Demystifying Chronic Inflammation & Pain

Thank you! Hope you have a peaceful day

In today’s episode, I want to address one of the most dangerous and life-altering subjects: chronic inflammation, which may or may not come with chronic pain. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Harvard Medical School Chronic inflammation has been reported to contribute to numerous diseases, including arthritis, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimers, diabetes, asthma, atherosclerosis, Neurological diseases and cancer. According to Cancer Research Institute, Department of Pathology, UCSF, chronic inflammation is a critical component of cancer and many cancers arise from sites of infection, chronic irritation and inflammation. We can live our life on complete autopilot, accomplishing one project after another, taking care of the world, our families, and our businesses, satisfying our short-term desires and chasing the idea of success until the pain shakes us up. When our life is touched by chronic disease – all our drive and past desires seem to dissipate and our health consumes our headspace 24/7. When it hurts to be in our body doing the regular business of our day-to-day living: all the external success no longer seems to matter. I want to empower all of us to take matters of healing into our own hands, and trust that when we work with our body, when we understand and meet it needs – it will do its best job to recover and make you feel your best.

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In this post, I will talk about what inflammation is, 3 common causes of chronic inflammation and pain, And the 4 Main Pillars of healing. I will also share a few real-life recovery stories that I have experienced and witnessed.

 

Let’s begin with understanding chronic inflammation and pain. How I like to say it is Pain is Inflammation, and Inflammation is Information! The inflammation is actually NOT a bad guy! Inflammation is simply a process of repair – it is our immune system’s response to repair any damage. When our body is in a repair state – our body is in an inflammatory state. Acute, short-term inflammation, usually doesn’t last for more than a few weeks and often comes with pain – which we can apply ice or take a painkiller, leave that area alone and rest up while the body is doing that acute repair. Here is the Inflammation definition according to medical science: Inflammation is a biological response of the immune system that can be triggered by a variety of factors, including pathogens, damaged cells, and toxic compounds. BTW, the information I share in my blog and podcast is based on medical studies and you can see some of my recourses in the posts description below.

 

The main thing I want you to learn from today is this – inflammation means to repair, the functioning of our majestic immune system. Acute Inflammation happens when we have sudden damage, break our bone, pull a muscle, eat a nasty bug, herniate our disk, get an infection, cut our skin, or get exposed to a toxin – we often feel pain when our body kicks into acute inflammation to rebuild the tissues, kill the pathogens, swell, raise our temperature, push things out, and even stop functioning so it can do all the magical processes to fix things up.

The subject of this post though is Chronic pain & Chronic inflammation – when the symptoms don’t go away after a few months. Persistent, chronic inflammation is a result of prolonged exposure to stimulation and as we now know it very, very dangerous. But, because we understand now what inflammation is – we can use it as invaluable information telling us that something in our body is simply breaking down – something that WE DO daily is exposing our tissues to damage. Unfortunately, inflammation is not so white and black, and chronic inflammation may or may not come with pain and it takes a long time for us to find out that we got inflamed tissues.

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For instance, if our colon or stomach is being damaged by what we eat, the sign is not pain, but bloating, skin disorders, acne, rosacea, dermatitis, indigestion, or allergies – not so clear it’s the internal organ that is breaking down! If our arteries and capillaries are breaking down by our blood sugar spikes – it will usually not show up not as pain, but as high cholesterol or insulin resistance, and eventually kidney failure. Please listen to my Episode about Sustainable Weight Loss to learn exactly how our arteries can get damaged daily by our love for unhealthy foods. And, listen to my Gut Health Episode (or read here) to learn about digestive wellbeing. 

When our inflammatory symptoms linger, and we go to see a doctor, who will diagnose all chronic inflammation as the suffix ‘ITIS’: dermatitis, arthritis, Colitis, bursitis, folliculitis, tendonitis, gastritis, basically anything with 'ITIS' after the tissues is a chronic inflammation. Your 'ITIS' is information that your daily habits cause serious tissue damage somewhere inside your body something is breaking down. Before I opened Glow, I dealt with a few chronic inflammatory conditions: gastritis, hip bursitis, plantar fasciitis, and neck arthritis. My chronic neck pain was the reason why I picked up yoga and resistance training. I am very grateful to acknowledge that in the past 10 years since following the Glow Selfcare program I have not experienced any more itises. And you can listen to how I healed my gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) in the Gut Health episode.

 

To concrete our learning here - inflammation = repair, so chronic inflammation is a sign that our body cannot keep up with the repair, something is breaking down and we may or may not experience pain. Chronic inflammation means that the damage somehow does not stop = we are continually doing something to ourselves that breaks down the tissues day in and day out – whether it’s our internal organs, joints, our arteries and capillaries, our skin, or even our brain. So our main quest to how to heal shall be not the next steroid medication but to find the underlying cause = but WHY is my body inflamed? WHAT DO WE unconsciously do to keep irritating our body? What is it we are continually doing that stops our body from healing itself? How am I mistreating my body causing a hostile environment where healing cannot be fostered?

Here are 3 main reasons for Chronic Pain & Inflammation:

 

Important to note that more often the cause of our inflammation is not just one but a combination of 3 of the following:

1. Our Unhealthy diet, self-medicating and daily exposure to toxins and pathogens. When we indulge in Fritos, cookies, zero-sugar drinks, a pastry for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pizza with wine for dinner - that kind of standard American diet is the main reason behind most of our ITISes (Aitises) especially Arthritis, Colitis, Gastritis, Dermatitis, Arterial Arthritis which is Heart Disease and many more chronic conditions. Processed Foods I just mentioned plus alcohol create irreversible internal damage that is unfortunately not visible for a long time until it is too late- when our skin gets red, our joints are all achy and we’re having emergency heart surgery. Our daily food indulgences often cause painless inflammation – the most dangerous and very easy to ignore. We need to do our very best to stop buying processed foods, and learn to love veggies & hummus when we crave a quick meal. As for the toxins and pathogens, we can expose ourselves to too many artificial fragrances, toxic cleaning liquids, mold, smoke, toxic dust, and of course bacteria & viruses exposure is usually out of our control. It is important to keep our household free of any known toxins. Even fragrant laundry detergent can create chronic inflammation in our skin as we spend hours in bed every day.

 

2. Unbalanced Use or unbalanced Strength of our body. Unbalanced use means not exercising enough, or over-use, we have all heard of tennis elbow: we play lots of tennis – we get lateral epicondylitis. If we have a physical job lifting heavy boxes – we will wear out our hips and spine, if we grip anything all day long with our sticky fingers like our cellphones or our driving wheels – we’ll over-use the hands creating chronic inflammation in our hands. When I kept my head and arms in front of me all day long for years – I created inflammation, and arthritis in my neck. Pain & inflammation happen with overuse of particular tissues combined with not enough resting. And there is also inflammation caused by the weaknesses around our joints. What happens in weakened muscles situations is our stronger muscles are over-compensating while our weak muscles stay lazy, and OFFLINE altogether! For instance, if our front thigh muscle is somewhat developed because we sit and get up the toilet a few times a day, but our inner thigh or outer thigh muscles are weak (hmhm, most of us😜), all of the joints - our knees, hips, and low back will not be structurally supported, eventually causing pain and inflammation. That is why the first step in recovery whenever you see a doctor for back, knee, neck, shoulder and all other chronic pain is building strength and physical therapy - exercising daily! Unfortunately, most people never do their PT homework and that is why our pain lingers for the rest of their life. Even after we are forced to replace our joints – exercise is the only path to complete recovery. I get to answer this question at Glow all the time – what can I do for my back pain, sciatica, neck, knee, and hip pain? The answer is careful strength building – 3 times a week at the very minimum, for the best results. The worst that usually happens is when people experience pain, they become afraid of movement and stop working out altogether, thinking movement makes their pain it worse. Commitment to move a few times a week is the key to healing inflammation. Nothing fast-paced, but steady, bodyweight, resistance-based workouts are what doctors recommend! Our chronic pain was building up for at least a decade of improper overuse. It will take some time to rebuild our bodies and our bad habits. You know, my neck pain didn’t go away in 3 months – it took me at least a year before one day I realized, wait – I don’t think I feel my neck burning anymore! That was just incredible. I want to inspire you not to give up - no matter what pain you are experiencing, the best way to recover is to build strength around your joints using resistance training, it’s taking yoga classes to improve joint mobility. I credit my recovery to my strengthening routine – I had to create my signature Class called 360Barre incorporating Resistance Bands from Physical Therapy, plus all of my favorite Pilates tools. Physical therapy works, but only if we do it, and if you ask me – my 360Barre plus Yoga is the best life-long preventative selfcare! Once our body is strong all-around, 360 degrees of our joints – all of our muscles are ONLINE working as a team as designed – like the fascinating and divine vehicle that it is. Another important reason to stick with your regular strengthening routine is building your bone density to prevent Osteoporosis. According to the latest data, one in TWO adults over 50 experience bone fractures caused by osteoporosis. 24 percent of hip fracture patients die in the year following the fracture - which is a great reason to try to strengthen our bones, and our balance, by all means. I am intending to do a whole separate episode on bone density and osteoporosis as this is such a prevalent selfcare issue. 

