In This Episode, We Discuss:
- There are 2 types of inflammation(.31)
- Harvards Men’s Study(1:50)
- Lab test for inflammation(3:08)
- First pillar of improving inflammation(4:41)
- Elimination diet(7:53)
- Why you become sensitive/allergic to foods(8:38)
- Vagus Nerve support(12:38)
Hi. It’s Dr. Jenny. Welcome to The Art and Science of Defying Aging. Today’s episode is about the number one thing that accelerates aging, and what to do about it. As I work with people striving to age beyond false beliefs and age beyond symptoms, there’s a common theme in the body that once identified you can address and see positive overall changes to our health. What’s the number one thing that accelerates your aging process? It’s inflammation. Is inflammation bad or is it good?
0:31 There are really two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Now the acute’s good. That’s how your body heals. It’s part of the healing process from injuries and fights invaders that may cause infections. When you think about inflammation with pain, swelling, and redness, they’re classic inflammation signs. This typically occurs when your body has experienced an injury or when your body senses a foreign invader that sets off a cascade or domino effect where your white blood cells and some special messenger cells come to work to protect and to help you heal. This is all good stuff.
However, chronic inflammation is different. The same reaction started out like in the acute situation, but now the fire persists. This results in the area being flooded with white blood cells, and the end result is they attach to nearby healthy tissues and organs. Now, this can cause a chronic smoldering fire inside your body that contributes to a variety of illnesses and even weight gain. This inflammation can lead to every one of the major chronic diseases of aging like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and more. But it’s also by far the major contributor to obesity. So basically being fat is being inflamed. Period.
1:50 I want to share a study. It’s from the Harvard Men’s Health Watch back in 2019, and the article is about playing with the fire of inflammation. Basically, the author is saying that inflammation plays a central role in healing. But left to run wild, the process can lead to arthritis, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. For example, if you’re overweight you have more visceral fat cells. That’s the kind of fat that builds up in your abdomen and surrounds your organs. The immune system sees those fat cells as a threat, and basically pumps out more white blood cells. So the longer you stay overweight, the longer your body remains in a state of inflammation. That fire just keeps burning.
That reaction’s not confined to one particular place. Inflammation can travel throughout the entire body and causes problems all over. Thus, it’s a contributing factor to things. Again, heart disease we just mentioned, dementia, diabetes, all these things can be a contributing factor to those problems. So the next question is, are you sitting there wondering, “Do I have inflammation,” and how do you know? Well, to find out if you have chronic inflammation, and to see if inflammation’s contributing to anything that you’re struggling with, there’s an easy way to find out.
3:08 Did you know there’s actually a lab test to check for systemic inflammation? It’s called high-sensitivity CRP, that basically measures a liver chemical, the C-reactive protein, that rises in response to inflammation. Now, your doctor can draw this test, or in most cities around the country now you can go into what’s called ANY LAB TEST NOW. You can order your own lab tests. You can walk in there and say, “I want a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein test done.” That result will tell you if any, or how much, systemic inflammation you have going on on the inside of your body.
Let’s say it’s elevated. Why, is the question. Correct? The causes of our inflammation really are all around us. It’s the sugar we eat, lots of wrong oils and fats in our diets, hidden food allergies, lack of exercise, chronic stresses, and hidden infections. All of these trigger this underlying invisible fire that’s producing inflammation deep in our cells and our tissues. Now, things that most people don’t want to hear about is that our diets and lifestyle are really the two biggest reasons and actually best ways to control and decrease inflammation.
Now, in Chinese medicine most disease process and inflammation starts in the gut, but many people don’t pay attention to our nutrition. If you’re not sure where to start, and you’ve got systemic inflammation, start with the gut and your food choices. This is the first pillar of improving overall health and inflammation. Let’s talk a little bit more about food. I think our culture’s obsessed and focused all around our food, our gatherings, our activities. Right? They’re all food-based. Yet many people unknowingly are eating daily foods that are producing inflammation and contributing to, again, weight problems, heart disease, and other chronic issues.
I think most people don’t realize that they have some food allergies and don’t even know it. I think we tend to think of food allergies, we envision somebody eating a peanut, right, and swelling up all over, and having to go to the ER. That is one type of allergy, but that’s an immediate allergy response, and that’s more focused around the IgE reaction. But the more elusive reaction and troublesome is what we call a delayed allergy or IgG reaction. This is so common and creates a lot of suffering for millions of people. It’s usually ignored by conventional medicine, but can play a huge role in many chronic problems including weight problems.
Everyone’s different, but there are some foods that irritate the immune system more than others. There’s some common themes that we’re finding and one, unfortunately, is gluten. Right? Include wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, and then dairy, our milks, our cheeses, our butters, and our yogurts. But other common themes are corn, eggs, soy, nuts, and the nightshade family that includes tomatoes, and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. A few other ones are citrus and yeast, like baker’s yeast, brewers yeast, and even fermented products. How do you know if you’re allergic or sensitive to these foods or even other foods? I’ve actually had clients that have been allergic to blueberries.
Think of how can that be? It’s a healthy food. I think that’s one thing to understand, even though we’re eating healthy foods, your body may not like that food. So don’t always assume, “Well, I’m eating these healthy things. They’re good for me.” It might be good for you, but right now your body is seeing it, and reacting to it, and creating inflammation. There are two ways to find out whether you’re reacting to foods. One’s a blood test for IgG antibodies to foods. This can be useful. It can pinpoint troubled areas, but it’s not 100% accurate. You’ll find many practitioners that debate around this issue. Some like them.
