Summertime is here and during this time of year many of us are more physically active and spend lots of time outdoors in the heat. However, for some with health challenges summer means overheating, increased inflammation and swelling and health symptoms that get worse in hot weather. Many of these symptoms are indicative of an inflammatory response. It is well known that Inflammation plays a role in many underlying diseases and health issues. How does this happen?
What exactly is inflammation?
First off, inflammation is a responsive and important part of the immune system. When we get sick, hurt ourselves or fight off disease, our immune system kicks in. Our body goes into “defense mode” and ramps up to protect that area under duress. We may initially see acute swelling and heat symptoms as the body sets the stage for protection.
However, sometimes this process of protection goes awry. The acute swelling and heat that is designed to protect us sticks around and we get a sense of what chronic inflammation looks like.
Many autoimmune disorders (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis) digestive issues (acid reflux, heartburn) and chronic health issues (diabetes, cancer) have heat and inflammation as a component.
So how do we keep inflammation at bay and help our body move toward a healthy state of balance?
Acupuncture is a very effective modality for systemically clearing heat from the body. Heat is often synonymous with inflammation. Heat may manifest as a physical symptom (sore throat, acid reflux, UTI infection, menopause) or an emotional symptom (anger, irritability, hot headed).
Western Medicine also has identified benefits of acupuncture for inflammation. According to a 2016 article published in PLOS.org, acupuncture can stimulate the Vagus nerve, which can lower inflammation throughout the body. In addition, “acupuncture may decrease pain-causing inflammation by stimulating the body’s pituitary gland to release cortisol, a hormone that is known to reduce inflammation”, according to an article published www.spine.org.
CranioSacral Therapy (CST), is the perfect modality to strengthen the immune system by identifying specific tissues that are inflamed, and what parts of the immune system are impacted. CranioSacral therapy also helps to stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System and also focuses on the Vagus Nerve to help decrease inflammation.
There are many books and articles written about anti-inflammatory foods and diets. It can be tricky to know what to follow. One of my personal favorites resources is Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid which includes the 16 top sources of food for reducing inflammation. This includes limited healthy sweets, healthy herbs and spices, supplements, healthy protein sources, whole and cooked grains and beans and legumes.
This includes keeping weight in a healthy range, regular exercise, regular sleep and lowering stress levels.
As an integrative healthcare professional, I believe strongly in an integrative approach to treating chronic health issues. I have my team – which includes my DO Internist, Acupuncture, chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine, rolfing, Pilates, Exercise, Positive food choices and plenty of rest and downtime. Take a moment to jot down who is on your team. If there are areas that are open, find a way to integrate more into your life!
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid