It is no secret that there is an epidemic of chronic disease in the US. We are spending 190 billion to treat heart disease, 227 billion to treat cancer and 112 billion to treat diabetes, according to an analysis of the 10 leading causes of death.
Obesity, heart attacks, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease, all among the leading causes of death in the US, are inflammatory diseases that can be prevented or reversed through changes in diet and lifestyle. Identifying the cause of the inflammation is critical and can profoundly affect your overall health.
What Causes Inflammation?
The way we develop inflammation is multifaceted but there are several key risk factors that are worth checking out. Stress plays an important role and needs to be addressed in our over-scheduled world. Environmental toxins in the form of heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, and petrochemicals have been shown to contribute to metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases.
Many experts now see inflammation as starting from an immune system response that’s out of control. Infection or injury trigger a chain of events called the inflammatory cascade – as the immune system is called to action to deal with the familiar signs of normal inflammation, like heat, pain, redness, and swelling. Pro-inflammatory hormones in the body call out for 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.
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 on high alert, even when there is no imminent danger. So, what started out as a healthy healing mechanism, now won’t shut down.
Chronic inflammation is rooted in the digestive system and is often the sign of disease in the making. Two-thirds of our body’s defenses are found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract — but this is often the last place a traditional doctor may look for keys to health issues.
Intestinal bloating, frequent bouts of diarrhea or constipation, gas, and pain, heartburn, and acid reflux are early signs of an inflamed digestive tract. So here too, the immune system clicks into overdrive to eliminate viruses and bacteria in food before they infect the body.
Unfortunately, the typical SAD (Standard American Diet) of too much sugar, carbs, high levels of wheat, dairy, soy and other common allergens, overwhelms our metabolism and GI tract, stacking the odds in inflammation’s favor.
While there is no definitive test for inflammation, having your blood levels of C-reactive protein (a pro-inflammatory marker) checked can help assess the risk of inflammatory diseases. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produced by the liver that increases in the presence of inflammation in the body.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
One of the first things I look at when a patient is dealing with chronic inflammation is their diet. Understand that inflammation is an essential part of the body’s healing system meant to help defend against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders, to remove debris, and to help repair damaged tissue. But like most things in life, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, allergies, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes can be made worse or better depending on your diet.
The anti-inflammation diet is comprised of healthy, wholesome, unprocessed foods.
Anti-inflammatory healthy fats are a cornerstone of this diet –- those include omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, hemp seed, chia seeds, and raw nuts. In addition, other anti-inflammatory fats include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil and walnut oil.
1. Fruits and vegetables are high in inflammation-reducing antioxidants especially onions, garlic, peppers, celery, broccoli, blueberries, pineapple and dark leafy greens. Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. I recommend a maximum of 2 fruits and at least 6-8 servings of vegetables daily.
2. Herbs and spices also have compounds to fight inflammation like turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cayenne, cinnamon and ginger. Using these spices is easy and effective when added to your cooking, smoothies, teas or homemade bone broth.
3. Homemade bone broth contains minerals and compounds called chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine which are known for reducing inflammation and joint pain. It also contains the amino acids, proline and glycine that help to heal an inflamed gut.
4. The type of teas shown to reduce inflammation includes black tea, oolong and green tea. Other herbal teas include chamomile, devils claw, meadowsweet, peppermint, and ginger.
5. Red wine has bared anti-inflammatory effects, however, that’s only if consumed in moderation. Generally, no more than two glasses daily or else it will become the source of inflammation. Taking supplements with resveratrol may be the better way to go!
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Basically, the standard American diet is a culprit in inflammatory conditions due to its highly processed foods, especially fast food which includes omega-6 fats –- and not enough of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats –- and it is this imbalance between the two that promotes inflammation in the body.
1. Omega-6 fats are found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and soybean oils which are metabolized into hormone-like compounds that promote inflammation.
