Understanding Inflammation - Dr. Connie Jeon
As we start the new year, I realize many of you are thinking about a new year’s resolution.  Last week, we talked about the importance of commitment vs resolution.  I mentioned that you shouldn’t rely on will power and deprivation, which to me is the essence of a “resolution”.
Rather, you should decide to “commit” and work toward making life long changes.  As a success strategy, the most important thing to remember when embarking on a journey of positive changes is that at the primal level, despite your well intentioned efforts, there will be internal resistance.
Expecting the resistance and having a sound strategy to welcome the resistance will be more effective in achieving your goals.  So commit to just showing up and treading along, “despite” the way you feel, and learn to manage your temptations simply by having a laser focus on your goal.
As I mentioned, understand “why” it’s so important so that you stay focused on your goals.
With that said, I want to take the time today to help you understand inflammation, which is the ultimate root cause for weight gain, fatigue, digestive pain, and disease.
Once you understand the role of inflammation, then I can show you what and how to combat and decrease the inflammatory load in your body.
So think of your body having an internal thermostat.  Most of you know that when your thermostat does not work right, the temperature in the house is not correctly reflected on the thermostat, therefore, the house becomes either too hot or too cold.
Just so you can easily understand the concepts, today I want to oversimplify our immune system so that you can wrap your head around the concept of inflammation. This will allow you to better understand the importance of your healthy changes.
Your immune system is what controls your inflammation; it’s like the thermostat for your heat and air.  Think of your immune system as the army that fights everyday to keep the bad guys away.  Not all inflammation is bad as its your body’s way of protecting you from damage.
We have all experienced the effects of our immune system when we’ve gotten a cut.  It gets red, swollen, hot, exudes pus, and then scabs over.  This is a good thing.
But I want you to understand that everyday, we are exposed to toxins in our environment through our skin, breathing in toxic air, and eating foods that are not really food. Meaning, food that has been over processed.
So over time, our immune system gets overworked from dealing with these toxins, and our “thermostat” does not “register” the correct temperature. This causes our bodies to have low grade inflammation.  Now our immune system is a complex system that has multiple components and layers of reactors to protect and fend of the enemy.  My explanation today does not do justice for the complexity of our immune system, its actually mind blowing.
But a simple way I explain it to my patients is that the first line of defense is our skin and mucosal layer of our nasal passage and our mouth down to our gut.
So what we can control is what we put into our bodies daily.  Food is information for our bodies in the form of nutrients, used to metabolically break down and convert into energy.
We know from research that food can also affect gene expression directly and indirectly.
Because we’ve been feeding our bodies the wrong information over time, our gut lining, the outermost defense layer, is compromised in most of us.  Which is also know as the “leaky gut”.
I believe, that most of us have a leaky gut to an extent.  And depending on your genetic make up, some can handle more attacks than others. So the threshold for disease is different for everyone, but in my experience and from reviewing research, many are on the cusp of disease and walking around with symptoms.
So think about your immune system as a pot of water.  A healthy immune system is when the water is simmering and is easily contained.
But when the pot of water reaches its boiling point, if you don’t control the intensity of the heat, the water will boil over, right?  Well the water that spilled over can’t be placed back. However, the water temperatures, or our inflammation in this case, can be adjusted down.   This is an opportunity for you to dial down the inflammation by making healthier choices.
It’s when the immune system reaches a boiling point and the heat can’t be adjusted that we see many people with adverse symptoms. By this point, patients are waiting for the ultimate diagnosis.
Many of the inflammatory pathways turn on inflammation in our bodies, and the “thermostat” that controls the inflammation is also broken, therefore, the incidence of various autoimmune conditions are on the rise.
It’s important to understand that weight gain, water retention, pain, rashes, fatigue, gut pain, and high blood pressure are simple signs that your body is off balance.
Inflammation is at the root cause of all imbalances that potentially lead to disease.  So therefore, it’s important to dial down inflammation to ensure that you don’t compromise balance.
So how do you do that? There are four dietary mechanisms that lead to inflammation:
1. Oxidative Stress:  Just like the inside of an apple that turns brown, we are subject to oxidation and too much leads to stress, aging, and inflammation.  So “anti-oxidant” rich foods are an antidote to inflammation.  So eat foods with high ORAC scores:
Goji berries: 25,000 ORAC score
Wild blueberries: 14,000 ORAC score
Dark Chocolate: 21,000 ORAC score
Pecans: 17,000 ORAC score
Artichoke: 9,400 ORAC score
Elderberries: 14,000 ORAC score
Kidney Beans: 8,400 ORAC score
Cranberries: 9,500 ORAC score
2. Glycemic Load:  Make sure to eat foods that give you sustained energy through the day, are high in protein, good fats, and low in simple sugars.  Good sources of protein include: organic chicken, wild caught Alaskan Salmon, salad, avocados, coconut oil, etc.
3. Modulation of Metabolic Signal Pathways:  All cells have “signaling paths” and such signals can be anti-inflammatory or inflammatory.  So eating real, anti-oxidant foods can help your cells create more anti-inflammatory signals by turning on good genes and keeping the bad genes turned off.  Of course its much more complex than that, but this is a simple explanation.
4. Types and Balance of Fatty Acids:  Our outer layer of our cells consist of fatty acids.  The fatty acids also play a significant role in inflammation in multiple ways.  Diets high in Omega 3 help to combat and decrease inflammatory signaling by our cells.  Eat healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados, to help your cells have healthy fatty acid composition.
I hope this was helpful. Next week, I will get much more granular about WHAT and HOW to incorporate this information, but at least now, you know WHY you need to be committed to a healthier lifestyle.
See you next week.