Some don’t like them.
It can be somewhat of an expensive test. If you want to have a simple guide, it can be helpful. But what I found in the past, that sometimes these tests will show up certain foods, and once we pinpoint the root cause of the inflammation, that food wasn’t the problem. That food was more of the symptom to the problem, like in the case of the blueberries. This particular person had H. pylori infection and also had SIBO. Once we were able to help that gut and restore the gut to healing, that person can go back to eating blueberries. So again, that food was more the symptom to an underlying problem.
7:53 Now, the second way to know if you’re having some kind of allergy or sensitivity to foods is the elimination diet.
This means that you get rid of the top trouble foods for one to four weeks, then reintroduce them one at a time and see what happens. This program basically is based on a simple diet. Get rid of gluten, dairy, eggs, and yeast products. So, what happens? Typically, very quickly, like in a week or less, many people notice dramatic relief from all of their symptoms that they thought they had to live with for the rest of their lives. This would be a very effective and inexpensive way to identify certain foods that might be irritating and bringing you inflammation.
8:38 The next question is, “Well, why? Why do you become sensitive to, or allergic to, seemingly healthy foods?” Well again, simply put, your diet, the way we live, the medications, the supplements, our lifestyle choices, all of these things contribute to how our body responds and reacts to certain things. So through this process, we identify any foods that are problems and remove them. Basically, you’re finding out what your friendly foods are and what your unfriendly foods are for the time being.
What may be helping you as far as focusing on foods? There was a study in the May 2016 British Journal of Nutrition, and they found that onions, turmeric, red grapes, and green tea, all lowered a marker for inflammation in the body. All types of berries are rich in polyphenols, such as cherries, plums, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens, olive oil, flaxseed oil in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, also offer healthy doses of omega-3 fatty acids that have been long shown to reduce inflammation. I think those are pretty common foods that we hear often about, but what else can you do?
Besides food, what else can you focus on? Well, I like to refer to them as the five basics. We just discussed food. The second is water. I think we underestimate the power in how much we all need water. Our cells are about 80%, plus or minus a little bit, of water. Think about if we don’t drink water on a daily basis, what happens to your cells? They become dried out like leather, and how well can your body function if it’s all dried out? It cannot. So I really encourage my clients to be aware of their water intake every single day.
Another component to the five basics is breathing. Again, I think it’s very underestimated and we rarely think about our breathing. As we age we stop becoming belly breathers. Right? We see the kids they’re all belly breathers. Well, we stop. We become chest breathers, which is a more shallow way to breathe, which actually can become a way that makes us more anxiety prone. I myself have been bad at healthy breathing. So at one point I was trying to check in with myself hourly and asking myself, “Am I breathing,” and oftentimes I wasn’t. I was holding my breath. I was stressed, or I was too busy. So I would set my clock for every hour, and I would just ask myself, “Okay. Let’s stop what I’m doing, and take a couple deep breaths.” It was amazing how powerful just something that’s simplistic can be for you to help redevelop a better habit of regular breathing.
Movement, some people love exercise. Some people don’t. Movement can be simple things like walking. We want to get that lymphatic system going, your liver going. How you process all the toxins that we live in, because our world really is full of toxins. The things we breathe, we come in contact, obviously the things that we eat, but people too. . People can also be toxic. So do you have toxic people in your lives? Those things can also increase inflammation, hidden infections. I see this all the time with my clients. Hidden infections like in the oral microbiome in your mouth. It’s one of the last places that we look, but we’re really finding a lot of chronic issues start in the mouth. The last part to mention is stress and mindfulness. Stress can increase inflammation, so what tools do you have at your disposal to help you with your daily stresses?
12:38 There’s one more tip I want to share about decreasing inflammation. There’s growing evidence that another way to combat inflammation is by engaging your vagus nerve and improving vagal tone. Now, what exactly is the vagus nerve, and what even does that mean? Well, the vagus nerve simply is a nerve sometimes called the wandering nerve. It’s like a long string. It goes from your brain all the way down to your abdomen, and it connects to organs and glands along the way. It’s basically the prime component of your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s your calming part of your nervous system rather than the fight or flight that we always hear about.
You can’t see it, you can’t feel it, so it’s commonly ignored. But research is showing, when it’s stimulated and strengthened it reduces inflammation and actually supports your immune system. How do I support my vagus nerve? The simplest way to support your vagus nerve is to hum and to sing. Another common one is to gargle. You can use water, mouthwash, whatever your choice is, but you gargle in the morning or at night before you go to bed. Now, one practitioner I’ve listened to over the years, he suggests doing some serious gargling to the point of your eyes watering. I haven’t gotten to that point, but hey, if you want to do it to that point go ahead because it will support your vagus nerve.
Let’s close by knowing that inflammation is the number one cause of accelerated aging. It’s elusive, it produces aches and pains, illnesses, weight gain, and that we have kind of written off to being a part of normal aging and just accepting it. But it’s just not true. So get your C-reactive protein blood test, find a practitioner to identify why you’re inflamed. Again, diet is the most common and easiest way to fix. Other culprits, hormone imbalances, stresses, poor sleep, inability to detoxify properly, and hidden infections. All of these can actually be addressed to decrease inflammation. So by addressing the causes of inflammation, implementing anti-inflammatory lifestyles and interventions, we can age well and protect your body and brain. I hope you found this helpful. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.