It's impossible to read, listen to, or watch discussions on the challenges of fibromyalgia without hearing the word, inflammation. The two go hand-in-hand as do a malfunctioning car and a check engine light.
Inflammation is the body's way of waving a white flag in surrender.
When I wrote my book, FibroWHYalgia
, inflammation wasn't the talk of the medical community as it is today. Exploring how inflammation contributes to and exists alongside fibromyalgia and other chronic health challenges continues to be a subject of interest for me.
I live with fibromyalgia every single day. However, through practices that I refer to as the Restoration Trio (nutrition, body movement, and emotional wellness) I've been able to significantly reduce my symptoms. In fact, I live nearly pain-free most of the time -- barring temporary injuries, of course.
The reason I bring this up is that I personally experienced the cascading effects of whole body inflammation gone awry. I also experienced the body's ability to rebuild and heal when given the chance.
So, what is chronic inflammation?
When the body is inflamed, it's working over-time trying to repair itself from an injury, an antagonist, an infection, or some other compromising factor. Oftentimes, multiple challenges combine making inflammation its own contributing factor.
What contributes to chronic inflammation?
While there are numerous contributors to chronic inflammation, here's a basic list:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Food sensitivities/intolerances
- Infections (current or latent)
- Toxin exposure - external (i.e. environmental)
- Toxin exposure - internal (i.e. from chemicals found in processed foods, medications, health and beauty products, etc.)
- Heavy metal exposure
- Sleep disturbances
- And... Stress!
There is no ONE single factor listed that is THE cause of chronic inflammation. Rather, it's a nasty combination of several or many. They contribute, interact, and trigger each other, creating a raging inferno of inflammation.
For example, unaddressed food sensitivities cause digestive impairment which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, hormonal dysregulation, cognitive impairments and more. They each have symbiotic relationships resulting in a persistent and systemic problem.
What can dampen the fires of chronic inflammation?
When I first attempted to better understand the role inflammation played in fibromyalgia, I did what I always do ... I hit the books. That really dates me. Nowadays, I hit the keyboard. I use Google, medical study websites, various trusted blogs, email correspondence with trusted medical professionals, and the websites of doctors, practitioners, and resources I value.
I wanted to know how I could reduce the amount of inflammation in my body, so I looked for areas of healing commonality. I saw these basic factors listed most frequently:
- Stress management
- Improved digestive health
- Quality of sleep
- Addressing infections and underlying systemic concerns
While my stress management practices took time, I personally found dramatic and immediate results when I began to address my digestive health issues. Back then, I had no idea how intrinsically linked digestion is to the health of the entire body.
First, I addressed my food sensitivities and additional cross-reactive sensitivities. Later, I learned that sugar consumption (over-consumption) is a leading trigger to whole body inflammation. I began to see the value of weeding out processed foods and adding in the abundance of whole, natural foods. Once I made that connection in my head and took action, I saw results in my body.
What else can help?
Because I was dealing with a chronic health challenge, meaning it had gone on for decades, my nutritional "fixes" needed a boost. Because I was so nutritionally deficient, I saw a holistic nutritionist and added in specific supplements to augment my meal plans. Through increased awareness of my body and how I felt, I was able to narrow down which supplements helped me the most. This sped up my healing process.
Today, I continue to eat well and supplement my body to keep inflammation at bay. I like to maximize my efforts. When I find nutrients that support my dietary needs as well as target specific concerns, I'm all in.
Turmeric is one of those nutrients.
Turmeric has been proven to have profound anti-inflammatory benefits and has been the subject of thousands of studies.(1) Turmeric is related to the ginger family and gives many Indian curry dishes their deep yellow color. Curcumin is an active part of turmeric and is sometimes isolated and used on its own.
Whole turmeric is most commonly recommended for the reduction of inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, etc.(2) But, the benefits don't stop there. Turmeric has shown benefits in the treatment of other conditions such as colitis, ulcers, infections, and cancers.(3)
When I do research, I'm always looking for repetitive themes. I noticed that when I read about anti-inflammatory nutrients, I often found articles that paired the benefits of turmeric with other nutrients and herbs such as vitamin C, holy basil, and black pepper.
