Updated: May 21, 2020
Health and Wellness is a lifestyle that is the core essence of achieving balance in one’s life between mind, body, and emotional being. Our health and well-being are something we need to value and take seriously. Yet, in this fast-paced world, many look for shortcuts to achieving “good health”. We all make choices and they may be wise or poor. Unfortunately, today’s world is full of “fast and convenient” things. It is filled with processed, artificial, inorganic, toxic, high-tech, on-demand, and constant high-stress elements.
This is a recipe for unhealthy living, affecting our nerves and emotions, causing imbalance in all areas of life. But if we work hard to conscientiously control these things instead of letting them control us, we are on our way to healthy living, full of vibrancy and longevity, with healthier choices. It is not a fad or phase but should rather be a way of life. Having good health is not only a matter of cure, but it is a form of prevention and protection.
In matters of our health and wellness, there are certain principles that contribute to it positively if respected. Our health and well-being encompass many things. It involves the way we think and breathe, what we drink and eat, the quality and quantity of our sleep and types of exercises, detoxification and environmental surroundings.
Balance in our lifestyle is necessary to achieve optimal health as well as taking the time to understand how our bodies and minds work together. If we want to look good on the outside, we need to feel good on the inside. Optimal health is only achieved from the inside working its way to the outside. However, much of our food intake is not always properly supplied with the nutrients to optimize our health, therefore making it necessary to add nutritional supplements and other natural remedies. As well, our bodies are constantly being bombarded with environmental pollution, bacteria of many forms that weakened immune systems cannot cope with, inherent weaknesses, the effects of improper diet, and physical, emotional and mental stresses.
What we put in our bodies should also be complemented by using ‘clean’ materials that protect our nervous and endocrine systems, among others. Proper food regimen and regular exercise are one of the key roles in achieving and maintaining good health. Yet, we also need to recognize that we need to look after ourselves on the whole, both inside and out. This is why it is vital to ‘listen’ to our bodies and strive to heal from the root of our situations instead of just masking over symptoms.
Our attitude and views in life affect our mentality and dispositions whether we realize it or not. By keeping positive and focused when dealing with different situations in our lives, we help ourselves to stay mentally and emotionally happy, as well as physically healthy, which contribute to having clarity in our thinking as well. Dwelling on negativity only leads to unhappiness, weakened immune systems, and foggy thinking. As the old adage says, “It always takes less energy to smile than to frown”.
A healthy life is a happy life! However, no one is immune to the stresses of life. This topic is very near and dear to me because I myself have been and still am affected by heavy stressors. I see it daily in my practice, in my friends’ lives, including my own. No matter how strong and resilient we can be, at some point we will be affected because we are only human. When we are constantly battling negativity, past and present traumas and triggers, different kinds of losses such as relationships, financial, death of a loved one, sickness and pressures of life, we may bend to these circumstances.
All this leads to an important factor. This is a key point we all need to remember: A healthy body handles daily stress better. But an unhealthy lifestyle along with daily stress can contribute to a deeper issue—chronic inflammation.
It seems inflammation is the popular household buzzword nowadays. While this is nothing new in understanding our health, it finally is catching on and resonating with everyone that this is an important and serious part of the underlying issues of health problems.
To understand simply, inflammation is the body’s natural response to fighting off potential health risks. Yet unhealthy lifestyle choices can inhibit the resolution of immune response and affect its ability to recognize and destroy pathogens.
Indeed, chronic low-grade inflammation is most often related to common chronic illnesses. But wait! There is good news. There ARE ways you can help resolve your body’s inflammation response. But first, we need to understand a few things that lead up to INFLAMMATION.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the way the body responds to harmful situations – whether real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This causes a brain reaction that leads to the stress response commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction that can affect many body systems.
Unfortunately, stress is a fact of life that we all experience at some time or another. Stressors that are acute, or short-lived, are often physical or physiological. Psychological or emotional stress is usually chronic in nature.
The Immune System and Stress
The immune system is made up of cells, tissues, and organs working together as the body’s defense mechanism to protect us from illness. Scientists say short-term stress (lasting from minutes to a few hours) may be beneficial for our immune health, as it stimulates immune activity and prepares us for possible periods of longer stress—a “fire drill” of sorts.
Because we do need stress to get us up out of bed in the morning … we need to function. But, CHRONIC STRESS IS HARMFUL.
