Advice on diet change

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Hi there,

I was diagnosed with Graves Disease last year and have been taking Carbimazole since September 2013. I started on a 40mg dose and have gradually reduced to 10mg. I initally felt that the medication was helping as I felt better but I seem to have reached a point where I'm not progressing any further. I have aches and pains and generally feel more tired that is usual. I feel bloated and am having wind problems. I've put back on all the weight I lost and have continued to gain weight. I am just about keeping it stable by being careful what I eat but I seem to put it on very easily. While trawling the internet for information I came across a recommendation for following a Paleolithic diet which basically cuts out sugar, dairy and wheat.

I wondered if anyone had tried this and what results they had? The sugar and dairy aren't really a problem but following a wheat/gluten free diet just seems to be so complicated.

Any advice would be great thanks. This forum has been a great find for me as I can see that other people are going through similar things and I mostly feel quite lucky that my symptoms aren't worse!

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33 Replies

  • Posted

    I have Graves. My sister doesn't have Graves but she is a health nut and swears by no dairy, no wheat. Says her aches and pains have disappeared since she has changed her diet.
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  • Posted

    Thanks for that Linda. I'll look into it some more but it needs to be easy to do on a daily basis. I'm not a big fan of junk food but the thought of not being able to have bread, pasta or oats does sound extreme and difficult to manage unless you are a self confessed "health nut"!!!
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  • Posted

    I agree with you. My sister makes her own bread in her new breadmaker and uses some kind of pasta that is made from a different flour. She also eats some kind of cereal she says "tastes like wet paper but you can sweeten it up with dried fruit to make it taste better". Not my thing, I would rather just not eat cereal.
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  • Posted


    I am hyperthyroid, but no Graves. I've taken Carbimazole for about as long as you have, Karen. I think it has helped a bit, but I'm still searching for ways to feel better and to really heal my thyroid!

    Recently, I started taking a pretty amazing product, which led me to researching some things on the internet. Things that I knew, but needed more specifics on.

    Inflammation is at the root of most, if not all, health issues. Read about inflammation on the internet.

    Then research "anti-inflammatory foods/diet." This may help, and probably not so extreme as you might think!

    The product I mentioned has helped me. If you email me directly I can share info with you. It's made from black cumin seeds, black raspberry seeds, chardonnay grape seeds, and d-ribose. It has wonderful omega oils that come from the seeds and one of the things it does is significantly decrease inflammation. People have lost weight by using it, too. It's really just giving you what your body needs, and what it is craving.

    The prophet Muhammad called black cumin "a remedy for every illness except death."

    I don't want to be accused of spamming, so if you want info, please message me directly.

    Good luck!

    Emis Moderator comment: I have removed the email address as we do not publish these. If anyone wants the info or to contact each other directly please use the message service.

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  • Posted

    My sister, who has had problems similar to mine with low, or low-normal, TSH in the face of low thyroid symptoms and low free T3 numbers goes to a naturopath for Armour thyroid. He started out "testing" her for food allergies, I don't really understand it because it seems like some type of voodoo to me. It sounded like from her description, that he would put some substance in a closed container or just have the written word and dangle it in front of her and if it moved away from her it was said to be bad for her and if it moved toward her it was good.

    Now she thinks she is "allergic" to everything except rice and tomatoes. She takes this doctor's purified supplements for everything else. Once in a while she succumbs to temptation to eat something else and gets bloated or gains abdominal fat. I am 65 going on 66 and she is a year older than I am.

    About 40 years ago she was doing much worse than I am now, but now she is doing better. She is holding down a full time job in a medical billing office and I haven't worked outside the home for about 30 years, and don't know how I would manage if I had to do it. I can barely take care of myself somewhat.

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  • Posted


    Your sister was being "muscle-tested"...or more technically known as "applied kinesiology." I've had two really good chiropractors and a naturopath friend who I would say are "experts" at it.

    I think if a practitioner is really good at it, that it can be extremely accurate.

    Dr. David Hawkins was the father of applied kinesiology. He totally believed in the power of our thoughts, and that muscle testing holds the key to exposing absolute (i.e. "universal" ) truth. Basically, he believes that through applied kinesiology one can "instantly determine the truth or falsehood of any statement or supposed fact."