 

3. Our chronic state of Fight or Flight – when our nervous system is dysregulated and our cortisol hormone is high. We are such an adaptable species that we often don’t even realize that we live in a high stress, and our cortisol hormone hijacks our immune system keeping us susceptible to all inflammatory conditions and all cancers! Our chronic stress can be caused by our bosses who’re mostly negative, by our children struggling with something, by our aging parents, by watching daily news, by our unconscious trauma from the past, by being in unhealthy relationships, and simply by living in a noisy environment. Our cities are so polluted with noise, it can keep our system in fight or flight without us even knowing it. Today, your doctor can order a Cortisol Test covered by your insurance for these conditions: High blood pressure, High blood sugar (glucose), Obesity, Fragile skin, Muscle weakness, Osteoporosis, Irregular menstrual periods, increased facial hair and anxiety. Please advocate for yourself and have your doctor order you a cortisol test the next time you visit. It is much better to be in the know and prevent disease before it is too late. Let’s just assume we all have elevated cortisol. How do we lower it?  Keep reading.

 

Again the 3 common causes are the inflammatory things we eat, the alcohol we drink or toxins we expose ourselves to, our physical imbalances, and our level of stress. And these 3 causes usually work in combination. For instance, while a person living a relaxing small-town lifestyle drinking wine with pasta dinner can feel amazing, a stressed hardworking person in the city having a daily drink and a slice of pizza can create a chronic inflammatory environment. Stress alone can cause irreversible damages inside, AND stress coupled with any mildly toxic exposure creates a death by a thousand paper cuts.

 

Here is an inspiring healing story from one of the students I was lucky to work with.

 

She came into Glow with excruciating foot pain last year, and a year later after taking exactly 163 classes she for the first time shared the details of her incredible story with me. A few years back she was diagnosed with foot arthritis, and her daily pain was 10 out of 10. She suffered for years, not able to enjoy even a simple walk and the worst part she said was that her mind could not focus on anything but her pain and her diagnosis. Imagine living your life and thinking of your pain, and your doomed future all day long. The doctor kind of hinted that this is a life sentence – you and your arthritis better get to know each other. Not asking or talking about lifestyle choices, the doctor said We CAN do a foot surgery too – clean up some damaged bones here and there. She of course signed up for surgery hoping to reduce that excruciating pain and get her life back! After surgery and physical therapy, 3 months go by, a year goes by and the pain does not go away. She keeps going to see that’s the same doctor who finally admits ‘well, I don’t know why you have this arthritis’ ‘This was my wake-up call she said, ‘Why was I relying on this doctor this whole time if he had no idea why I have arthritis?’ and I had goosebumps when she said that. She dug deep into inflammation and found a few things that might have contributed to her internal inflammatory environment. She was munching on a few bags of Doritos with Diet Coke every week, and of course not eating too healthy in general. Her stress level was super high because of her persistent pain, up and she’s never taken barefoot exercises – so her feet were weak! Amongst 163 classes she took were our 360Barre, Glow Flow Yoga class, and SoundBaths – a very soothing meditation. In our Barre & Yoga classes, she was doing a lot of one-legged standing poses to rehab & build up strength in her feet. And, exactly a year since she started at Glow, her pain, and the arthritis were gone! In that year she has also eliminated processed foods, waved goodbye to diet coke and all sweet drinks, invented her own green juice recipe with ginger, bok choi, and other leafy greens, lost over 20 pounds, turned around her mood, and now excited about her active future! Not until she had addressed all 3 Causes I mentioned, she was able to say goodbye to the Arthritis. 

 

Keep listening, and we will go through the 4 Fundamental Pillars protocol of creating a healing – repair-friendly environment inside. 4 things we all can do starting today to assist our incredible body with the process of repair, rehab, and preventing all damage and building a Healthy House to live in.

