Understanding Inflammation: Starting at the Roots

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Hello Fitness Professionals! Doesn’t it seem that time flies when we’re having fun? Can you believe springtime is already here? It’s likely that during this time of the year, you’ll be re-assessing goals and speaking with clients about changes. Your clients will likely ask you about re-doing their body fat, re-assessing their nutritional plan and re-defining their goals.

Typically by April, both regular exercisers and your training clients will either:

  • Be charged up with their new training routine, or
  • Will have given up on their goals, and possibly have dropped their gym memberships and training contracts.

Why? Usually this has to do with a pre-set, specified goal that has not been realized. As professional trainers, we need to understand our client’s motivation, as well as their underlying reasons for their unrealized successes. If your client is already training consistently and eating healthily, yet are not achieving their goals, could the root cause be related to stress and inflammation?

The word inflammation comes from the Latin “inflammo”, meaning “I ignite”. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response, and plays a key role in heart disease and several other illnesses. Recent studies suggest that it has also been linked to digestive issues and stress.

Did you know the American Health Association recognizes April as Stress Awareness Month? Did you know that when it comes to managing stress levels, maintaining a healthy digestive tract (gut) is a major factor that is often overlooked? In an effort to shine light on this matter, we want to help you to understand the role of inflammation, how it’s connected to stress, and thus, how it affects your clients’ results. Inflammation has been called a hidden epidemic effecting millions of Americans.

What does this mean to health professionals and how does this affect the results your clients may or may not be achieving? New studies confirm that amongst its connection to many diseases, inflammation is also linked to weight gain. Could this be the reason your clients are over-exerting, becoming stressed and inflamed, and not getting the results they want?

Fanning out the flames: Get educated!

What’s one way to fan out the fires of inflammation? Get more education and understand the underlying causes. When dealing with inflamed clients, health professionals need to develop customized programs that are manageable for each specific client. For example, clients who are prone to high stress may consider modifying their routines by adding yoga, Pilates or walking as methods of active recovery. Currently, 24 million Americans have autoimmune disease that can be connected to inflammation. They include: 30 million asthma sufferers, 50 million with allergies, and 60 million with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural attempt at self-protection; its aim is to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or toxins to begin the healing process. Think of inflammation as the body’s ambulance; it is the natural response to harm or potential danger to the body.

How do we know we’re inflamed?

There are five classic symptoms of this physical condition, which are characterized by the following:

  • Reddening,
  • Swelling,
  • Hot/warm sensations,
  • Pain, and/or
  • Loss of function

What happens when inflammation gets out of control?

It’s important to remember that inflammation is a part of the body’s healing process. It results as the body’s natural “defense”. This process brings increased blood flow to the area, resulting in an accumulation of fluid. As the body reaches this protective response, the symptoms of inflammation develop. When this condition persists however, it is an indication that the body is struggling to repair and to heal itself. This can be likened to the ambulance arriving but there’s no driver!

Inflammation that becomes out of control is considered either acute or chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation starts rapidly and quickly becomes severe. In comparison, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last for several months to even years. Acute conditions include bronchitis, appendicitis, dermatitis or sore throat from the flu. Chronic inflammation includes asthma, tuberculosis, Chrohn’s disease, and Rheumatoid arthritis.

What are common myths about inflammation?

Be aware that inflammation is not all bad. According to Dr. Bach McCloud, author of NAFC’s Nutrition Coach Certification course:

“An appropriate inflammatory response is crucial for overall health and wellness. It is an integral part of our immune and repair processes. The main problem for most people living in our fast-paced, high-stress, imbalanced-nutrient world tends to be a chronic, low-grade, over-activation of the pro-inflammatory portion of the response. Elevated, chronic inflammation has now been associated with numerous disease processes including obesity, diabetes, vascular disease, and cancer.”

How can trainers deal with inflamed clients?

Trainers need to understand the appropriate exercise prescriptions for clients who are working with inflammation. Recognize that clients who are dealing with arthritis, joint inflammation, and other forms of consistent stressors, will need to receive special ‘TLC’ in their training program. With a better understanding of the health issues and manageable exercise options associated with arthritis, for example, trainers can be better equipped to improve the health, functional capacity, and quality of life of afflicted clients.

For the client who is prone to stress, inflammation and adrenal fatigue, we suggest giving careful attention to the following:

  • Avoid excessive over-training
  • Include relaxation or meditation strategies to the exercise program
  • Add recovery cardio or brisk walks to a routine
  • Consistent foam-rolling or myofascial release techniques
  • Commit to getting adequate sleep

Nutrition is key to taking control!

They key to getting control of inflammation starts with a solid understanding of nutrition. While new studies show that inflammation can take place in any part of the body, including the brain, inflammation can also take place in our digestive tracts. Foods that are heavily processed, high in trans fats, or high in sugars contribute to inflammation. In addition to inflammation, these foods also contribute to a higher risk of obesity and weight-loss resistance. Understanding the importance of nutrition and building a healthy gut is key to managing inflammation, and getting your clients results.