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Inflammation: What the Heck is it?


Most of us have experienced stubbing a toe that has resulted in a throbbing pain and swelling.  The natural, very important, and beneficial bodily response is called inflammation.  Inflammation is an immune reaction in the body triggered by injury or infection.  When either occurs, our body secretes substances called “mediators” that rush to the tissues to help with healing.  These “mediators” cause swelling, redness, increased blood flow which in turn makes the area red and hot.  These side effects of inflammation cue us to favor the affected body part and decrease use in order to allow time to heal.  This immediate response is referred to as “acute inflammation” and plays an important role in our immune function.

Acute inflammation is a natural process that is vital in the healing process, but when it is prolonged and unable to resolve itself, inflammation becomes chronic, or long-term, and may lead to a list of ailments including dementia, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, hormonal imbalances, gastrointestinal issues, and arthritis.

Chronic Inflammation inside the body is similar to having sunburn, but at the cellular level—it can be temporary, but also may cause injury that radiates further than just the affected area.  Because this inflammatory process is microscopic, sometimes symptoms can be masked for years and years.  Often times, the first sign of underlying chronic inflammation is the development of joint pain that just won’t go away, persistent headaches, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune diseases, to name a few.

Chronic inflammation is a broad term used to describe the side effects of diets high in foods typically not tolerated, unmanaged psychological stress, toxic exposure (both chemical and food intolerances), suboptimal physical fitness, extreme exercise, poor sleep habits, excess body fat, as well as certain nutritional deficiencies. Body parts become inflamed as a defense mechanism.  This causes a cascade of immunological reactions (meaning it involves the immune system) that damages perfectly healthy cells.

In practice as a Registered Dietitian, often times I will have clients utilize an “elimination diet” which involves complete avoidance of common inflammatory foods with a strategic re-introduction of each food group in an effort to identify foods that our body may not agree with or be “sensitive” to.  Common symptoms of food sensitivity are headache, brain fog, gastrointestinal distress, autoimmunity, hormonal imbalance, skin issues, and fatigue, to name a few.  However, elimination diets do take time as foods needs to be eliminated for at least 4-6 weeks and then slowly reintroduced back into the diet.  Additionally, accidental exposure to any of the foods could also derail the outcomes of the experiment.

However, if a client presents with numerous symptoms that may not be well- controlled with dietary strategies they have attempted on their own, a food sensitivity test is usually recommended.  This provides a static reporting of foods that are causing a response from your immune system and creates silent underlying inflammation which has widespread effects throughout the body.  Food sensitivity testing includes identifying sensitivities to fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins, dairy products, grains, nuts, seeds, food additives, seasonings, natural and synthetic food chemicals, as well as chemicals found in common toiletries and medications.  Based on results of the food sensitivity testing, you will be able to create a menu from foods that are better tolerated by your specific biology.

The menu of food items is divided into different phases based on the level of reactivity. For the first two weeks, the “ImmunoCalm” involves only eating your least reactive foods, then after a few weeks incorporating more and more reactive foods in a strategic manner. This process takes upwards of six months, but reap so many powerful benefits.

 

Here is a sample report: sample-leap-mrt-report

 

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