Short Answer: There is a chemical fire that burns within us all, managed by our immune system. If our lifestyle forces it to burn without rest, chronic disease will eventually result. You have been warned!
Saturday morning I worked on this post, seeking a simple explanation for a complex and dangerous healthy problem common to the modern lifestyle—chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the chemical firestorm driven by our immune system to respond to various threats and to heal injury. When we mistreat our body the immune system must work without rest, and the resulting chronic inflammation sets the stage for the chronic diseases that will surely follow: metabolic syndrome (more on this in the next post), autoimmune diseases (a special risk for women of childbearing age), diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. By the end of the morning I had made little progress on the post, which I had started the day before.
After lunch I went down to the beach to greet some guests, a pediatrician and his family. There was a benefit at the beach for a big group of kids with type 1 diabetes. As the kids walked by, our guest pointed out the patches and catheters for their insulin pumps. I wanted to applaud the kids—T1D is a tragic autoimmune disease that strikes without warning, but from what I could see the kids were handling it well. After they passed our conversation turned to nutrition and the protection of health. I soaked up some rays—vitamin D protects against inflammation. The 124 steps to get down to the beach are part of my exercise regime, another protection from inflammation.
In the evening we were guests of dear friends at a concert. Orange County has a beautiful concert hall with superb acoustics, and an excellent symphonic orchestra. The program included Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and a Rachmaninoff symphony. It was very soothing; I held my beautiful wife’s hand and was grateful for the friendship of our hosts. I’m no expert on classical music, but the excellence demonstrated by the orchestra planted the idea that I should reach higher in writing this blog. It’s a worthy and meaningful goal.
Before the concert we dined at a new restaurant called the True Food Kitchen. The menu—based on Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet—offers “simple, fresh, pure ingredients”, including vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Anti-inflammatory diet? I had struggled to write about it yet here it was in front of me and it tasted great. I had the chicken chop salad. The waitress did give me a copy of Weil’s Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid; you can see it here.
People are becoming aware of inflammation and how it rages within us for years before the symptoms of chronic disease present. How can you tell if chronic inflammation is a problem? There are several tests; one increasingly used is the high sensitivity C Reactive Protein (hsCRP) test. I had it done in a physical exam a couple of years ago and had an average score; not bad but not super good either.
How do we reduce chronic inflammation? Unwittingly, while struggling to write this post, the most important steps had found their way into my Saturday activities. Healthy Changes have also taught them, with more to come. In fact, the Healthy Changes constitute a handbook for avoiding chronic inflammation and protecting your health. Here is a list of ten steps to reduce chronic inflammation (with links to those already presented):
5. Be sparing in meat, eating more plant than animal protein.
6. Enjoy midday sunshine for vitamin D (but don’t get pink).
7. Get regular exercise.
8. Stress has a purpose, but don’t let the stress of life and work overwhelm you. Organize your days enough to provide order, reduce chaos, and complete the tasks that make life meaningful. The best guide to stress reduction? The answer to this modern problem is in the Bible—take a fresh look at the Sermon On The Mount.
9. Get adequate sleep, eight to nine hours daily, in the dark.
10. Seek activities that build bonds with friends and loved ones, including dining together.
Budget wisdom: The non-inflammatory lifestyle is the most affordable. The person of modest means, who lives a simple but orderly life, enjoys friends and family, finds purpose within their faith, and takes their food as nature provided, has more chance of avoiding chronic inflammation than any billionaire surrounded by his possessions and served by his retinue.
Please comment on the lifestyle and diet choices that help you find harmony and health in daily living.
Need a reminder? Download our Healthy Change reminder card. Print and fold, then place in your kitchen or on your bathroom mirror to help you remember the Healthy Change of the week.