 

For our body to shift into repair mode it needs these 4 Fundamental Pillars of a Healthy House:

 

1. First, the body needs the building materials themselves! Our body needs nutrients to rebuild its own tissues. It needs every possible vitamin and mineral to patch things up, to create new healthy cells – to be exact, about 5% of our body weight. I hope you understand that we cannot build a healthy cell from a Dorito, right?! We are what we eat right? I should start eating Victoria's Secret Models 😜 To repair, our body needs bright-colored vegetables & Omega-3-rich foods. In medical literature, you can learn about an anti-inflammatory diet which means eliminating sweet snacks, absolutely all flavored beverages including sugar-free drinks, white carbs, all snacks from in the bags, and alcohol. The mentioned foods consumed daily actually ARE the cause of the majority of inflammatory conditions. If our diet consists of pizza, alcohol, dairy, and sandwiches, there is not only a deficit of building supplies but also continuous damage to our internal organs which increases inflammation. Consuming whole, colorful foods that grow in the soil every day provide our body with everything it needs to begin reconstruction and repair. Stop drinking alcohol for a few months – give your body time to patch things up! If a few months without booze sounds like you want to break up with me right now – most likely you’re not applying yourself fully and bought into a misbelief that life is mundane without alcohol. Sign up for a local Toastmasters Club, become a daily member of a local studio, Martial Arts Gym, Pottery Class, or Music School, or Volunteer at a local kids center for an afterschool program - and your life will become exciting again sans the booze.  We drink the most when we have nothing else to do.  Fill up your weekdays with growth-oriented fun, and joyful activities, and the mundanity problem will disappear.

 

2. The Second Pillar of Healing Chronic Inflammation is putting our Body into a Parasympathetic state every day, meaning lowering the cortisol hormone and building up high-quality sleep. No repair is possible if we live in a fight-and-flight state, in a chronic state of catching up, worried or upset. Our body also restores itself during the deep stage of our sleep. If you can track your sleep using any wearables, you want to create a routine for 13-15% of your night to be in DEEP (non-rem sleep) Deep sleep is a critical time for physical restoration. Repair occurs at the cellular level, restoring strength and function to tissue, muscle, and organs throughout the body. During these sleep stages, the body also restores function to the immune system. Even if we eat all kale salad & sardines but feel stressed or emotionally charged – no repair is possible as our body does not do the business of repair when our cortisol is elevated and our sleep quality is not so good. To lower our cortisol every day we can do a LOT of things! Go outside for a walk, take a yoga class, practice breathwork with meditation, enjoy a bubble bath, play with your pet or kids, spend 30 minutes in silence, and definitely TURN OFF the TV. Check a few Breathwork Episodes I have uploaded to my Podcast you can practice lower your cortisol, and blood pressure and improving your sleep in a matter of minutes. Breathwork is one of the most effective ways to rebalance our nervous system – the key is in daily practice. I am resuming my Breathwork Training in 2023 and beyond, and have an exciting Breathwork Retreat coming up in March 2023 - we are going to See the Northern Lights and try dog sledding - a bucket List adventure for all! You can read about it below in the episode description.

 

3. The third pillar of healing chronic inflammation and Pain is Structural Strength & Balance. When we struggle with chronic joint pain, in the neck, back, and shoulders – it’s really important to correct the 3 underlying issues, which are our poor posture (👋 raise your hand if that's you), weak back body muscles, and undeveloped joint-supportive muscles, the muscles that surround our joints 360 degrees. And what exercise is the best to reduce inflammation? The one you do!!! Choose one that creates overall balance, uses the majority of muscles, and does not add damage, or stress to your system. If your workouts come with city traffic, loud instructors, heavy weights, high speed, or competition - that might not be the best for you today. Instead think calm, mindful, and … daily. And, if you are in high physical pain – doing a 20-minute full-body stretching sequence on the mat is the only true path toward long-term recovery and prevention. Know that absolutely every stretch strengthens our muscles – there is no such thing as stretch without strengthening. Every stretch physically LOADS the tissues– which in turn creates strength. Below I included one 20-min 360 degrees strengthening sequence with a foam roller you can slowly build up on by adding it to your daily selfcare – you gotta do something, start today. Without strengthening, we are simply not giving our body the opportunity to heal.