So, what is triggered? Cortisol! I am sure everyone has heard of cortisol. It’s drilled into us. But what exactly is the cortisol issue?
Cortisol is a lifesaving hormone. When you are under stress it comes to your rescue, mobilizing carbohydrates and fat for instant energy. It also keeps our blood sugar steady while we’re sleeping and helps us wake up in the morning.
During periods of short-term stress, our sympathetic nervous system releases “stress hormones”: These hormones work together to prepare the body for “fight or flight”.
While acute, or short-term, stress acts as an “immune stimulator,” preparing the body’s immune system for an adverse situation, situations involving long-term or chronic stress actually suppress and dysregulate the body’s immune responsiveness, leading to illness and poor outcomes.
Long, sustained stress wreaks havoc on the body.
HOW DOES CORTISOL AFFECT US?
High cortisol levels can be deceiving — they allow you to be ultra productive, but at the same time they rob you of much needed sleep and keep you feeling wired too much of the time.
Cortisol levels that remain high often lead to a downward health spiral, where you go from feeling wired to feeling tired and wired, and then ultimately to feeling exhausted. This final stage of adrenal imbalance is known as adrenal exhaustion.
Low cortisol is a situation that comes about when the adrenal glands are chronically fatigued, depleted and unable to meet the demands placed on them by your body. When this happens, inflammation becomes a serious problem.
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
Fatigue: When your immune system is in overdrive, it uses a lot of energy. It can also trigger a low-grade fever.
Gastrointestinal issues: Including constipation and diarrhea.
Unexplained pain: Most notably in the abdomen, chest, and joints.
Skin issues: Such as rashes, redness, or puffiness.
Weight gain: Especially in the “spare tire” region, sometimes known as “la panza”. As part of a vicious cycle, excess weight can be both a cause, and result, of inflammation.
High blood sugar: Inflammation can alter the body’s natural insulin processing, making the body less sensitive to insulin. High blood sugar levels also increase the inflammatory circulating cytokines.
Brain fog: An imbalance in blood sugar levels can also cause brain fog.
While acute inflammation is one way your body can heal itself, chronic inflammation should be avoided, as a prolonged inflammatory response can cause damage to healthy cells and tissue. This leads to an affected liver. The liver produces a protein in response to inflammation called C-Reactive Protein (also known as hs-CRP: high-sensitivity CRP or us-CRP: ultra-sensitive CRP). High levels of this protein indicate inflammation in the body. Increased levels of CRP can lead to unwanted health conditions.
When there is extreme inflammation in the digestive system, the whole body will be inflamed. Unhealthy foods, smoking, and use of alcohol and drugs, provide less oxygenation in the system and more bacteria and raise pH levels. High acidity levels in the body hinder enzyme activity, affecting all chemical reactions that take place in the body. Many metabolic reactions will function well, which lead to poor breakdown and assimilation of essential nutrients.
What can we do?
Sugar: forgo anything that rhymes with GROSS (such as fructose, sucrose, etc.) These trigger the release of cytokines and lead to inflammation.
Saturated fats: Throw off immune cells and trigger inflammation.
Omega-6 fatty acids: These are on their own, can inhibit the anti-inflammatory effects of healthy Omega-3’s.
Refined carbs: These are all high glycemic index foods which cause inflammation.
Processed meats: These are associated with increased levels of inflammatory markers.
Alcohol: These types of drinks compromise the immune system which is why it is best to enjoy in moderation.
It’s time to break the cycle by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your day. A Mediterranean-style diet, for example, typically has a high ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids as compared to saturated fats, and more omega-3 to omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s also rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, which have shown anti-inflammatory effects.
Here at the iHEALTHe Institute, our focus is to learn about what leads to a breakdown in health and how to REPAIR and RESOLVE for life. Our health and well-being are in our hands. We CAN take back that control. This is a must otherwise the distress will continue to control us and our quality of life will be missing. Balance is key. We need each other to lift and be lifted and be supportive of one another. It is important to stay positive and focussed on the most important things in life – things that are not fleeting. This is our drive within the iHEALTHe Family. In a future article we will discuss what we should consume to heal or prevent inflammation as it will be related to our gut health and the microbiome that should reside there.
Looking forward to sharing with you again and wishing you the best in health!