When a client comes to see me for the first time, I play the role of detective. As they tell me their story, each bit of information reveals a clue as to how they wound up where they are now: sitting in my office with unexplained fatigue, mysterious pain, or any other vague, inflammatory symptom. No matter what or where the symptoms are, I want to find out what’s causing them. In working with my clients, whether they have a diagnosis or not, I have found addressing these five pillars help reduce inflammation, which is the root of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain issues like ADHD, depression and anxiety, cancer, autoimmune disease, and more.
Before getting into the five pillars, it is important to understand that inflammation is the body’s natural response to disease and injury. When you come down with a respiratory infection or cut yourself, your immune system activates white blood cells, which in turn release cytokines and other inflammatory molecules to attack the invaders, therefore protecting our tissues. When the response is temporary, it serves as an effective defense mechanism. But when inflammation does not let up, it can contribute to disease. This goes from “good” inflammation to “bad.” The alarming fact is that three out of five people around the world die from a disease that has been linked to inflammation. That is why it is so important to combat chronic inflammation with these five pillars and stop the process in its tracks!
# 1 - Heal Your Gut
This is priority number one! Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health because 80% of your immune system is located there. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and disease. As a Functional Nutritionist gut healing is two fold; first I need to assess for good digestion, absorption and elimination, and second for a healthy microbiome.
I will add more details in another blog post, but it is important to note, the human gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) is home to trillions of bacteria that are essential to humans for regulation of metabolism, nourishment, immune function, and resisting infections. This means that we are 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 different bacterial species. Most microbes in the human GI tract are thought to be commensal or beneficial. These “good” gut bacteria are responsible for the production of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, short chain fatty acids, and other metabolic byproducts that keep the bowels and body functioning optimally. However, our bodies can also be host to opportunistic/pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses, and H. Pylori. These all have been associated with inflammation and leaky gut.
A quick tidbit regarding leaky gut, because this is important to healing the gut…
It should be noted that the contents of the gut are technically outside of the body. The gut is a hollow tube that starts with the mouth and ends with the anus, and anything that goes in the mouth and that is not digested should pass out the other end. This is a major function of the gut >>> to prevent foreign substances from entering the body. When the barrier becomes permeable or leaky, large proteins escape into the bloodstream. Once these proteins get outside the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them.
Mucosal Biologist, Alessio Fasano now believes that leaky gut is a precondition to developing autoimmunity “There is a growing body of evidence that increased permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Therefore, we hypothesize that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity.”
Once there is a breach of the intestinal barrier, toxins and other foreign invaders can affect not only the gut, but other organs and tissues as well.
It is also crucial to understand that having a leaky gut does not necessarily mean you have to have gut symptoms. Leaky gut can manifest as skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, autoimmune conditions that affect other parts of the body like the thyroid (hashimotos) or the joints (like RA), mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, depression and more.
#2 - Optimize Your Diet
For many people, diet is their primary source of inflammation, often gluten, dairy, corn, soy, grains, legumes and industrial seed oils need to be removed. They all can contribute to leaky gut, which takes you back to “healing your gut” and are a major cause of inflammation because of the anti-nutrients they contain.
My job is to optimize a person’s diet and help figure out not only which macronutrients may be missing or out of balance (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates), but also which micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc.) When the body becomes deficient in these two components we start to see imbalances, which show up as symptoms. For instance, when someone has bumps on the back of their arm, they may seek out a dermatologist. Most likely the dermatologist will give them a cream, tell them they have hyperkeratosis and send them on their way. When I have a client tell me they have bumps on the back of their arm, I know this is correlated to a Vitamin A deficiency. So I start to think, “Is this person not getting enough Vitamin A in their diet? Is this person not digesting their fats very well, since Vitamin A is fat-soluble vitamin? If they are not digesting their fats well then would more susceptible to other vitamin deficiencies like D, E, and K since these vitamins are fat-soluble too. I will also look to see if there are other symptoms that correlate with Vitamin A deficiency, such as respiratory infections, reduced immunity, loss of taste and smell.” From there I take in other symptoms and assess their current diet to help formulate a plan to help remove the symptom (bumps on the back of the arm), not cover it up by using a cream, which does not solve the original problem.
As for specifics on diet, every person who comes to see me will have similar foundations we need to set into place, such as eating nutrient dense proteins, high quality fats, such as avocado oil, EVOO, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and maintains good blood sugar regulation, with fiber rich fruits and vegetables that are full of color, providing antioxidants and polyphenols. Beyond that, diets may need to be tailored to what is presenting in the body. For instance, if there is a candida overgrowth, we will need to focus on an anti-candida diet. Or if a person is presenting with histamine issues, we would want to explore a lot histamine diet. As you can see, there are many nuances to diet and recommendations are made on an individual basis, this is why no one diet works for all!
One last concept in relationship to diet, is that many who have inflammation also have food sensitivities...because they have a leaky gut. This can be addressed by doing an MRT Food Sensitivity Test. (If you would like to learn more about MRT Testing I will be adding information to my site, so make sure to check back, or reach out to me directly).
# 3- Reduce Your Toxins
For many working on gut health and optimizing food and nutrition via a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet will be enough. Buf if these two things do not get you to where you want to be, addressing and reducing your exposure to toxins may be the next step to reducing your inflammation.
What is a toxin? >>> A toxin is any substance that poses danger to the body. This includes things you know are problematic, such as heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium, industrial chemicals and pollutants, and pesticides. But it can also include common products you may not think of as being toxic, such as home cleaning products, body products, and even makeup. Finally it can also include mycotoxins, which are released by certain types of mold.
I will write more about toxin exposure in another post and will explain where we are getting exposed, how the effects of toxins on our tissues is very complex, and what we can do to reduce our exposure and eliminate them from our bodies.
#4 - Heal Your Infections
Some infections will be discovered by addressing your gut health. Healing your infections, like H. Pylori, candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), etc. will bring about great results. But infections can be caused by viruses and other bacteria too (that often go systemic into different parts of our body like your lungs, kidneys, brain, joints to name a few). The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is one virus that has been studied extensively and has been strongly correlated with multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), lupus, fibromyalgia, Graves’ disease, and Sjögren’s syndrome…all are autoimmune conditions. Several bacterial infections are also associated with autoimmunity. Yersinia is associated with autoimmune thyroid conditions, and Klebsiella infections have been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis.
When working together, we will often have to get to the root of these infections as they cause our immune system to be on high alert.
#5 Relieve Your Stress
Reducing our stressors is the elephant in the room. We all know this is a major player in our overall health, but it often gets overlooked or not addressed, which prevents us from moving forward in our process of healing. The first four pillars all cause stress on our immune system, and this is why they need to be addressed when someone is showing an inflammatory process. The job of the immune system is to come and put out the fire. Stress comes in many forms, it can be emotional, mental, or physical; it can come from physical injury, sleep deprivation, exposure to toxins, leaky gut, or eating a diet full of inflammatory foods and void of good nutrients. Some of the stressors are easy to pick out, but others are hidden, such as nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, anemia’s, and this is my job to help find them and bring them back into balance. It is also important to note, that while stress reduction is essential, there are some stressors that are unavoidable, so adopting practices such as meditation, gratitude journaling, spending time with loved ones, and getting outdoors in a natural setting all can be used to help mitigate the stressors we just can’t escape.
Addressing these five pillars can empower you to reverse your symptoms naturally – restoring your energy, vitality, and health.
If you are looking to get to the root cause of your issues once and for all, reach out and set up an appointment today!