    Dr. Hawkins is VERY scientific and technical so there isn't much fluff and voodoo in his writings. He is in his 80's now, and doesn't do anymore seminars. I saw him in person (his second to last public appearance) when I lived in Sedona, AZ about 3 years ago. It is all quite fascinating and people came from all over the world just to see him in person for two short hours.

    His most well-known book explains the subject in detail - "Power v. Force." It truly is a fascinating piece of work.

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  • Posted

    Thanks everyone for your advice. I'm due to see my endocrinologist in a couple of weeks so I think until then I'll just watch what I'm eating and try to cut down on sugar, dairy and wheat as far as is practical. It may be that my dose needs changing or something so I'll see what she says before I start doing anything else. It's only six months since my diagnosis so I guess it's still early days but I'm fed up of not feeling like myself and being so up and down all the time.
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  • Posted


    Thank you for your explanation, it is certainly the most informative one I have ever had.


    I am concerned about your initial question and situation and wonder if you might also benefit from carnetine supplementation or in eating red meat like beef or lamb. Linda, here, started me on a path to researching it, and I started a thread about it in regards to my nightmare journey with Graves' Disease, but there are also other threads on which it has been mentioned.

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  • Posted

    Fern, I'm glad the explanation helped.

    This forum is amazing...we are all learning so much! The carnitine info from Linda was most useful, I agree!

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  • Posted

    Thanks Fern, I looked up your thread on carnitine and have found a supplier so I may give it a try. I do eat red meat, though not to excess, but it doesn't seem to make any difference to how I feel. On the whole I have a pretty varied and mostly healthy diet but when I'm feeling tired and low it's really easy to stuff myself with sugar just to get me through the day. Long term this makes me feel worse which is why I was researching different diets. I've avoided dairy, sugar and wheat for the last few days and have definitely felt less bloated but my energy levels are no different.

    I need to ask my endocrinologist what constitutes a stable dose of carbimazole. At the moment, I've been taking a dose for a month then decreasing so I went from 40mg to 30mg then 20, 15 and now I'm on 10mg. I don't know what I'm aiming for though which is quite frustrating. My doctor wants me to stay on the medication for a minimum of 18 months but I don't want to feel like this for that long!

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  • Posted

    Karen, what are the results of your TSH, T3 and T4 currently? I think it is important for all patients to know and keep track of their blood work results. This is empowering. I have always gotten copies of my lab work from Day 1 of my diagnosis.
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  • Posted


    I have been taking methimazole (I think I said carbimazole in an earlier note) for about as long as you have been on medication. The doctor put me on 5mg tablets, 3x/day. That lasted for about 2 months and I wasn't feeling a whole lot better, and I also got constipated pretty badly. It was so uncomfortable and just added to my stress, worry, fatigue, weakness and moodiness related to my thyroid!

    I called her and she told me to decrease to 2x/day. That helped tremendously, along with taking a good quality "colon cleanse" supplement (one that I had taken for years -- mostly for maintenance and to add good bacteria to the colon) and trying to keep the sugar/carbs to a minimum.

    My recent blood test from middle of January was TSH 2.88; T3 2.9 and T4 .88 -- within normal range and improved from my first blood test from April of last year when I was first diagnosed -- but I still don't feel much better. Good thing I decreased my meds, however. Still trying to solve the puzzle and get well! I think I'm moving in the right direction, but it just takes so long. I'm due for another blood test next month, in April.

    One thing that I LOVE and almost makes me feel like I'm cheating (because I love sweets, too) is to drink herbal teas (I drink green tea-inflammatory; ginger tea; and dandelion root tea-both help with digestion; I also drink another tea with licorice root and other herbs that is basically a liver detox. I put a serving of stevia in the tea (a sweet herb from the Brazilian stevia leaf - very potent just like artificial sweeteners but is natural and actually very healthy for you...also stabilizes blood sugar levels!). I add lots of fresh lemon juice to the tea, too. It's always sweet, flavorful and matter which tea I drink. And it satisfies my sweet tooth! Oh, and the tea, stevia, and lemon are ALL alkaline (v. acidic). We want our bodies to be alkaline because acidity is what "breeds" disease.