In addition, antioxidants are also known to have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Black cherries have been shown to reduce gout attacks(4) and sour cranberries have long been used for their anti-bacterial benefits.(5)
While I don't typically name brands of products that I use, in this instance, I'd like to share that I found a supplement that includes ALL of the above nutrients and more.
by MegaFoods includes the above-mentioned nutrients into one easy-to-use powder. It includes a powerful dose of turmeric along with vitamin C, holy basil, black pepper, and a potent combination of antioxidants -- black cherry, black raspberry, wild blueberry, and cranberry.
I put one tiny scoop of Daily Turmeric to give my morning smoothie the nutrient boost it needs. I'm set for the day.
As I mentioned, I'm a research geek. When I first saw this product, I had to do my homework. I found that MegaFoods takes particular pride in their strict quality control by testing for potency and purity in every single batch. Their products are guaranteed to be free from pesticides, herbicides, gluten, and soy. There are no preservatives and nothing artificial.
And, what about GMO's? To my mind, why use a supplement if the ingredients help in one way, but hurt in another? Because I'm particularly careful about avoiding genetically modified organisms, (GMO's) I wanted to be sure that MegaFoods is committed to sourcing their ingredients from non-GMO suppliers.
I learned two things.
1) MegaFoods requires their suppliers to meet their own stringent non-GMO standards. 2) They also choose to take this certification one step further. They participate in the Non-GMO Project(6) which is an organization dedicated to the certification, verification, education, and preservation of the non-GMO food supply. I hopped onto the Non-GMO Project website and searched for participating vitamin and nutrient vendors and was pleased to see MegaFoods and many of their products listed.(7)
It's important to find the right source of nutrients to support your healing goals. It's important to find the right combination of nutrient-rich foods and
vitamins/supplements. I admit... it can be frustrating. It takes research, a bit of effort, and most of all, awareness of our own bodies and of how we feel.
And, speaking of how we feel, I mentioned earlier that stress is a major contributor to whole body inflammation. But we're all
stressed-out, right? What can we do about that?
Stress or serenity?
Whenever I think of being stressed out to the extreme, I laugh and can't help but visualize George Costanza's father on the TV sitcom Seinfeld. I picture him standing in the street, shaking his fist into the air, and shouting, "Serenity now!"
That never works.
In lieu of shouting to the skies, we can look to practical solutions such as meditation, body movement (fitness routines), deep breathing, guided imagery, relaxation techniques, improved sleep habits, and more. Of course, these are not quick fixes. (By the way... there are no quick fixes.) It takes time and patience to implement calming techniques and to address the stress that impacts you the most.
I consider nutritional support a primary stress management practice, too. Whenever possible, I look for organic, non-GMO, locally-raised produce. I particularly enjoy shopping at local farmer's markets. In the same way, I've already mentioned that I apply the same practice when shopping for supplements. I research to make sure they come from contaminant-free sources that I trust.
Are there nutritional supplements that can help with stress? Looking back thousands of years, many healing practices have successfully used specific nutrients for stress management. Ayurvedic medicine, for example, describes specific herb combinations known to elicit a relaxation response. Ashwagandha has been shown to have powerful relaxation benefits.(8) Other herbs of interest include skullcap and lemon balm leaf.
Each of these nutrients is included in MegaFood's anxiety and relaxation formula, Tension Release
. I include one tablet with my breakfast each day.
As mentioned, I combine many factors into my inflammation-reducing routine. I make it a priority to eat well and get the nutrients my body needs to heal my digestive system. I regularly plan for adequate sleep and I take proactive steps to reduce my stress.
The topic of chronic inflammation is complex and multifaceted. Therefore, the recovery process that brings relief is multifaceted, too. I can only share - from personal experience - that my investments in healing have been well worth the effort.
It's my wish for you that your investments in healing prove to be every bit as fruitful.
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com
) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia
, details her personal journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness.
To learn more about the effects of stress on your body, you're invited to sign up for Sue's free Is Stress Making You Sick guide.
1. Turmeric Proven Superior To 10 Medications At Reversing Disease
2. Dr. Weil - Curcumin or Turmeric?
3. University of Maryland Medical Center - Turmeric
4. Cherries May Help Reduce Risk of Gout Attacks
5. Compounds In Cranberries May Be Antibacterial Agents
6. Non-MGO Project: Who We Are
7. Non-GMO Project: Verified Products
8. Ashwagandha can cure insomnia and anxiety