The Latest Culprit

There’s always something new on the horizon when it comes to health-usually something that contradicts what we learned last month or even yesterday.

I think most of us get confused about what to eat and how to live, so we get in the car and head to McDonalds and contemplate our plight over a cheeseburger.

But I think I’m on to something here-a brand new way of looking at disease that keeps popping up in scientific studies I’ve read and mainstream articles I’ve seen on the Internet.

What if there was one common culprit — one wayward guy that could be responsible for a good number of our medical woes?

And what if this wayward guy was responsible for diseases and syndromes across the spectrum — from our physical health to our mental health?

I want to introduce you to inflammation, a serious enemy of the human race. And while it may seem like a strange topic for a lifestyle column, I hope you’ll hear me out because I think it has the potential to be a game changer. And I think it’s something we need to pay attention to.

First of all, inflammation is easy to understand, which certainly helps matters. And we’ve all experienced inflammation that we can see-after a sprained ankle or surgery. It’s a way for the body to alert the immune system that it needs to march right over to a place and heal damaged tissue.

But inflammation occurs inside our bodies as well. A swollen sore throat is an example of internal swelling, known as “acute inflammation.” That means it’s just a temporary thing. It’s going to go away when you’re rid of the virus.

The kind of swelling we need to worry about is chronic inflammation, the kind that hangs around and invites all sorts of troubles in-like strokes and cancer and even, some researchers believe, depression or behavioral problems.

That’s where the beauty of this hypothesis lies: inflammation might be a common thread underlying poor physical and mental health. It’s proving to be a lot more complicit than science ever thought, and is starting to look like the root problem in many diseases.

Consider this quote from Dr. Patrick Nemechek, a researcher in pursuit of discovering scientific, medical, and natural solutions to improve or reverse brain inflammation and intestinal dysfunctions in people of all ages:

“Children today are not the healthy and resilient children in both mind and body like past generations. They are increasingly autistic, sick, food intolerant, and they suffer from a variety of mental, emotional and developmental problems that were rare just a decade ago.”

And there’s new evidence linking depression to inflammation as well. Consider this Quote from a January 2017 online article in Psychology Today:

“Growing evidence supports that at least some forms of depression may also be linked to ongoing low-grade inflammation in the body. Previous studies have linked depression with higher level of inflammatory markers compared to people who are not depressed.”

And of interest to the high number of people who have multiple sclerosis in Western New York, researchers have recently discovered the importance of the gut-brain connection in MS and other autoimmune conditions.

What does the gut have to do with inflammation? Well, everything. Promoting gut health is one of the best ways to avoid an unhealthy inflammatory response in our bodies. It all starts there.

So this, folks, means that what you put into your body is really important. More important than you ever realized, especially today when nutritious food isn’t the norm like it once was.

I remember once befriending someone who believed that he’d cured his multiple sclerosis through diet alone. It was easy to be skeptical about his claim and his doctors thought he was nuts.

But there he was, out of a wheelchair and riding his bike across the country. The diet he put himself on was brutal — I don’t know a lot of people who could do it: no grains, no sugar, very little meat or fat, no dairy. What the heck did he eat?

That was 20 years ago though and I wonder if researchers would embrace his claim more readily now. Because today we realize how important the microbiome — the whole bacterial spectrum inhabiting the body of each person — truly is.

So, how do we improve our biomes?

A lot of it is very old fashioned advice. Eat your vegetables. And lots of them. Include fresh fruits in your diet and cut down or eliminate processed food. Give up junk food. Remember that everything you eat is either healing you or hurting you. And ask your doctor to talk to you about an anti-inflammatory diet.

Big claims are being made out there by people who are cleaning up their diets. They’re losing weight, improving or even curing their diseases, lifting depression from their lives and getting a new lease on life.

I had to give up gluten ten years ago, but I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to “eating clean,” as the new terminology goes. But the thought of being proactive about preventing cancer and depression or arthritis feels like a good choice.

We know a lot more about the human body than we did a decade ago. It’s important to embrace that knowledge and make better choices because of it.

“Step away from the chips.” That’s my new mantra.