    You may also want to look into viruses and see if you have one. Up to 95% of people have Epstein-Barr virus in their bodies (it is a form of herpes virus). Stress will cause this virus to go out of dormancy and become active. No matter the virus, if it is dormant and is triggered (usually by some kind of stress), and if it doesn't get back under control, it will go rampant and begin attacking the body...even the thyroid. I believe that's what happened to me.

    I was under constant stress for several years. I had been told that I had the Epstein-Barr virus years ago after getting a blood test. Obviously it was dormant for years. But I always felt kind of fatigued most of my life. I believe the severe stress that I was under the last several years triggered the virus to become active and eventually attack my thyroid. I also found out I had severe cervical dysplasia recently. All triggered by the constant stress that decreased dramatically about 9 months ago.

    This severely affects your immune system and wreaks havoc in lots of ways. And is directly related to inflammation, which I discussed earlier.

    There are possible connections with the thyroid, immune system, CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia, too.

    A really informative book I just got is "The Thyroid Solution" by Ridha Arem, M.D. It discusses pretty much everything related to thyroid imbalance. A very worthwhile investment. I think I got a good, used copy on Amazon for about USD$10, which included shipping.

    I like, also, that the book discusses emotional/mental issues, and how thyroid imbalance will affect your moods. Sometimes I am depressed, moody, on-edge, irritable, etc. Knowing that this is a chemical imbalance and that I'm not clinically mentally ill - that it's just my thyroid - helps me a lot. Two years before I got diagnosed with hyperthyroid I saw a counselor who said I was severely depressed. I believe it was probably my thyroid imbalance, but obviously didn't know it. I am 47 years old now, and I'm sure a lot of it was pre-menopause, too (and still is). Some family members thought I should be institutionalized!

    That's why we all need to be educated. So we look at every symptom holistically and check for chemical imbalances because they WILL affect the brain. I've had to learn to exercise a lot of control over my emotions, as sometimes I react very emotionally to things - too much so. And I may feel really great - energetic and get a lot done - in a great mood, feeling very optimistic -- and then the next day I'm depressed, fatigued, and moody again. Learning relaxation techniques and practicing self-control was absolutely necessary for me.

    I never thought hormone imbalance could wreak so much havoc until I experienced it for myself! And I used to lecture on natural hormone balance for women, too, but never imagined it could turn your life upside down SO MUCH and be SO DEBILITATING!

    I hope you got at least a few tidbits of useful info from this! I am working on some other info to send you privately.

    Hang in there!

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  • Posted

    Hi Linda, I don't know my current results as I'm due another blood test next week. Last time - which was two months ago - everything was in the normal range (I can't remember the figures and doctors in the UK don't generally offer a printed version of the results) maybe even on the low side of normal. To be honest, I think I just assumed that things would continue to improve then I'd be on a maintenance dose for the planned 12-18 months and I'd feel fine. I wasn't expecting the ups and downs that I'm experiencing. I'm normally very fit and energetic so this is all new to me and very frustrating as I'm never normally ill at all.
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  • Posted

    Hi Veronica, that's loads of useful information thanks. I'll definitely look up that book and see if I can get a copy over her in the UK. I haven't suffered too much from the emotional side of things except for a certain lethargy when I'm feeling tired. I drink loads of herbal tea - mostly redbush and peppermint - but I don't tend to add sweeteners as I've got used to drinking it without over the years. I don't have a massively sweet tooth except for when I'm tired then it seems to kick in with a vengeance and nothing but junk will do!

    The other frustrating thing is not knowing what caused my thyroid to go overactive. My specialist said that, in her experience, many people start suffering after some life trauma, death of a loved one for example. Nothing like that applied to me and it seemed to come on really suddenly. My doctor didn't believe me when I said I had only had symptoms for a few weeks but I honestly hadn't noticed anything before that point and I'm fairly in tune with my own body.

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  • Posted

    Some thoughts:

    A past childhood trauma, perhaps? Or maybe simply a personality that takes on way too much and feels responsible for everyone in their lives? Takes care of others and puts others first, and may end up not taking care of her own needs (i.e. doesn't put own needs first).

