28 Mar 2015
What Is Inflammation Anyway?
Think of inflammation as a fire.
When you are first inflamed, you have a little fire burning in the fireplace. It is manageable, but still present and giving off heat. You need to keep an eye on it and put it out before the fire grows too big. Your body does the exact same thing. When you cause inflammation in your body through stress, hormones or diet, the body calls in the fire engines and paramedics to put out the fire and check if any people (cells) need help. Ideally, the body puts out the fire quietly and quickly and life goes on.
Let’s assume you are sensitive to gluten (over 90% of the population is) and you eat a breakfast as I once did consisting of whole wheat energy bars. When the wheat is broken down, it enters the blood stream and starts causing little fires all over the body. The fire crews are called in and no sooner do they start fighting the fire, here comes the bread from a sandwich you ate. Now the fire is blazing, and the body calls in reinforcements. The fire crews are exhausted, but now it’s time for a work out.
You start running on the treadmill with a goal of 30-45 minutes of cardio or playing water polo as I did. Alarm bells sound: “All hands on deck! All hands on deck! We are running away from a predator. We need everyone working!” The stress signal is zipping through your body as you are dutifully running trying to follow the mantra: cardio is good for you.
With all hands on deck, the burning fires from the gluten start burning out of control, but the body has more important things to worry about: mobilizing enough glucose, cortisol and glycogen (if needed), elevating blood pressure and heart rate to run away from this dangerous beast. You switch to flight or fight mode. Please note I am not against working out. A lot of research is suggesting that chronic cardio is actually more dangerous to your health than HIT (high intensity training.)
Phew, the work out is over and you are starved. Time for that delicious carb-reload of a huge plate of pasta. Your cortisol levels are still high after the workout because the tiger just might return and the body can’t let its guard down. As your body tries to bring itself into recovery mode and return to fighting the fires from the gluten, here comes a tidal wave of wheat from your pasta. **Since the effects of wheat are the same on your body whether it is whole wheat or white, I do not discriminate between the 2 when I am explaining the damage wheat causes.**
The tidal wave brings waves of kindling to the open fires and they explode into forest fires. Your exhausted body now has to work even harder to bring the fires under control, but now the cells are being affected. Your body mounts an immune response against these invading gluten molecules. Signals are sent to your brain that you are stressed, consequently now is not a good time to ovulate and your hypothalamus (a small spot in your brain) starts sending signals to your ovaries, thyroid and adrenals to lower your body’s levels of sex hormones causing an unhealthy imbalance.
With the pasta dinner in your body, you start to feel sleepy, but your favorite TV show is on at 10pm and you cannot wait to see what happens to Olivia Pope or the Bachelor or in Game of Thrones. To pass the time, maybe you surf the net, or channel surf. Most of us are guilty of spending our evenings in front of a blinking blue light. This blue light sends a signal to your hypothalamus saying it is daylight, to keep cortisol (your wide awake hormone) levels up and lower melatonin (your sleepy hormone) levels. Finally, you stumble into bed around 1115 and set your alarm for 6 am. If you are lucky, you will get a measly 6 hours of sleep, starting a sleep debt. You lay in bed, your mind racing about the TV show, trying to fall asleep. Did you know lack of sleep also contributes to inflammation?
Meanwhile your body is racing around trying to get the forest fires under control and bring down cortisol levels because the tiger isn’t coming back. Bells ring and the words “detox, detox” come out. The workers look at each other, shake their head and say, “we have more important things to do than to detox the body and repair all the damage for the day. We will save that for another day.” But, another day doesn’t come, because all we do is rinse and repeat the next day, the next week, the next month and year. We slowly become horribly inflamed and develop different diseases such as eczema, glaucoma, allergies, arthritis, lupus, pancreatitis, endometriosis and many, many more.
If the disease has a suffix (the last few letters) of ‘itis’, you can be assured it is a disease caused by inflammation.