Inflammation – A Simple Analogy
Picture a Boy Scout campfire. That’s my working image for today’s learning lesson.
Feel free to join in today’s weenie roast – gather around, find a nice log to set yourself on and listen up as camp director Dr.Chad uses his deep slow scary voice and a flashlight to the face to scare the bejeezus out of you in an attempt to relate-
what may be the world’s biggest epidemics of modern times..
Look, I know I’ve explained inflammation a million times but I’ll tell you now, this time its new and improved – I’m better – and there’s new information and a new way of thinking. It’s superior information and application than what I was doing a week ago and I promise to give you a better perspective and the ammo to make a decision that will dramatically affect your life.
I speak on inflammation more than any other topic in my clinic.
Every time you hear an athlete or celebrity talk about this new and improved diet or go vegan or go lectin free or ANY OTHER DIET – this is the basis In the last decade – so has every doctor worth their salt.
Inflammation is THE cause of your problem. I don’t even know what you specifically have but Whatever you have, I’ll take the over bet that there is an inflammatory component.
Let’s start this conversation with the basics – this is a lecture for 5th grade campers after all..so how about a 5th grade level thought process for you, I’d say think about a Sprained Ankle? It is easy to imagine this injury, obviously it is inflamed. EVERYONE KNOWS you treat this issue with ice or R.I.C.E.
The analogy for this is
“Pour some water on that fire, campers! – it’s too damn hot for S’mores”
OK, how about deeper stuff – let’s say high school level learning – things like osteo and rheumatoid arthritis? Psoriatic, Lupus and all the others. How about Bursitis and Tendinitis. Arthritis, any itisis are exactly this – simple, straight up inflammation. “ itis “ is nothing more than the medical 50 cent word for inflammation. Add arthro meaning joint, bursa meaning bursa or tendon meaning tendon in front of it and you have the modern-day-Latin for your condition. This is great news! Dude you don’t have THE disease arthritis you have an inflamed joint.
“Campers, did anyone think to put a pit of stones around this fire?? There’s a lot of dried leaves sitting in the tall grass here…that can’t be safe!”
Which gets me to the next part – if it’s not a disease state it means you can recover from this – it’s fixable! You can fix arthritis and Bursitis and Tendinitis – Hallelujah!
“Thanks Chad, I never knew! And now there’s hope!”
Now lets graduate and move on to the undergrad or college level of issues, this will require a little thinking. Hang with me here. Itis simply means inflamed -how about things such as colitis, Crones, diverticulitis IBS etc.
Gut and intestine inflammation right? Yes – it is – a little more deep thinking but at the cellular level it’s just inflamed – you can fix this too. As well as all the irritable bowel and gas and disaster pants – these issues suck, but still – it’s inflammation here guys, nothing more.
Even with deep metabolic conditions such as gout and Eczema – ittis the inflammatory response, that’s causing all the pain and redness.
“Uh Campers, the fire seems to be a bit out of control. Who threw a pallet and gas on the fire?”
The problem is that inflammation is part of the natural healing process – doesn’t sound like a natural process should cause a problem? Well yours is. Mostly, because your body went on crazy overproduction and emergency mode –
It tried to put out the scouts campfire by building a dam and flooding the valley. Too much and overkill.
Diving deeper – Next we’re going to move to the grad school level, where the cutting edge research and the lecture circuit on inflammation is happening. To where it’s looking like most issues, ( think ALL ) – have a major impact coming from the inflammatory response – things like Alzheimer’s, Type II diabetes (even thoughts on type 1 being at the first stages) and even ADHD? Pretty much every and all Autoimmune diseases to name a few…dozens.
Hopefully I have your attention!
Well maybe that’s just not your thing – all this science on chronic disease and stuff… Not interested.
Well how about a fat ass?
Now we’re talking. Wake up!
Yep the last 10 pounds keeping you from being ripped or the freshman 50 you put on and cant take off.
See? It’s a part of everything and it affects everyone – even you.
So let’s get to that fat belly –
“Chad, you’re telling me it’s the inflammation NOT the triple bacon mac cheeseburger chocolate ice cream diet coke float”
Yes! Well sort of.
Your diet is the culprit, causing the inflammation. Your gut isn’t working right because of all the crappy food choices (even a lot you were told were smart choices) and now you cant even get the good stuff in and too much bad stuff is coming in and your body is using the river to put out a campfire all over again.
