certain foods, like naturally fermented cabbage, otherwise known as kimchi, can replenish healthy bacteria levels. On the other hand, there are plenty of foods that contribute to inflammation and should be avoided when suffering from inflammatory conditions.
Food that contains gluten, casein, sugar, and any processed or fast food should simply be avoided. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to chronic inflammation and should also be avoided. vi
We will focus more on healthy food choices a bit later.
There is a broad range of medications that contribute to inflammation. First, antibiotics which have been over prescribed throughout the last couple of decades are known to be the leading cause of chronic inflammation. The reason for this is because antibiotics kill off both healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria, allowing opportunistic organisms like Candida to replace them. As Candida takes a foothold, it is nearly impossible to displace this organism with a healthy diet or probiotics. Since the fungal version of Candida contains hyphae that latch into the intestines, removing this organism presents a bit of a challenge. However, the only way to allow the body to repair itself is to address the underlying cause of chronic inflammation that stems from Leaky Gut Syndrome, Candida.
Other medications like corticosteroids also kill off gut bacteria, while antacid drugs completely throw the pH balance of the entire digestive tract into disarray. vii Many of these drugs contain harmful chemicals that may end up completely changing the biochemistry of the body. These rogue chemicals, otherwise known as Xenobiotics, don’t belong inside us. It is important to understand the contents of any medication and ask questions before consuming it.
Infections like H. pylori, other harmful bacteria, viruses, yeast, or parasitic infections creates an inner ecosystem that heightens the immune response and eventually results in chronic inflammation. viii
Stress is terrible for the body on so many levels, and while it is necessary for certain situations, a chronically stressed state is linked to many different medical conditions. When stress levels are high, cortisol levels and catecholamines are also high. The damaging effects of long-term high cortisol levels and catecholamines are noted to contribute to a wide range of health maladies. ix
When the gut flora isn’t properly balanced, all of the systems of the body also experience imbalances. One notable imbalance is improper hormone levels. When levels of testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, and thyroid hormone aren’t present in normal concentrations, a cascading effect of health problems is the result.
Brain trauma, nerve damage, and a history of stroke, all play a role in the inflammatory response of the body.
The process of sugar metabolism results in glycosylated end products, which contribute to intestinal inflammation and autoimmune diseases. x
By looking at these seven areas that often have a role in chronic inflammation, we can focus more on certain risk factors and address these problems at their core.
There are blood tests that are used to determine inflammation levels throughout the body. Three commonly used tests include C-reactive protein (CRP), Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR), and a blood platelet measurement. Also, a test for the amount of serum protein levels is useful, as low protein levels often lead to continued inflammation, as the body doesn’t have the building blocks necessary to heal itself.
Unfortunately, most people can’t address all the causes of inflammation on their own, but lifestyle choices certainly play a huge role in reducing chronic inflammation. Ideally, work with a holistic practitioner who understands how to deal with Inflammation issues and allow them to develop a program designed to improve gut flora, as a healthy microbiome, the term given for the bacterial makeup of an organism, is the greatest contributing factor towards ideal health. In all reality, you can only be as healthy as your bacteria allow you to be.
In all reality, the number one thing that people have control over are their food choices and with enough willpower, can change their health for the better.
Anyone who is dealing with inflammatory conditions should avoid food that has been known to cause inflammation. Some items on this list, like coffee, may be hard to quit but could be a significant source of inflammation. Anyone who is committed to reducing their inflammation levels should avoid all the foods on this list.
– Processed meats
– Refined sugar
– High carbohydrate diets
– High sodium food
– Dairy products
– Red meat
– Deep fried foods
There are also food sources that have anti-inflammatory effects. People who commit themselves to the food choices on this list may eventually find that their inflammation levels drop.
Eating food like organic fruits and vegetables, cold water, omega-3 rich fish, healthy nuts, and seeds can offer lots of protection against the ravages of inflammation.
– Whole fruits like berries, pineapple, and avocado
– Whole vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, and garlic
– Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in methylmercury, like sardines
– Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pecans
– Seeds like flax, pumpkin, and chia
– Oils like olive oil
Also, consider adding other items in the diet like ginger root, turmeric, and green tea, as all of these have been shown to reduce inflammation levels. xi
There are some supplements that may aid in reducing inflammation levels. First, consume plenty of minerals, most notably magnesium, as this can play a huge role in preventing inflammation. Also, consume enough vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3, and be certain to get enough vitamin D, whether from a dietary supplement or the sun. Consuming a high-quality probiotic supplement also may also go a long way in improving the gut flora and target the problem at its core. xii
Leaky Gut Syndrome forces the immune system to remain in a heightened state of attack, as chronic inflammation is the only way the body can fight off these invaders. However, inflammation is a double-edged sword, as it attacks the body’s healthy tissue and is ultimately the cause behind so many health maladies. This is why getting to the source of the problem, unbalanced gut flora, is the only way to treat it.
Instead of resorting to Western Medicine that uses immunosuppressive drugs or steroids that only put a Band-Aid on the problem, but don’t improve the underlying condition, get to the root of the issue and face it head on.
From balancing the gut flora with probiotics, along with an aggressive Candida removal program, to making purposeful lifestyle choices, chronic inflammation can ultimately be reduced. Instead of always living in a body that is fighting off disease and sickness at every turn, target the root of the problem.
To Know If You Are Chronically Inflamed and Our Targeted Recommendations to Help Reduce Inflammation Call Our Office Today to Set up a Consultation with One of Our Expert Team Members: 773.878.7330
Meet Shannon Ford, a functional medicine expert passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness. With over ten years of experience in the field, Shannon has dedicated her career to understanding the underlying causes of chronic diseases and finding personalized solutions for her patients. Her approach focuses on treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms, using a combination of nutrition, lifestyle changes, and cutting-edge medical technologies. Through her work, Shannon has helped countless individuals regain their health and vitality, and she is committed to continuing her mission to empower people to live their best lives.