We have heard it a million times before. One of the keys to maintaining a robust immune system is lowering inflammation. An article published on MDLinx online mentions several ways we may unknowingly be weakening our immune system. Factors discussed in the article include:
- Eating foods that contain too much fructose
- High daily stress levels
- Lack of adequate sleep (…starting to sound familiar?)
None of the items above are particularly surprising – we know what’s good for our bodies (not fructose!) and our minds (definitely not stress) – so how does the immune system become compromised?
When inflammation goes awry
Inflammation is one of our body’s defense mechanisms; it’s a normal, healthy, and necessary biological function. When the body identifies a threat or a foreign invader, it releases inflammatory chemicals to initiate the repair process. But under repeated “assaults” it can remain in a state of heightened inflammation and this is when the trouble begins.
When the body is constantly producing inflammatory chemicals, the function of the Central Nervous System which controls most bodily functions is undermined and can compromise other systems like the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, the cells that are meant to help fight infection become damaged, and the body’s ability to fight disease is diminished. One can literally get caught in a debilitating cycle of cellular degeneration and dysregulation.
The items mentioned above, as well as any of the following, can contribute to a cycle of sustained inflammation when left untreated:
- Undiagnosed bacterial or viral infections
- Exposure to mold or other toxins
- Physical trauma/concussions
- Undiagnosed food intolerance
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Anxiety disorders/ PTSD
- Narcotic medications
Questions? Give Us a Call!
Reversing the cycle
If you notice that you’re often sick, fatigued, or have frequent digestive issues, it may be a red flag that your immune system is weakened. With a better understanding of how inflammation may be contributing to your condition, the next step is to initiate practices and, if necessary, seek treatments that will calm the inflammatory cycle. Here’s what helps:
- TRY AN ELIMINATION DIET. For six weeks, avoid all foods with wheat, soy, milk, and milk products (foods that often trigger allergies or sensitivities that promote inflammation). Eat only fresh fruits, vegetables, brown rice, fish, chicken, and eggs—these foods, in general, are the least likely to cause inflammation. After six weeks, add back one category of food—such as dairy—per week. Note whether these foods have a negative effect on your energy, mood, or level of pain. If so, eliminate that food from your diet entirely.
- MEDITATE. A 2020 review looking at the effects of mindfulness meditation on the immune system concluded that “mindfulness meditation appears to be associated with reductions in pro-inflammatory processes, increases in cell-mediated defense parameters, and increases in enzyme activity that guards against cell aging.”
- SLEEP. Make adjustments to your sleep environment and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night. This is at minimum what your body needs to be able to carry out important repair functions like reducing inflammation, tissue repair, and hormone production.
- CUT BACK ON OTC MEDICATIONS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve can cause gastrointestinal issues like intestinal ulcers and bleeding when taken chronically to manage pain. NSAIDs can also increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with or without heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. Taking pain relievers routinely to manage pain may actually cause your pain to worsen; the body begins to forget how to fight it on its own. Use OTC medications sparingly and try alternative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture as well as anti-inflammatory supplements* like turmeric.
- WHEN YOU NEED TO SEE A PHYSICIAN, CONSIDER ONE WHO PRACTICES FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE (FM). In looking for clues that may be contributing to symptoms of illness or disease a Functional Medicine physician will systematically assess and optimize six major areas of health, including the immune system. In doing so, FM doctors have a more complete picture of one’s overall health and underlying conditions or deficiencies that may be causing inflammation. FM doctors utilize several modes of treatment, including stress reduction & management, mind-body tools, improving nutrition, healing your gut, supporting detoxification, exercise, acupuncture, herbs/botanicals, IV Therapy, supplements, manual medicine, and when needed, medication.
*Ask your physician about any potential side effects or interactions before taking any new medicinal herbs and supplements.
We are here for you, and we want to help.
Our goal is to return you to optimal health as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment please call: 703-532-4892 x2