    Maybe none of that applies, but having a psychology degree (and being an Aquarius!) I am very curious and like to try to figure things out!

    But maybe that's where a virus comes in for you - one that you didn't know you had. If you have inflammation off and on over the years, it will eventually cause your immune system to go haywire and start attacking your body, including your thyroid.

    This is an interesting article I found on the internet:

    Causes Of Inflammation

    by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

    Systemic or chronic inflammation has a domino effect that can seriously undermine your health. So how does it all begin?

    The immune system and the inflammatory response

    Many experts now see inflammation as arising from an immune system response that’s out of control. When you catch a cold or sprain your ankle, your immune system switches into gear. Infection or injury trigger a chain of events called the inflammatory cascade. The familiar signs of normal inflammation — heat, pain, redness, and swelling — are the first signals that your immune system is being called into action.

    In a delicate balance of give-and-take, inflammation begins when pro-inflammatory hormones in your body call out for your white blood cells to come and clear out infection and damaged tissue. These agents are matched by equally powerful, closely related anti-inflammatory compounds, which move in once the threat is neutralized to begin the healing process.

    Acute inflammation that ebbs and flows as needed signifies a well-balanced immune system. But symptoms of inflammation that don’t recede are telling you that the “on” switch to your immune system is stuck. It’s poised on high alert — even when you aren’t in imminent danger. In some cases, what started as a healthy mechanism, like building scar tissue or swelling, just won’t shut off.

    Chronic inflammation and its roots in the digestive system

    Are you walking around on simmer?

    Just yesterday I saw Nancy, a patient who has been with me for years. When she first came to see me, her triglycerides were sky-high (in the 400’s!), her cholesterol was elevated, and she was overweight, unhappy and stressed. Her face was flushed and chapped, her lips were dry, and she seemed fluttery and agitated. On the surface she looked like a heart disease candidate, but when I probed deeper I saw a woman on fire from the inside out.

    Currently there is no definitive test for inflammation — the best that conventional medicine can do is measure blood levels of C-reactive protein (a pro-inflammatory marker) and the irritating amino acid called homocysteine. I use the high-sensitivity CRP test now available at most labs. Anything above 1 mg/dL with this test is too high in my book. With the older tests a reading of between 2–5 mg/dL was considered normal. (If you’ve been tested, be sure to ask your doctor for the results). Newer ways to assess risk early on for future inflammatory disease include markers such as the apolipoprotein B to A1 ratio (ApoB/ApoA-1). This and other tests are in experimental use and only available through a few labs.

    When I first ran Nancy’s tests, I was surprised to see that her CRP levels were normal (this was before the high-sensitivity CRP test was widely available as it is today). This was good news for her heart, since elevated CRP and cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease threefold. But her homocysteine levels were high and all of her other symptoms pointed to inflammation.

    I prescribed an anti-inflammation diet, essential fatty acids, other anti-inflammatory supplements, and a daily exercise regime. When Nancy next came in, her triglycerides were down by 200 points, her skin was clear, and her mood was much better. Later tests revealed her cholesterol had gone down, too.

    A year went by, and as Nancy entered a stressful period in her life, she again began snacking on unhealthy food and going for days without exercise. Her cholesterol crept back up and she started having irritable bowel symptoms. After a brief pep talk, she got back on track and today she’s feeling great. When I saw her yesterday she looked like a different person. Her blood tests all looked good and her inflammation was back under control. Nancy’s fires are well-tended now, and I feel confident she knows what to do if they start to flare up again.

    I think that like Nancy, we are all vulnerable to chronic inflammation. I think it’s safe to say that most of us in this country are walking around on “simmer” — which means setting ourselves up for problems as we age. Our ballooning rates of allergies, obesity, IBS, and chronic pain don’t lie. I’m seeing such a spike in patients with symptoms of inflammation that it’s becoming the norm, not the exception. The good news is, once we understand what causes inflammation and see how quickly our actions can either fan or cool the flames, we can begin to make better choices every day that bring us back into balance.

    At our medical practice we are convinced that the seeds of chronic inflammation (and a lot of other health issues) start with the gut. Two-thirds of the body’s defenses reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract — yet it is often the last place traditional practitioners look.

    Intestinal bloating, frequent bouts of diarrhea or constipation, gas and pain, heartburn and acid reflux are early signs of an inflamed digestive tract. It’s not surprising that your immune system first clicks into hyperdrive in your digestive tract — it was designed to eliminate viruses and bacteria in your food before they infect your body. It has to glean the wheat from the chaff: taking sustenance from the food you eat and ridding your body of the rest.

    And we give our digestive systems plenty of work to do. Our evolution from the hunter-gatherer diet to convenience and fast food is overwhelming our metabolism and GI tract. The deck is now stacked in inflammation’s favor. The modern diet offers us an upside-down ratio of fatty acids (omega-3, -6, and -9), too much sugar and carbs, and high levels of wheat, dairy, and other common allergens.

    Foods that cause inflammation

    Most polyunsaturated vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut and soy, are high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid that the body converts into arachidonic acid, another omega-6 fatty acid that has a predominantly pro-inflammatory influence. These same oils contain almost no omega-3’s (found in rich supply in coldwater fish, phytoplankton, and flaxseed), which soothe inflammation. Our prehistoric ancestors ate a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1. Our current ratio is anywhere between 10:1 and 25:1!

    For most people, high-carb, low-protein diets are inflammatory. We’ve seen repeatedly that low-carb diets reduce inflammation for most women. But you will need to listen to your own body and carefully observe which foods fuel inflammation for you. You may also want to consider our tips for following an anti-inflammatory diet.

    Refined sugar and other foods with high glycemic values jack up insulin levels and put the immune system on high alert. (The glycemic index measures the immediate impact of a food on blood sugar levels; surges of blood sugar trigger the release of insulin). Short-lived hormones inside our cells called eicosanoids act as pro- or anti-inflammatory compounds depending on their type. Eicosanoids become imbalanced — that is, skewed toward pro-inflammatory — when insulin levels are high. As if this weren’t enough, high insulin levels activate enzymes that raise levels of arachidonic acid in our blood.

    There’s also a complicated interaction between the inflammatory messengers, cytokines and prostaglandins, and insulin and glucose levels. In some cases, depending on what other stressors come into play, insulin inhibits the inflammatory agents and in other cases it fuels them. Studies are currently underway to unravel the links between obesity and type 2 diabetes and this mechanism. To learn more, see my articles on the links between inflammatory imbalance and your weight, or read about these pathways in more depth in my book, The Core Balance Diet.

    Common allergens like casein and gluten (proteins found in dairy and wheat) are quick to spark the inflammatory cascade. Anyone suffering from celiac disease knows how inflammatory wheat can be. Foods high in trans fats create LDL’s, or “bad cholesterol”, which feeds inflammation in the arteries. Trans fats also create renegade cells called free radicals that damage healthy cells and trigger inflammation. For more on trans fats, see our articles about cholesterol and fat.

    So the first step in cooling inflammation on a cellular level is to pay attention to your diet, in particular your glycemic load (a measure of the glycemic index and portion of a food), essential fatty acid intake, and food sensitivities. As we get older, foods that never bothered us before, like dairy and wheat, may trigger chronic low-grade indigestion or other seemingly minor symptoms that put our immune system on guard — with additional inflammatory concerns to follow. Probiotics (supplements containing the “good” bacteria that support healthy digestion) have been proven to be as effective in treating symptoms of irritable bowel as medications like Zelnorm and Lotronex.

    If you think you might have a food sensitivity, we recommend going on an elimination diet for two weeks to see how you feel. You may find that avoiding certain foods restores more than just your digestive health.

    But your digestive tract is only the beginning of the story. Let’s take a look at some other causes of chronic inflammation.

    Inflammation and menopause

    Changing levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone have a role to play in age-related inflammation. We still don’t understand all the connections, but it appears that a decrease in estrogen corresponds with a rise in the cytokines interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. This changes the rate at which new bone is formed, a leading indicator of osteoporosis.

    We suspect that before menopause the balance of hormones has a calming effect on inflammation, but hormones work on so many levels that it is difficult to identify the exact process. What we do know is that symptoms of chronic inflammation often become more apparent during and after menopause.

