COVID 19 gave many of us our first indicator that “Inflammation” is a bad condition and it’s an indicator that something serious is going on inside of our bodies.
What is Inflammation?
It is one way your body may respond to injury or illness. According to Dr. Lam, “In a healthy body, the fire of acute inflammation is tightly controlled: it turns on at the right time to battle invaders and start the repair process, and just as critically, it turns off so that the body can get back to its normal functions. But it is chronic inflammation that can lead to underlying issues with obesity, packing on the pounds during menopause and can create co-morbidities that throw your body into stress mode and makes it more susceptible to disease.
Cortisol: The bad boy of stress and chronic inflammation
The turning off process of acute inflammation is controlled by cortisol, our body’s stress hormone. While inflammation itself is an unpleasant process, your body is designed to tolerate some inflammation and to control it. Research has revealed, however, that low-level chronic inflammation can simmer quietly and insidiously in the body, in the absence of overt trauma or infection, and has profound effects on our physical, emotional and mental health.” In acute situations, then, inflammation is a mechanism for healing. Chronic inflammation, however, puts the body into a state of stress and opens the body to deep imbalances especially when it comes to viruses like COVID-19 or the challenges of an aging body affected by the stress of peri+ menopause symptoms. There are 34+ menopausal symptoms that wreck havoc on a woman’s body.
A stressed body engages the sympathetic nervous system or that fight-or-flight response which may manifest as problems with sleep, anxiety, blood sugar, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, brain fog, memory, chronic pain, and impaired immune function, and more. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? They are all part of the 34+ symptoms that my clients and 60% of the 6,000 women who enter menopause on any given day in the U.S. report to suffer from.
Chronic stress does not disappear as you age. It leaves an imprint in your cells and can affect you years later. And can lead to a decreased ability to lose weight as you move through your 40s and the peri+menopause transition onto your 50’s. That is why when I work with women to lose menopause weight, we focus on the key areas of the body that are particularly sensitive to the ravages of cortisol and stress. These include – the gut, liver, blood sugar, adrenals and brain.
4 Tips to reduce inflammation:
So what can be done: Below are simple tips to begin to include in your lifestyle changes: Use a clean, lean, green approach to eating which is what I do with my clients and is the best way to reset the foundation of the body so it can begin to repair form the inside out. That’s eating 80% organic fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and select grains.
Step 1: Cut down inflammatory foods:
Processed foods like alcohol, dairy, gluten, and processed snacks are low hanging fruit. Study after study shows that these offenders trigger inflammation. If you want to dive a little deeper, consider eliminating the top 8 most common allergens for 4-6 weeks and see how your body responds. Eggs, cow’s milk/dairy, gluten, soy, corn, peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish make up the list.
Step 2: Healthy Eating:
“Eat real food. Mostly plants, and not too much,” Is what Michael Pollan recommends’ and he’s not alone. Whether you follow the food pyramid, the Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine, or your intuition, you’ll likely find that you feel best eating fresh, seasonal, whole foods. I coach clients to prepare things simply. Slow down, chew, and enjoy your meals. Healthy eating is as much about how you eat as it is what you eat!
Opt for organic fruits and vegetables where possible. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as guides for where to focus your spending.
And ditch the processed foods and fats. Instead use extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and grape seed oil can all be the best oils to use and are part of a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
Step 3: Keep Cortisol under control:
Elevated cortisol is a sign of stress. Cortisol changes in response to illness, fear, diet, insomnia, fatigue, and chronic stress which is a part of the menopause transition. Establish a healthy sleep pattern, get enough Vitamin C, and focus on happiness, joy, and less stress. Your adrenals will thank you, and your risk of chronic inflammation will reduce.
Step 4: Vitamin D Intake:
Vitamin D is a vital hormone for immune health. In a study on inflammation, researchers note that “Some authorities now believe that low (vitamin D) is a consequence of chronic inflammation rather than the cause.” However, sunshine and supplementation can help tip the balance and possibly keep chronic inflammation at bay! A simple blood test will confirm your levels. Consult a doctor for help determining your Vitamin D status so you can take action if necessary!
Start now please don’t wait until tomorrow!
Simple shifts can make a big impact on your health. Rather than resigning to a life of chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalance, and menopause misery, take small steps every day and get support from knowledgeable professionals who can guide you with a step-by-step plan, support, and accountability.
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