 

4. The fourth pillar of healing inflammation and pain is Circulation. The process or any repair is fueled by the circulating liquids that move to deliver building materials and remove damaged cells and pathogens. Circulation can be increased by, what we have mentioned above, exercise, stretch and also, massage, heat, sauna, Red Light Therapy, Infrared Light Therapy, and some botanical topicals. Massage is known to be the best method for pain relief. While we can take a pill to relieve our pain as a temporary band-aid – a regular massage will put our body on the road to recovery, activating the parasympathetic state, helping our body reactivate its muscle function, release chronic tension, congestion, tension, and collected toxins. Even in the best oncology centers, today massage therapy is offered now as a part of the patient’s treatment. What I personally do to keep my inflammation from ever returning is a daily workout, then I apply my anti-inflammatory Roll-On with a wicked peppermint mixture called Inhale Nature, a weekly full-body rollout using TuneUp Massage Therapy Balls, I regularly schedule a full body massage, Red Light Therapy. I've developed an anti-inflammatory Pain-Relief Roll-On using my grandma’s recipe and then AMPED it up with the most potent botanicals scientifically proven to increase circulation and speed up repair – you can order one for yourself to try from the description below. Just be careful with it – a little goes a very long way! The story behind my Anti-Inflammatory Roll-on began with my mom’s healing story. After she turned 50 she was diagnosed with Arthritis in her hands, and her daily pain was 10 out of 10. She has tried all steroids and pills her doctor prescribed and nothing worked. Then she remembered about her mom, my grandma’s daily ointment with camphor and other botanicals. She started to rub that mix on her hands every day which felt soothing, and about 6 months later she noticed her pain was gone, and her arthritis was healed. I credit it to all the ingredients plus her action of rubbing, massaging her hands applying it in. All that increases circulation which is a must for any repair. 

 

To summarize the 4 pillars, 4 equally important tools for recovery from chronic inflammation. No matter what in our body needs fixing – our immune system repairs the body best when we eat healthily, have daily mental hygiene to reduce cortisol, improve our sleep, when our body’s strength and posture are balanced, and all our juices are flowing with ease, delivering the supplies and rebuilding the tissues.

 

I host an ongoing LIVE remote Training for Selfcare Habit Development, which is scheduled M-F 7:30a PST you join from anywhere starting on the 1st of any month. In this Live Training, we get to practice absolutely everything I talk about in this episode and in my podcast. This training is designed to build a sustainable selfcare habit for graceful aging to enjoy all the gifts of this funny life to the fullest. You can read about my Daily Live training here below, and join us! It’s a small & friendly group of dedicated women who want to feel their best.

 

I hope after listening to this episode you understand why I call Inflammation Information. Inflammation informs us that somewhere we are perpetually doing something that keeps adding to the damage - it’s like we’re drinking a little drop of poison for years - keeping our body in a constant struggle trying to repair. Even if you have not been diagnosed with anything, yet, or your doctor gave you an ‘ITIS’ for your long-term pain, redness, rash, indigestion, or anything else – the ITIS cannot be healed by a pain killer or a steroid – our 'ITIS' is a sign that our body is in a state of long-term repair - a response to something we unconsciously damage day in and day out. Go full-on Detective Mode, keep searching for WHY, follow the 4 Pillars of the Repair Protocol, and ask yourself every day – how can I support my body today to reduce its stress, feed it with high-quality materials, strengthen it and give it the quality sleep it deserves?

 

Thank you so much for reading I am so proud of you for staying curious and learning new ways of taking loving care of what you have been given as a gift. Remember, that healing is the application of love and care for all the places that hurt, and that consistency is key. If you enjoyed this  – please use a webchat to tell me what you liked. Sending you love and health from one and only San Francisco, until next time!

Mentions: 

Video Class: 20-Min Daily Rehab Sequence >  Below

 

Live Selfcare Habit Development Program 

 

Anti-Inflammatory Roll-On by Inhale Nature 

A Few Medical Studies:

Inflammation & Brain Health https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/aging/inflammation-brain-health

Markers of inflammation - Medical Studies by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29882133/

Exercise-induced immune system response: Anti-inflammatory status on peripheral and central organs https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32360589/

"Exercise as medicine" in chronic kidney disease https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27334146/ 

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Diet Medical Studies www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8389628/

Evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in chronic disease https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16451303/

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