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We always want to improve our health and fitness and, for most of us, we should. There are not many people who are very fit and very healthy.
And there are a bewildering number of things we are told to achieve this. We should exercise more, sleep more, eat less, breathe better, lower stress, get a pet and so on.
What’s the best way to measure how fit and healthy we are?
I think we should ask two questions;
- How much energy do we have?
- How much inflammation do we have?
When we have a lot of energy, we feel great, and we can do a lot. When we have less than we need, we can’t. That much is obvious. All of us have an intuition about how we are, at any one moment in time.
By energy, I mean the circulating physical energy that the body uses to power our cells. If we have lots of this chemical energy we feel clear-headed, our muscles are stronger and more enduring, and our ‘bits and pieces’ all work smoothly.
Even if our spine is not working mechanically as well as it should, when we have plenty of energy, we often don’t get aches and pains.
But if our energy levels drop, then our spine can’t cope as well, and it gradually starts to hurt. Then we think, what’s changed in my spine? In this case, nothing in the spine itself!
What most people don’t appreciate is that there is a blurry zone separating these two ends of the spectrum. A lot of us spend an uncomfortably large amount of time – or all it – in this blurred zone. Why?
- We are older
- We don’t sleep as well as we used to
- We don’t exercise enough
- We overeat
- We eat or drink too much refined sugary food
- We eat excess protein (we need less the older we get)
- We are under stress
- We don’t breathe well
- There are toxins in our diet and environment
There’s a few things to point out about this blurred zone. To start with, we can drift into it slowly, over an extended period. We won’t notice this drift. When we haven’t been in the zone for too long, or are in the better part of the zone, our bodies still have resilience. They can oscillate or bounce quickly to a higher, better, level if we improve some or all of the factors listed above.
But when we have not been right for a while, or are near the lower points of the zone, small adverse changes are enough to push us down. We then feel low on energy. It’s bad enough that we begin to notice. We are tired and lethargic. It motivates us to do something.
When the body’s tendency to want to correct itself kicks in, or we make a few positive changes in one or more areas, we move up the zone a bit. As soon as we do, we feel better. Being grateful for that, we still don’t appreciate that we are in the blurry zone of inadequate health and energy.
Another oscillation moves us down, and the cycle repeats. We bounce up and down from one level of energy to the other. And we don’t notice that we bounce a little lower, and a little less high, each time.
To most people, inflammation equals pain. This is partly true. An ‘acute’ (short-lived) inflammation occurs as a result of some kind of tissue injury like, for example, a muscle sprain. The inflammation produces pain and soreness. We experience the natural cycle of inflammation starting, building up, peaking (at 48 to 72 hours, if you are healthy) and subsiding as the tissue heals. Of course, a more significant injury will mean this process takes longer, but the pattern is mostly the same.
If our body doesn’t work well, the process of regulating inflammation won’t function as it should.
There are three ways that inflammation becomes dysregulated and which indicate our body is not working well;
Acute inflammation won’t settle
A routine inflammation persists for far longer than it should, sometimes even transitioning to a form of inflammation called chronic inflammation. The area just doesn’t seem to get better.
This often occurs when you have poor circulation in the injured area or are over-using anti-inflammatories. Osteopathy can really help here.
Exaggerated pain responses
Regular strains and sprains seem to produce a higher inflammatory response than they should. For example, you only knock your elbow a bit, but it gets excessively sore for a few days. Or different areas of your body are always going through some form of soreness response (so-called flitting pains).
Here your body produces exaggerated inflammatory reactions to trauma. This is a big clue that you need to work on the overall health issues discussed earlier, possibly supplementing with vitamin D3 and high-quality fish oil.
The development of auto-immune reactions
Your immune system, which is heavily influenced by how well your colon works, attacks your tissues, causing an auto-immune inflammatory reaction.
Here you really have a problem. Auto-immune reactions occur as an unholy combination of genetic predisposition, encounters with viruses and bacteria, and compromised immune/stress/inflammation control systems.
If you are someone with low energy levels, with poor control of inflammation, have the wrong kind of genes, and you encounter certain types of bugs, then an auto-immune reaction may well result.
If it does, you might have a window of opportunity to get a hold of it. These types of responses pop up anywhere – joints, skin and so on.
Some forms of disorders result in elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the body. For example, polymyalgia rheumatica shows itself through a high ESR result. But in a lot of the above cases, there are no definitive blood tests that reveal the problem. Even more disconcerting, medical treatments for these types of conditions are based on symptom suppression (e.g. steroids or other forms of chemotherapy). It really is essential not to passively drift into this sort of treatment as a sole solution to the problem.
As an aside, this article shows how exaggerated inflammatory activity in the body leads to significant problems over time, and how, in some cases, regular anti-inflammatories might help!
Of course, it’s much better to deal with inflammation naturally, if you can.
Low energy levels and poorly regulated inflammation can be helped.
But you need to take charge of yourself and not rely on doctors for all the solution.
Work on all the areas noted above, at the same time. Don’t just try one at a time.
Once your body has developed persistently low energy levels and poor control of inflammation, don’t expect it to respond immediately to changes.
It will be a bit like altering course on an oil tanker – changes of direction take time to happen.