When You're Hot, You're Hot: What's Up with Inflammation?

 

I'm often inspired to see life as a ongoing dance with the intricate systems Nature has designed to keep us running. A lot like a love relationship with its ups and downs, I'd say. The immune system, for example, hums quietly in the background, a dance so easy and natural I forget it's happening until suddenly the music changes, and a toothache or head cold complicates my daily rhythm. Just the immune system staying current with its job requirements. Though the symptoms may be unpleasant, like an argument with your honey, there's no real problem. In fact, acute, short-term inflammation (fever, swelling, pain) is a sign your immune system is healthy and ready to get you back out on the dance floor ASAP.

The Slow Burn

But what if that vital, acute response turns into a chronic burn that never really returns to normal? The natural healing response becomes hyperactive and begins to tear down rather than heal. Pain becomes more the norm than the exception; chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions start to show up; we feel stressed; in a word, we "age." Chronic inflammation is like a simmering argument or constant, enervating noise. Not good; and often we reach for relief via drugs like ibuprofen et al. that can be real miracles for acute conditions but are bad medicine in the long run.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Alternative medicine and the real food movement want to address the primary causes of the slow burn, not just cover up symptoms. Researchers are learning more and more about the central role the gut plays in the immune system. What we eat directly effects the complex and delicate dance between "inside" and "outside," between what the innate intelligence of the immune system allows in and what it attacks as an outsider. What we eat is not just a source of calories and nutrients for us; it also feeds the trillions of microorganisms in the gut that are a vital aspect of that intelligence. (for more info on this fascinating topic see Brain Maker. by David Perlmutter and The Gut Balance Revolution by Gerard Mullin) 

Although we may try to eat well, the other part of the equation is how we source our food. Distortion of our outer ecosystem with pesticides, hormones, GMO's, depleted soils, and heavy metals puts our inner ecosystem on constant alert. We are evolutionarily interwoven with our air, water, food, soils, plants, and animals in one, living process that can't be separated. Primal living means caring about not only our own health but the health of our ecosystems too.