Inflammation is a signal that involves pain, stiffness, and oftentimes weakness in the affected area. When we live with ‘chronic inflammation’ of any kind, it behooves us to recognize that this ‘signal’ is a symptom of a greater imbalance. Taking anti-inflammatory pills ‘as the treatment’ is similar to using masking tape over your car’s ‘check engine light’ . . . which one might do if on the way to the mechanic – but certainly not when we are setting out on a road trip.
Life is the road trip. Inflammation is the ‘check engine’ light. Your mind/ body/ spirit balance is ‘the engine.’
Functional medicine guides us to get to the source of the problem. When we have pain from inflammation, we ask questions such as: “Is this a genetic predisposition over which I may have some degree of control through carefully chosen lifestyle choices? If so, which ones? What system is sending the signal? Is it muscular? Neurological?” . . . and so on. Once we are certain there is no life threatening emergency, we set out to reestablish ‘balance’ by listening to the unique communication offered by our body, and addressing each system respectfully, paying careful attention to the engine (mind/body/spirit balance).
Once we decide to implement lifestyle choices in our effort to regain control over physical comfort, the first step is often to become mindful of our present lifestyle and daily habits. For example, we begin to notice how we sit, stand, and walk. While sitting, do we lean on our elbows? How is our posture at the computer? Are we hunched over the keyboard? In the living room or den, do we often slouch into the couch? At the dinner table do we rest on our forearms and/or stoop down to the dinner plate? During the day, while standing, do we lean forward, sideward, or in any way lean against the countertop or post beside which we might be standing? While walking, do we look ahead or down at our feet? These and other questions begin our journey to healing the imbalance signaled by the inflammation.
The second step often includes keeping a daily journal of dietary habits. If this is beginning to sound overwhelming, you might be more interested in the conventional medical approach to your healthcare. If, however, this is beginning to sound exciting – feeling as if you are being offered a roadmap towards your continuing adventure through life, read on. There is much more to come. The journal would begin with what you feel before you eat, what food you choose, and how you feel during and after eating it. No changes need to be made to the foods you eat for two weeks. During that two week period, you observe how your energy, mood, joints, sleep pattern, bowel habits etc., all respond to your choices – and these are recorded by you over that same two weeks.
The third step is to evaluate your journal, answer your body’s signals, and follow the instructions your body continues to offer. If you need assistance, then share your discoveries with your functional medicine practitioner so that together you can learn how to interpret your body’s unique communication, and craft a plan of action to facilitate the comfort you deserve.
A few resources you might find helpful: http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/07/24/10-strategies-to-reverse-autoimmune-disease/; https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/eating-anti-inflammatory-diet/