As a trucker living a high-stress life on the road, you are being exposed to the dangers of inattentive drivers, inclement weather, and mechanical failure every day.
But there is another danger that your stressful, sleep deprived trucker lifestyle could be exposing you to — higher than normal risks for chronic inflammation.
If you don’t know what chronic inflammation is, think about how a wound becomes itchy, warm, and red as it heals. This is acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the same sort of reaction which is used by the body to protect itself internally, but when it takes place inside your body over the long term and it can have big consequences for your health and your ability to drive.
Read on to learn more about how chronic inflammation works and see what you can do to fight it!
1. Long term stress changes your genes to create more inflammation in your body. Studies in both mice and humans show that being exposed to stress for long periods of time actually changes the structure of your genes so that they pump more inflammation into your body. And since you’ve got all of that time alone in your cab to think about the things that stress you out (money, dispatch, that 4-wheeler that cut you off) you’re at even more risk. Other studies have found that dwelling on stress increases inflammation.
2. You may have had the symptoms of inflammation for so long that you no longer notice them. The symptoms of chronic inflammation won’t keep you from driving. In fact, most people are so used to living with these symptoms that they see the as a normal fact of life. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
–Gas or bloating
–Dark circles under the eyes
–Diarrhea or constipation
–Joint pain or stiffness
–Reddened or flushed skin
–Throat tickle, irritation, or coughing
3. Inflammation is linked to tons of scary diseases. Chronic inflammation has been associated pretty much every health condition you never want to get — stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few.
4. Recent studies show that chronic inflammation is the cause of depression. Like obesity, depression affects a huge number of truck drivers. But new studies are discovering that depression is often associated with high levels of inflammation. While depression is a complex disease, this new information sets us on the right path to feeling better.
5. Obesity contributes to chronic inflammation which contributes to aging — yikes! File this under bad news for truck drivers — fat tissue has been shown to cause inflammation. Excessive fat leads to an increase in inflammation in the body, which causes damage to the body that results in aging. Bummer.
6. You CAN fight chronic inflammation. You can’t control all of the factors that contribute to inflammation, but you can choose to add anti-inflammatory elements into your everyday life that can dramatically reduce the amount of inflammation in your body. Here are some tips:
–Get in a workout.
–Eat more fruits and vegetables.
–Get 2 servings of fish per week.
–Take a break from common inflammation causing foods (dairy and gluten are big causes for a lot a people).
–Eat healthy fats, like those found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts.