One of the things I have learned on my healthy journey is how much I was suffering from inflammation and didn’t even realize it because it was just part of my daily life. Your body is brilliant and adapts to adversity to the point you often don’t realize you are in coping mode, until that negative is removed. The first person to point that out to me was the allergist, when he showed me how many of my day-to-day symptoms didn’t even register for me as a problem anymore because they were just a fact of life.
In my early 30’s, my ankles and knees were so stiff (not really sore, just stiff and unstable) that I couldn’t go up and down stairs in the morning until I had “warmed up a bit”. It came on gradually and it “ran in the family” so I didn’t think it was anything more than a “fact of life”. So when my husband and I were looking for a new place to rent, the first criteria was that the bedroom, bathroom, and laundry all had to be on the same floor or it was pretty much impractical for me to consider. Looking back now, I can’t imagine how I thought that was “normal” and I see the fast decline I was on. While my healthy journey was kick-started by a series of very unfortunate and trying events, looking back now, I realize it was the best thing to happen to me!
Along with the allergies, and stiff joints, there are lots of other symptoms related to inflammation, including anxiety and depression, digestive issue, migraines, arthritis, skin conditions.. and well.. this list goes on. I’m no expert in this, I just know what impacted me, and as I continue to do research on this, I’m seeing how the medical field is constantly expanding the understanding of how inflammation is at the root of so many chronic illnesses. conditions . If you want to know more about inflammation and health, I’ve linked to an an article on inflammation that this image came from.
In my case, the inflammation is likely related to my PCOS (I guess I should do a blog post on that soon… ). I feel that the medical system failed me by never telling me that I could change my health by changing how I eat. Now, of course, a person has to be ready to make those changes, and ready to accept that information, and in honesty, I don’t know that I would have been. But I wish that somewhere, that seed had been planted in my mind earlier.
Until I changed my lifestyle, I had no idea inflammation was a problem for me, how many conditions its linked to, nor did I know that its a key component of PCOS. In fact research is now suggesting that PCOS should be reclassified from a hormonal condition to a autoimmune inflammatory disorder.
What does inflammation look like for me? I feel it in my joints, and that pesky stiff ankle situation is related to refined sugars and wheat products. My allergies, asthma and chest congestion is triggered by sugar, rice, and grapes (ok.. that’s actually code for wine!!!). Other signs and symptoms for me were hives, digestive upsets like heartburn, and migraines.
What changed for me? My diet changed, and through trial and error, I have learned that inflammation is a very real problem for me! When I changed my diet to try the Whole30 program, I discovered the power of food to heal and to harm. I didn’t realize it when I removed those foods. The changes were gradual, and remember how I said the body adapts? Slowly I started noticing I could do things I didn’t used to be able to (like stairs!!), but even more powerful evidence is when I reintroduce foods to my diet, the symptoms return quickly! The scientist in me likes to test repeatability (or maybe I’m just stubborn), and so I have tested it many times, and the connections are pretty clear to me now. When I eat sugar and wheat, I can see and feel the swelling in my knees the next day, and when I eat rice, I feel instantly like I have a head cold, and there are many other examples. Everyone is different, so you need to find what makes you feel best. And it’s not a simple as cutting something out of your diet for a few days. Your body needs time to adapt to the change, to heal itself, and to adjust to a new normal, and then when you reintroduce the food, ONE AT A TIME, you will be able to start to pin point the changes.
To learn more about how elimination diets work, this Precision Nutrition Article gives an excellent overview. Once you understand how that works, look into the Whole30 plan which not only tackles the issues of culmination for health, but also for improving the relationship with food.
There are many foods that are linked to inflammation, and the Whole30 is designed as a 30 DAY ELIMINATION PLAN to help people discover through a tested method, which foods their body responds best too. At its core, it was never intended to be a “lifestyle” although once those foods are removed and the body has a change to communicate what is working, for many of us, the logical next step is to adopt a lifestyle that removes those foods.
For me, I have realized that eating whole foods, and essentially adopting Whole30 as a lifestyle, is necessary for my quality of life and my health.