    The hormonal changes leading up to menopause also contribute to weight gain. And there is clear evidence that extra fat cells, especially around the middle of the body, add to systemic inflammation by creating extra cytokines and C-reactive protein. Just one more reason to lose those extra pounds!

    Environmental causes of inflammation

    I once walked into a giant office supply store, and within two minutes I had a numbing headache, my eyes were swimming, and my throat felt dry and tight — typical signs of an allergic response. I noticed an odor and asked the checkout clerk what it was. He didn’t know, but when I told him how I felt, he said he went home with a headache everyday — and often a bloody nose!

    Synthetic fibers, latex, glues, adhesives, plastics, air fresheners, cleaning products — these are just some of the vast array of chemicals we are exposed to every day. Many of us work in hermetically sealed office buildings with re-circulated air that only increases our exposure.

    Sick buildings make sick people. As do pesticides, pollution, and heavy metals. Lead and mercury are just two of the 30 heavy metals in our environment that our bodies must detoxify. And these toxins are in everything: our drinking water, our food, even our breast milk. Many of these chemicals are fat-soluble, meaning they are stored in fat and accumulate in our bodies until they reach toxic levels. Chemical sensitivity is just the most visible end of the spectrum.

    Constant exposure to noxious chemicals and airborne irritants — even if it’s a low dose — makes your immune system crazy. Some people are naturally better detoxifiers and can withstand more exposure before they have symptoms. Others need more support. Learning as much as you can about the products you use, the buildings you live in and the water you drink is crucial to preventing or fighting inflammation.

    Psychological stress — cortisol and inflammation

    Have you ever had a panic attack? Woken from a scary dream in a cold sweat with your heart pounding? These are vasoreactions initiated by a perceived threat that dilates your blood vessels — just like inflammation. Wider capillaries mean more blood and nutrients to your organs to better ward off an attack or deal with a situation. This “fight or flight” response is orchestrated by your HPA axis and triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol from your adrenal glands.

    Cortisol directly influences your insulin levels and metabolism. It also plays a role in chronic inflammation and your immune system. I’m sure you’ve seen this relationship in your own life: how many times have you worked endless hours only to go on vacation and get sick? Your body is good at keeping a lid on things, but it can’t do it forever. Coping with persistent stress takes a steady toll on your immune system, your adrenals, and your central nervous system.

    Your body reacts to stressors universally, whether they are biological or psychological. The more acute the threat feels, the more dramatic the response will be. With inflammation, painful emotional baggage is as incendiary as physical stress. Think about asthma. An emotional shock will trigger an attack in some people as often as physical exertion or an allergen. Thoughts and internalized feelings are very powerful — and they manifest themselves physically all the time with symptoms of inflammation. Stress makes your skin break out. Your intestines go into revolt during a painful break-up. But the good news is your feelings can — and should — be enlisted as allies in the healing process.

    With all the other factors contributing to inflammation, coping with stress and emotional pain is often overlooked — but it’s really important. And it can play a big part in restoring your immune system’s balance before it gets overloaded.

    Why chronic inflammation is on the rise

    Our bodies weren’t designed for a daily barrage of toxins, infectious agents and stress, seen and unseen. This kind of demand requires a lot of support to maintain your immune’s system resilience. Our go-go lifestyle just doesn’t make room unless we pay attention to everything: what we breathe, eat, drink and absorb and feel. It all has a pro- or anti-inflammatory effect, and for most of us, the factors are skewed toward inflammation.

    Well-documented research links depression and stress to a rise in the inflammatory markers, such as CRP, signaling an increased risk for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (CHD). One study showed that a depressive state increases the odds of developing CHD by 50%. For more on CHD, please see our articles on heart disease. And one thing is certain about society today: we appear to be more stressed and depressed than ever.

    While the incidence of inflammation and inflammatory disease is rising in all developed countries, it’s important to remember that each of us has an individual response to the stressors in our life. Some of that unique response is determined by genetics. But much of it is within our control — if we understand how our choices affect our health.

    You can see that countering chronic inflammation takes a combination approach because it arises from a combination of causes. The good news is that so much of it is in your control. For more information on what you can do, see our articles on reducing inflammation.

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