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Inflammation And Chronic Illness: A Deep Dive With Dr. Tom O'Bryan

In episode 12 of The Chronic Illness Coach Podcast, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Dr. Tom O'Bryan, a renowned expert in functional medicine. Our conversation was both enlightening and inspiring as we delved into the complex issue of chronic illness and its underlying causes. From the global increase in autoimmune diseases to the crucial role of inflammation in our health, Dr. O'Bryan shared invaluable insights that everyone needs to hear.


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Dr. O'Bryan's journey began back in 1980 when he first opened his practice. Over the decades, his dedication to understanding chronic illnesses has taken him across the globe, educating healthcare practitioners on the broader picture of disease management. What stood out to me was his emphasis on looking beyond conventional medicine, which often focuses on symptomatic relief through pharmaceuticals. Instead, he advocates for addressing the root causes of chronic conditions.

The Rise of Autoimmune Diseases

One of the most striking points Dr. O'Bryan highlighted was the alarming rise in autoimmune diseases. He mentioned that every autoimmune condition is increasing by 4-9% annually. A particularly shocking statistic he shared was from Blue Cross Blue Shield, which reported a 407% increase in early-onset Alzheimer's among 30 to 44-year-olds over a four-year period ending in 2020. This data underscores the urgency of addressing chronic inflammation and its widespread impact on our health.

Understanding the Role of Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural immune response designed to protect the body, but chronic inflammation can lead to a multitude of health problems. Dr. O'Bryan used a powerful metaphor to explain this: a chain breaking at its weakest link. Depending on one's genetics and lifestyle, this 'weak link' could manifest as heart disease, brain dysfunction, or other chronic conditions. This drove home the importance of identifying and addressing the sources of inflammation in our bodies.

The Concept of "101" in Healthcare

Dr. O'Bryan introduced the concept of "101" in healthcare, likening it to foundational courses in university. This basic principle revolves around identifying and addressing inflammation, the root cause of many diseases. He stressed that healthcare should focus on reducing inflammation rather than just managing symptoms. This holistic approach involves looking at various aspects of lifestyle, such as diet, sleep, and stress management and underscored the importance of a comprehensive approach to health.

The Impact of Diet on Inflammation

A significant portion of our discussion centred around the role of diet in managing inflammation. Dr. O'Bryan pointed out that certain foods, like wheat, can trigger an inflammatory response in everyone, not just those with celiac disease. He cited research showing that gluten activates toll-like receptors in the gut, leading to leaky gut and systemic inflammation. This reaction can contribute to various health issues, from brain fog to autoimmune diseases. 

Lifestyle Changes for Better Health

To combat chronic inflammation, Dr. O'Bryan advocates for lifestyle changes that promote better health. This includes improving sleep hygiene, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. He emphasised the importance of creating a calming pre-sleep routine and avoiding stress-inducing activities before bed to enhance the body's ability to heal and rejuvenate. 

Our conversation concluded with a powerful call to action for both healthcare practitioners and patients. Dr. O'Bryan urged listeners to look beyond symptomatic relief and focus on the root causes of their health issues. By addressing chronic inflammation through lifestyle changes and a holistic approach, we can improve our overall health and potentially reduce the gap between our healthy lifespan and our total lifespan.

My Key Takeaways 

  1. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise

  2. Chronic inflammation is at the root of almost all disease

  3. Our most toxic environments can be our homes

  4. Food is the number one way we increase inflammation

  5. The future of healthcare is to focus on the root of disease

Final Thoughts

In summary, my interview with Dr. Tom O'Bryan on The Chronic Illness Coach Podcast provided a compelling argument for reevaluating how we approach chronic illness. By understanding and addressing inflammation, we can take significant steps towards better health and longevity. I hope you found these insights as valuable as I did and feel inspired to make positive changes in your own life.


Dr Tom O'Bryan

Dr. Tom O’Bryan a world renowened Functional Medicine Educator, author and speaker. He is an expert on autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders and chronic disease. He is an internationally recognized and sought after speaker and workshop leader specializing in the complications of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease.

Dr Tom O'Bryan on Social Media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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