If you have been diagnosed with any of the over 80 auto-immune diseases or chronic illness, you are suffering from some sort of inflammation in the body. While inflammation in and of itself is not bad, but actually a natural part of the healing process, if you have chronic inflammation it might be disrupting the quality and well being of your life. Inflammation doesn’t develop unrelated to other parts of your body. Here is a holistic view of how your body develops inflammation in the body.
Inflammation In the Body is a Result.
If you are looking at your autoimmune dis-eases backward, you would likely view inflammation as the cause of your autoimmune disease. That is part of the case, but it definitely didn’t start there. We are going to take a comprehensive, perhaps slightly boring look at how your inflammation came to be. Get some tea, water, and make sure to take breaks, because this is the S$*% your high school health teacher was trying to tell you.
Inflammation is caused by incorrect messaging or imbalance in all the systems we will discuss. When inflammation in the body occurs swelling, redness, soreness and overall disparity takes place.
If you are to focus on healing your auto-immune dise-ease you must understand your ailment is not solely coming from your immune system. Your entire structure is out of balance.
How Did I Get My Auto-immune Disease?
If you have recently gone to the Doctor (friendly reminder I am not one) for your auto-immune diagnosis, they might have explained to you that your immune system has incorrectly registered you (your cells) as a threat and has begun the search and destroy in order to heal you. Inflammation has caused your immune system to turn on your body.
Your immune system is a complex web of tissues, cells, and organs that work in service to protect the body. Inflammation of the immune system is your body’s biological response to heal. If your immune system directs it’s natural response towards the body, an immune system dis-order will occur.
What is Attacking You and Causing Inflammation?
Inflammation is the normal alert that your white blood cells need to mobilize towards the “infection”. Your White Blood Cells have different functions, which again in a balanced functioning system are normal. Also called leukocytes, white blood cells protect your body from invaders like disease and infection. Your two main protectors are T- cells and B- cells.
White Blood Cells are Your System Protectors.
T-lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that is a part of the immune system. They perform several different functions in the body. Widely known as “killer cells” they help fight infection and fight the “invader” by killing virus-infected cells directly.
B-lymphocytes, with the help of T-cells, secrete special antibody plasma cells that stick to “germs” and create clumps to alert your body to the presence of an intruder. B cells can help block these intruders from entering your healthy cells.
*Did you know every day thousands of our cells die? It is only when the white blood cells die from the cause of trauma or stress like inflammation that our body goes on the defensive. Our white blood cells actually become aggressive if they die unnaturally and send out signals to the neighboring cells that something is amiss. With immune system malfunctioning, your white cells are quick to attack.
How Did My White Blood Cells Get the Wrong Idea About Me?
To understand white blood cells, we must understand where they get their ideas and messages from.
Your lymphatic system is a working series of tiny tubes responsible for rallying the blood cells that will fight infection and destroy unhealthy cells from dis-ease. Some white blood cells are stored in the lymphs and thymus, others the spleen and in bone marrow.
When the spleen recognizes illness it sends red blood cells through the blood into the lymphs. Once the lymphs get the message white blood cells, the T and B cells are released and go out seeking the invader.
*Your lymphatic vessels are a drainage system that drains fluid from the tissues. When illness or bacteria enter your body they are confined to your lymphs nodes where your white blood cells attack them to protect you. The balance of your bodies drainage system is very important to your overall auto-immune health.
I can not talk enough about circulation, I can’t stop. Good circulation is what allows your blood to flow and carry those hopefully healing white blood cells, hormones and oxygen around your body. Good circulation prevents injury by transporting the nutrients and oxygen to the areas that need healing the most.
Chronic Stress and Chronic Conditions cause tension and restriction (or vice versa) that limit your healthy natural circulation. Through circulation, your body’s cells are kept in their preferred healthy state.
*Circulation is your body’s method of nourishing and rejuvenating the body.
Glands and Your Hormones
Your glands are responsible for producing and regulating your hormones which are then released into the body in response to certain messages or triggers. There are a number of hormones or glands that have influence over your immune activity. Thyroid, Adrenal, Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone all have a vital role in your healing or inflammation.
As a structure, the body can act as a heightened response organism that absorbs the outer life system and anything we consume. Not only is it a responsive system, it’s also an intelligent system meaning it can store, use, translate, and adjust those responses when communication is necessary with your bodily systems.
Balancing your hormones for healing is paramount in order to get the whole system functioning. If your hormones are shooting off adrenaline canons, your system is not going to balance. Read my favorite ways to tackle hormonal imbalance here.
*Here’s a fun fact: Those hormones that your glands release produce the same effects as the responses produce from the Fight or Flight response you’ll read about below. Your body gets a double dose of stress response and those hormones last longer than the initial sympathetic response.
Who Sent the Wrong Messages to My Body?!
Who didn’t, am I right?! With most auto-immune healing the focus is on the healing and rebuilding the gut and balancing the hormones but a key piece of your healing information is missing. If you don’t moderate or remove your “stressors” you will be undoing all the good that you are rebuilding. The chicken or the egg argument could be in effect for what to heal first, which is why when I say holistic I mean it. It’s all together, folks.
Stress and the Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system is a series of nerve tissues that wrap around your vertebrae and travel from your spine to your brain. These nerve tissues are the keepers and senders of billions of messages that travel all over your body. When things “get on your nerves” like stress or trauma, your central nervous system sends signals and sensations throughout the entire body. I’m sure you have felt those sensations when under extreme anger or sadness. They are the electricity that fire through your entire body.