Its repeatedly using a river to put out a kid’s tiny campfire. Over and over again the kids build a fire up and the river puts it out. Eventually someone up in command central just says”forget it” and decides to use napalm to just strip and defoliate the entire campsite so no-one can camp here anymore and the area will just get a chance to reset and return to a baseline – it will never be the 100 year old woods again with the incredible variety of flora and fauna that took decades to establish because of all the campfires and rivers running the wrong way and brush fires and most of the logs have been used up. BUT, with a complete reset, in time, it will become beautiful and quite functional again. It COULD THRIVE AGAIN. But day in and day out little campers keep showing up with minivans full of wood and kindling and THESE LITTLE BUGGERS keep setting up these damn camp fires all over the scorched earth. They are relentless! Who the hell keeps showing up to camp on a napalmed campsite, that’s insane – everyone can see its been destroyed and isn’t functioning like a campsite. Still, they just keep showing up. And it’s not just on weekends anymore either – there is a line of campers waiting to get in!
Yes – it seems inflammatory conditions are becoming serious business for doctors and consequently for the drug and supplement suppliers working to help.
The WORLD is rushing to find new treatments, drugs, food products, diet books and oils creams, shakes and exercise programs to try and treat your inflammatory conditions and over all they are doing pretty good – there’s lots of progress in all these categories.
Then why do we all as a society just keep getting worse?!
Back to the analogy. I think everyone – doctors, drug companies, Trump, me, nutritionists etc – we’re all missing something. We’re basically firefighters trying to control the burn with:
Omegas fatty acids
Cherry juice (think gout and other metabolic issues)
Active ROM exercises
Glucosamine chondroitin etc
Designer drugs built to target individual issues
Exercise (think to reduce arthritic conditions and create lubrication etc)
Chiro’s, massage therapists, psychologists, MD’s, dietitians, etc
How about WD40 and olive Oil (because that’s what Jesus used!
OK the last two are totally fake and wont work – but I seriously heard these both in the last 2 weeks from patients…
Anyway – there’s this list…a handful collection of things you TAKE to blunt the Inflammation complex.
You’ve tried many of these for sure.They work.
Back to the campfire –
For this example let’s use a classic treatment – an NSAID such as an over the counter ibuprofen or naproxen – these are like bringing a 20 oz water bottle to the fire. Pour it right on those hot coals and wa-la it helps – the fire fizzles out on that log and the flames are reduced.
But given time, the fire will return to the area that we just doused because a fire is hot. This is my idea of why if you take an anti inflammatory only when it hurts, you’re missing a better treatment window. The fire has re-flamed.
This kind of treatment, via creams and pills seem to work better if they are used 2-3 times a day. it’s like constantly pouring the water on – for a better effect.
Not the best situation but man, sometimes even a little bit of taking the edge off is worth it.
But now you keep doing dumb stuff such as a hot tub or hot shower or a long deep stretch.
That’s more blood to the area, which feels good initially because blood is like that, but 20 minutes later BAM! The body is inflamed – the fire is stoked and the alarms go off! You just went PRO Inflammatory, not ANTI Inflammatory.
This is the same lecture I always do. I’ve got that scenario mentioned on this site and my clinic’s site a dozen different ways. I’m OK with some anti inflammatories!
But let’s dive deeper here because this is Drchadpeters and we enjoy getting smarter every day.
What if you like eating sugars and carbs or foods you’re reactive to? That’s every bit as detrimental to inflammation.
That’s throwing kindling on the fire! Wow! It just flared back up – bigger than before – But oh! its OK – you’re eating 5-6 small meals per day. Great – you just threw a pack of fireworks on that camp fire.
In fact – depending on what you eat or do at home – you could just be adding perfectly cured hickory logs to your fire and man, those babies burn fantastically – long and hot. As in, “my knee has hurt for 2 weeks” or the all time classic, “my arthritis has FLARED UP” –
yep Truly -It has.
This goes for every its and complex previously mentioned- the initial plan was to make the campfire smaller and less heat – less inflammation. What can we take or do to lessen the burn?
Now – just for a minute, look at this from a different angle. This was brought to my attention today and blew my mind and gave me a concise fifth grader’s understanding of body works.
What if it’s not what you INGEST and ADD but instead what you ELIMINATE from the fire as the treatment?
What I’m suggesting is what if we just pulled the logs out of the campfire?
Look, I know this stuff is deep but your body is constantly taking in stuff – good stuff and bad stuff and often good stuff that for whatever reason is now being attacked by the body as IS TREATED as if it is bad. It’s confusing…I know. But this time I’m speaking literally – your body is confused.
