Understanding Inflammation

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:

NSAIDS

Steroids (Saids)

Omegas fatty acids

Ice

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?

Remove…not add.

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!

“More” vs “Some”

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My wife and I were at the end stage of a 4600 mile road trip.  The passengers were us and 4 kids stuffed into a suburban and touring the OLD west. Cowboy gun fights, rock climbing, staying in yurts…you name it, we did it. We crushed this vacation.

We decided a great finale to the trip would be to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge for a night.   Great Wolf Lodge is an amazing indoor water park, arcade, magic quest, kid’s paradise -money making machine.

There is so much to do it’s mind boggling and often stressful for all involved just trying to maximize the experience.

You guys know me by this part of the game – I want to maximize. In an effort to do so I think many times I miss the point that maximization is often not equal to more. I think there is a peak point of optimization and then anything beyond that shows diminishing returns.

This idea really seemed to prove itself on this trip… often times I don’t need more to be happy I just need some.

Case in point, The Great Wolf Lodge.

After a few hours of water slides, pizza, Dr. Peppers, running around, and craziness, my oldest asked if he and the other kids could just go up to the room and chill a little.  “Dad, we’ve done it…Another hour of doing it more isn’t going to make me feel better, I just want to relax a little.”

Now I’ve been and will probably always fight being one of these guys…”Whaaaat?  There’s still 2 and a half hours left?”

I could easily see myself talking my kids into staying another hour, squeezing the last drop of joy out of the water slide and taking my cost per slide rate from $15 to $8 giving me a financial “thumbs up” in the process as well.

But it wouldn’t have made anyone happier. It would have been forced and played out. In fact, it would have been conversely unhappier and less fun.

Remember, as a kid, how much fun it was to have a hotel room with no parents in it? Now that’s fun man.

So I let them go.

My wife and I decided to stay down and have a Mojito and watch the end of a World Cup soccer match.  Also fun. We talked. Not having to scream over our kids…OK, we had to scream over 100’s of other people’s kids still water-parking, but you get the point.

The next day I was talking to her about our vacation and expenses and usually family stuff and she said, “I think a lot of why we were so relaxed last night and today was just the 15 minutes we had.  It didn’t need to be a 3 week vacation by ourselves or a long drawn out 4 hour dinner…it was nice to just have a drink and watch a game with you. Sometimes a few minutes is all it takes.”

And as she does with her uncanny ability to summarize she states, “You don’t need more,  you just need some.”

The exact same idea and application as my son.  Some beats more.

Since, I have looked for this and saw a lot of application all over my life.  Look for this in your life – I’ll bet it’s the same amount of joy and pleasure (or more) …with some.

I once heard of the 3 X rule – a similar principal.  It’s used mostly for dietary things but seems to have a lot of spillover for mentality and mindfulness.

The 3 X rule is practical with pizza and beer as my primary analogy.

With Pizza and Beer, the first one is great. It hits the spot oh so perfectly. The second one is OK and, by the time you get to the third, it’s just so-so.  Any more just gets miserable and is often filled with regret later.

Guys, I could literally come up with a million scenarios to back this point, but why do more?

Why We’re Not The Experts For Our Kids

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I’m in the middle of soccer, baseball, softball and Ninja Warrior season right now. Both as a dad and as a coach – I’m involved! I have a career as a sports based chiropractor but spend a significant amount of my time and energy on human performance. I love helping adults and kids at becoming faster, stronger and more energetic. It is a passion of mine and after 4 or 5 generations of coaching I feel like coaches and teaching is in my genes –  especially for the age of my kids right now and their sports teams.

I often hear parents say, “It’s nice to have you coach because we can tell our kids what to do but they won’t listen.” That’s true. It’s difficult to be experts to your own kids.   Watch my teams.10 kids paying attention and fired up and ready to work and my two girls doing cartwheels 20 feet away. I’m no expert for them. I’m the dad – not the expert. Barely the coach.

The other kids might think I invented the sport and what I say is GOLD – but let’s get real..to my kids I’m just dad.

This may happen to you as well. Especially the young parents that have their oldest in sports for the first time –  “why won’t she listen to me??!! I played college ball for crying out loud!”

Don’t be discouraged. I have figured it out, and I can help you. I use my friends (whom are coaches) as the experts for my kids. I used to have issue with this but I’ve seen the light and learned from my mistakes.. I’ve done dozens of Tough Mudders and obstacle courses, hell, I built the stuff in our back yard they play on, but still – NO advice from dad please.

Guys it’s no big deal. Stop worrying and see it from the kids’ perspective and you’ll see why – for millennia, parents have RARELY been the experts. Even the best coaches in the world use outside help.

Little known fact – little Vito Columbus, Chris’ kid, learned to sail from one of his friends.  Not his dad.  It was pretty much peer pressure alone that made his, although lesser known – equal in longevity, sailing career profitable and secure.

Here’s why.

They’ve seen you in your underwear.

Pretty much sums it up. How can you be an expert when the kids know you like that.

They’ve seen you in the shower, swearing while tripping on Legos, in the morning before the coffee has kicked in, hungover, swearing after you stubbed your toe, Irrate over some little insignificant thing like clothes on the floor, swearing again about another thing not picked up that you stepped on – whining, begging for them to just. Go. To. Bed. Please. Basically everything that entails being a parent.

We are intimately tied to our kids and this is a GOOD thing, but it does lend itself to familiarity and comfort– both traits that keep you from being the end all –be all expert of the universe. And let’s get real, the real job of parents is in the comfort and familiarity department. That’s social development homey. The real stuff.  . Confidence and Security. That’s OUR job #1 and something to be proud of. Our kid hitting the slider can take a back seat for a while.

Have you ever noticed how your kids get when they see their teacher at the grocery?  That’s because Teachers haven’t been thought of as actual real people with real lives. They don’t just live at the school and think of nothing but furthering the human race by the education of the youth?

Use this information. Be OK with it – you still are the person they trust and love the most and they will always come back to you. Be the one that supports what the coach says and help reiterate the lessons they need. Ask the coaches to bring up something you want to instill.

Your kids’ universe is different than yours. Their perspective is different than yours and the same information coming in different ways helps reinforce the lessons they need for sports, life, love family and development. These little guys and girls are observant and when they see others listening to your advice and ideas, they’ll eventually get the point and understand that you actually do know whatever it is you’re yammering on about over there. No matter how they act – you’re still mom and dad..the smartest, strongest, kindest and most specialist person in the whole world.  Even in your underwear.