It will be of no surprise for you to learn that I read a lot of articles, research papers and stories on women’s health. One of the key concepts I see in almost all of them is the relationship between inflammation, injury and illness. What is often missing from conversations about inflammation is exactly what it is and how it happens in the body. I want you to understand your body better, so here’s to filling you in on what actually happens and how to support your body out of a state of inflammation – we can always support ourselves to be in a happier, healthier state, no matter what.
Did you know there are different types of inflammation?
Broadly speaking, there are two types of inflammation – acute and systemic. Acute inflammation is the kind that you get with a short term illness or injury, and is usually isolated to one event of part of your body. This kind of inflammation can be seen when your throat feels swollen with a cold, or your hand gets red after accidentally attempting to cut your finger off whilst preparing dinner. Other kinds of acute inflammation can be caused by things like headaches, a broken bone, or getting hit by the winter flu going around. Inflammation in these circumstances is a good thing, even if you also feel pain with it. Acute inflammation (well, all inflammation, but we’ll come back to that) is your immune system’s response to an incident within the body. When your immune system is triggered, it’s a sign your body is trying to heal something, which is not only good but essential to our survival. Those of you reading who have ever experienced long term health issues will agree that seeing your body trying to self-repair is great. For many causes of acute inflammation, many western medical doctors and traditional therapy doctors like myself agree that eating well, rest and fluids are important parts of your treatment. (1)
Systemic or chronic inflammation is a very different situation. While like in acute inflammation, there is a triggering of the immune system, the cause is not a one-off incident or easily healed bug like a cold. I haven’t done a valid evaluation of my clients on this, but I feel quite comfortable in saying when they first see me, all my clients are experiencing some kind of chronic inflammation. Many of us out there in the world are too. Sources of chronic & systemic inflammation are all around us – in the foods we eat, the tools we use, the skin care and makeup on our faces & bodies, over-exercising with insufficient recovery, emotional & mental stress, even chronic health conditions.
The thing that makes them chronic and systemic is they are constantly present in our lives and bodies and affect our entire self. The process by which the immune system is triggered in a chronic sense can lead to autoimmune health conditions. For anyone reading this who has found a food sensitivity or intolerance through an elimination diet, the effect of an inflammatory substance can be easily understood. For some people, eating say gluten, may not cause an anaphylactic reaction, but they notice they have some other symptoms all the time, such as fatigue, sore joints, anxiety, constant gut upsets, headaches or period pain. In removing that source of inflammation, the ongoing upset or illness can also disappear. When someone shares on Facebook about how removing a type of skin care, food, or watching tv late at night has also seen their health condition improve, this is what is going on in their body – their immune system can finally take a breather and begin healing.
“In Chinese Medicine, we refer to this healing process as balance. Illness is a sign of imbalance in the body”
In Chinese Medicine, we refer to this healing process as balance. Illness is a sign of imbalance in the body – so when you eat a food you’re sensitive to, or are exposed to too much of a toxin, your body & immune system go into overdrive. Removing the cause allows the body to re-balance but the trick also lies not only in removing the culprit but leading the body back to a state of health again – the repair process is crucial. Imagine a set of scales drawing back in line with each other after having additional weight removed from one side. Isn’t that a lovely thought for your body!
Us ladies really do get it harder!
Women’s hormones are particularly susceptible to inflammation. As our reproductive system is the least essential system to our immediate survival, when the body detects something isn’t quite going to plan, it can push creating a smooth, gentle menstrual cycle aside in order to deal with a more pressing issue. For many women, chronic or systemic inflammation is behind some of the most common period-related symptoms: period pain, ovulation pain, delayed ovulation, PMS, clot-filled menstrual flow as well as mental health symptoms such as anxiety or general moodiness. Not to mention the two big baddies of reproductive system conditions – endometriosis, PCOS. I’ve worked with many clients on reducing their inflammation load and managing or reversing these conditions.
If this sounds like magic, I totally understand! Too good to be true? It does take effort and time and no quick fix is every long lasting. So many people are told these conditions are irreversible, and mean ongoing pain and infertility. Unlike western medicine, Chinese medicine looks to the underlying cause of a condition. Where a condition is inflammatory in nature, practitioners such as myself look to find the cause of that inflammation. When we know what we’re looking at, its so much easier to tackle it head on.
Systemic inflammation probably seems like an insurmountable problem if you are wondering where to start in identifying inflammation in your body, I can absolutely help. My book, Well & Good, shares an overview of health & disease processes in the body and has so many ideas on where to start, as well as a collection of super tasty and healing recipes. If you have a specific health concern, my masterclasses Debunking PCOS & Debunking Your Thyroid may be exactly what you need to get started on supporting your body to heal itself. My second book, which has just made it to my publisher, will also be the perfect addition to your home library to support your daughters, nieces, sisters & friends in starting their lives out the healthy way.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on email – where do you struggle with inflammation the most?
- ‘It Starts With Food’, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, Chapter 7 – Inflammation: No One is Immune (2012).