*I borrowed this image from Pearson Prentice Hall, Inc. Many Thanks.
The function of the central nervous system produces important reactions that keep your body safe and functioning, or in our case trigger auto-immune diseases. They are called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems.
Your Body May Be Stuck In this Response:
Fight or Flight
The Sympathetic is all fight. This division is located in the Thoracic and Lumbar region of your spine aka the middle and small of your back. Feeling any pains in those regions? There’s a message there.
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, your pupils dilate, heart rate increases, and your liver is stimulated as it helps to send more energy throughout the body. While the lungs begin expanding to bring in more oxygen to meet the stimulus, digestive and bladder activity take a break (because the energy is needed elsewhere), and your adrenal glands release hormones in an attempt to respond to that stress.
*If your fight or flight response has been activated, your glands are getting messages to release a variety of hormones. These hormones naturally serve your body’s health but if they become out of balance they can throw off your entire system. If this energy continues to be sent, your inflammation starts to occur.
Your Body Needs More of this Response:
Rest and Digest
The Parasympathetic is called the “rest and digest” and is responsible for slowing breathing, digestion, heart rate, and relaxing your muscles. Your digestive areas, stomach, and reproductive organs stimulate while your bladder and saliva activity increase. This division watches over the rest and recuperation aspect of your body.
This is also the system you are going to want to get on your good nervous system side in order to activate your immune system healing. Create the mantra “I want my body to relax” and you will always act in service of it throughout this journey.
But What’s All This Talk About My Gut?
Now that we have a loose understanding of how “stress” affects the body, we understand that stress sends our adrenals in action releasing stress hormones throughout the body. An overabundance of cortisol (hormones) can damage our digestive lining.
During your fight or flight response, your digestive systems shut down because blood flow and energy are needed elsewhere. If your body is stuck in this fight or flight mode the long-term effects of this stress cause your digestive systems to become unbalanced. With your digestive shutdown, the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut can go unmonitored. An unbalance of the good/bad bacteria can result in thinning of digestive lining, build up or bad bacteria, as well as inflammation.
What Activated My Body’s Stress Response?
It is widely known that the medical community has no concrete conclusion on what causes an auto-immune disease although research has linked high levels of stress. My
theory experience tells me that it could be from a severe emotional trigger, ongoing emotional trauma, a heightened stress response, a physical trauma such as an accident or surgery, or extreme thoughts, such as death, depression or illness.
Again I am not a Doctor, but I am an earth woman and I do recommend sitting down and tracing your steps backward to recognize your body’s initial “response.” To heal completely, I believe you must also heal the broken energetic link. If your body has stored the initial energetic stress response and is still activating it, you must inform your body the danger is gone and it’s time to heal.
How Can I Bring My Inflammation Down and Get My Body Balanced?
- Heal your gut. Without this your healing will be minimal as so much of your health is held and dependent on that good old gut.
- Consume nutrient dense foods. This adds the necessary microorganisms tasked with repairing your damaged gut. The nightshade vegetables need to go friends.
- Remove the stress. At this point, if you have an auto-immune issue it’s time to make some life changes. YES you do come first, YES it is actually all about you, and YES you are the most important person right now.
- Get your body in the rest and digest or neutral state. Yoga, meditation, take magnesium galore, massage, acupuncture, walks, nature, sleep, whatever you got to do- do it for you.
Your Ultimate Goal:
Immune system regulation. Once your immune system is functioning, your hormones will also have an easier time regulating themselves. With regulation, comes balance, with balance, comes healing, with healing comes peace.
As you can see there really is nothing in the body that works independently of anything else. In my opinion, targeted treatments do little more than temporarily relieve a system and placate your emotions which are always high when illness occurs.
If you are in PAIN and discomfort, then, by all means, do what you have to do to improve your quality of living first. I would never recommend you suffer to go the natural route- that just adds more resistance and inflammation in the body anyway!
If you are choosing to use medication or prescriptions take some time to research what they specifically do to your body so that way you aren’t engaging in counteractive behaviors. I’ll share this story of my Mother who was suffering from Psoriasis and step one was get out of the discomfort. (She will probably kill me for adding this, but it’s important to realize our behaviors are everything during healing.)
My Mother reached out to a Doctor who prescribed her Prednisone for her symptomatic relief and temporary suppression of her outbreak.
Prednisone’s function is to suppress the adrenal glands so that the body can reduce the levels of hormones secreted by the glands.
My dear Mother didn’t give up coffee during her time on Prednisone and after about a week again she was faced with a quieter level of the same problem. Coffee is a stimulant which stimulates the adrenal glands essentially activating your body’s fight or flight response.
Her words “Actually, my Darling, I wanted to believe that I could get away with just taking Prednisone and hoping like a fool that the psoriasis would not come back after finishing the Prednisone. It took more than giving up coffee – which I did not actually, or not completely – it took changing my diet! Especially giving up nightshades!”
She didn’t realize her daily habits counteracted any steps of healing and comfort she was trying to take. More knowledge will only help you understand the personal steps you can take to making sure you are working in service of healing and not against.
We all have our own path to healing inflammation in the body. If you don’t know where to start, check out how I healed my Alopecia Areata for inspiration.
Reduce inflammation, remove stress and triggers, and remind your body to do what it was designed to do, take care of you. There is no “me” in the body there is only “we” and you and your body are on this healing journey together.