Hang on here for just a second. I’m going to give you an example to deepen your understanding.
Eggs are good for you – the protein and fats make it nearly nature’s perfect food.
The proteins, of course, should be all ground up in your guts into tiny amino acids before they get into the blood.
Let’s say I had pneumonia a few weeks ago and had to take antibiotics for a two weeks session and now my gut bacteria is basically gone and the proteins are now not ground up properly and some of these full proteins get through the gut wall and directly into the blood system.
Well, what happens it that all the magic in the blood senses these proteins as foreign invaders and starts the attack – keeping you healthy and preserved. But – and it’s a huge BUT – over day by day of egg protein sneaking in my system the body actually makes antibodies for these proteins and just basically says – “eggs are bad, they’re invaders!” and the attack continues on and on to the point that the guts may even begin to implement early warning air raid sirens when eggs are introduced.
Now the eggs that are supposedly good for you, just aren’t anymore. They are the kids campfire and the body sends the flooding to quelch the problem. Now multiply this by every day because damn dude, you love yourself some eggs in the morning and multiply that by the other 100’s of proteins that over the last decade the body has made a defense system for and you can see how it seems like we’re reactive to damn near everything. It’s because in reality we most like ARE!
This is why our sprained ankle still hurts and seems to never be healing, why our knees are always sore and why you run to the bathroom like you’ve got dysentery every time you have your morning coffee.
I think its a bigger player in aging than your number of trips around the sun. You’re not getting older, your body is starting to reject more and more stuff and eventually gets confused about all the proteins such as those in joint tissue, skin, hair etc. This is the definition of Autoimmune disease – the body is attacking itself.
One more thought – it’s now pretty much known that long term anti inflammatory use as NSAIDS and sometimes even short term use directly affect and in essence punch holes into the gut wall allowing for these food particles to be attacked. The very ammo we were using for short term inflammation control now allows for more long term and chronic inflammation. AGH! Its like you can’t win.
But you can – it takes work and patience and being true to yourself and could take outside help and blood work but you can treat the entire body with a better anti inflammation diet. It’s all the rage in the NFL – just give it about 6 weeks to really show up – it’s all you’ll hear about.
Yes, an anti Inflammation diet is tough – it will be hard and it’s mind numbing because it just goes so deep – I can go WAAAAAY deeper on this guys – (see Lectin article coming out soon) but this is a good start.
I also think we as American Humans need a reset sometimes and I feel this is a HUGE reason why keto/paleo and intermittent fasting work so well – the food choices are just less. Less things to be reactive and consequently less of an inflammation cascade.
I think this is why the body feels so incredible during a true fast (after a bit of hunger discomfort) and why so many in Functional Health, the guys that actually care about healing and causes, suggest fasting and diet resets and cleanses for everything from acne to fat loss to cancer treatments .
Conversely, it’s the reason WHY there are so many misconceptions and poor advice and why simple advice like, “go Gluten Free” just doesn’t even cover it and actually is most likely leading you down the wrong rabbit hole.
(warning: another analogy) Gluten is THE rock start right now, but honestly – Gluten is just a guy in a band that has become the poster boy. He’s truly not special at all and there are a ton of similar rockers and many of them rock even harder than gluten.
It’s also why I can’t offer you a fix – This stuff is deep and it’s personal and there is a multi prong approach that is totally doable but tough if you don’t have a reason.
It’s why I can get away with having a beer and pizza and really aside from feeling bloated and foggy I’m not nearly as bad as my brother who couldn’t walk the next day his body is so reactive with rheumatoid.
But, it’s also why, the same brother knows he is playing a different game than me with different stakes and doesn’t want the pizza and beer – he wants to feel good.
And really, over time, the foods that the body attacks can be reintroduced and most likely he’ll be fine.
Again, I don’t have a solution for all of you but I would like to call a wake up and shout out to look at ELIMINATING the cause vs ADDING buffers. Cause vs treatment vs ELIMINATION. It’s not a two player game.
Remove the logs, hell, remove the entire fire pit and camp site and plant a garden of wonderfulness there instead and reap the benefits for the rest of your life.
As Dr. Steven Gundry of the “Plant Paradox” says, “What you DON’T eat is more important than what you DO eat.”
All these crazy guys eating and preaching ideas like this are actually the leaders in the next change in the diet revolution. These guys are attacked as nuts, New age and hippies but they will go down in history as the innovators, researching and understanding the inner workings of our body and responses to what we put in it.
We have come such a long way from calories in/calories out. I want you to Get in the game!