2. Saturated and trans fats don’t only increase inflammation but also increase your risk for heart disease. These foods raise C-reactive protein (CRP) which is a biomarker for inflammation in your body and indicates a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers.
3. Refined carbohydrates are also pro-inflammatory. Refined flour, sugar, and foods high on the glycemic index exacerbate inflammatory conditions and elevate insulin and glucose levels. Stay clear of foods with artificial sweeteners, agave and high-fructose corn syrup which also increase inflammation.
4. Food allergies or sensitivities can also play a role in inflammation. Intolerance to the proteins in wheat and dairy can start an inflammatory cascade that starts in the gut but can have far-reaching systemic effects.
Keep away from known allergens and be aware of increasing food sensitivities as well. Gluten, eggs, dairy, and soy are some of the most common dietary irritants.
5. There are also many additives and preservatives well hidden in processed convenience foods, making them very difficult to avoid. Always read food labels carefully when purchasing any prepared or packaged foods and avoid words like “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils.”
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Natural Remedies for Inflammation
- Boost consumption of fruits and vegetables to six to eight servings daily. Add generous portions of deeply-pigmented vegetables to every meal and snack for their fiber and natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Many herbs and foods such as turmeric, oregano, garlic, green tea, blueberries, and ginger contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that limit free-radical production in the body.
- Drink anti-inflammatory beverages which include: lemon and water; tart cherry juice; beets; pineapple and turmeric.
I highly recommend one my favorite recipes called “Golden Milk” for its inflammation-fighting properties and many health benefits. See my recipe here.
- Cook with olive oil as much as possible and use it to make salad dressings. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is best since it has more inflammation-fighting antioxidants than refined olive oil.
- Snack on small handfuls raw nuts and seeds instead of chips, especially walnuts and freshly ground flaxseed, which are good sources of omega–3’s. These provide fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Eating legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, peas, or beans are rich in fiber and can help to lower C-reactive protein levels, therefore, lowering inflammation in the body.
Basically, the Mediterranean diet includes many anti-inflammatory foods mentioned since it is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil and low in saturated fat. This can be a good diet and is sustainable if you are not suffering from any digestive or health issues which would require a more restrictive diet plan.
- Losing weight is one of the best ways to curb inflammation.
- Exercise can help reduce inflammation if it helps you lose weight or if you have high levels of inflammation.
- Stay hydrated as it helps to flush away toxins which accumulate and can cause inflammation.
- Get good quality sleep and quiet time. A good nights sleep will help your body recover and detoxify and lower your stress levels.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (or EFAs)
Essential Fatty Acids are the shortest in supply in our modern diet. I recommend my patients take fish oil EFA supplements. One of the most pleasant to experience comes in an easy-to-take liquid form that is high potency‚ providing 440mg of EPA and 280mg DHA in each 2-teaspoon serving and best of all, tastes amazing. OmegAvail™ Lemon Drop Smoothies are for adults and children too and come in three yummy flavors – mango-peach, key lime and citrus sorbet. So delicious! No time to make a smoothie, then consider the capsule form which called OmegaAvail™ Ultra softgels to get in your EFA’s.
You may already know about the huge benefits curcumin, a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the spice turmeric can offer in terms of inflammation and other health issues. But just eating a lot of turmeric isn’t the answer. Curcum-Evail™ is a formulation that contains a unique combination of three bioactive‚ health-promoting curcuminoids that are the strongest‚ most protective and best-researched constituents of the turmeric root.
A combination of herbs, nutrients and proteolytic enzymes that modulate the inflammatory response, can be powerful in controlling inflammation. Ingredients in Inflammatone™ like ginger, boswelia, and quercetin to name a few, provide all these natural anti-inflammatory effects and protect against oxidative stress.
Let’s Work Together
Over many years of working with patients, I have found that preventing or reversing inflammation is all about listening to your body and seeking help when the inflammatory response is unmanageable based on the number of symptoms they are experiencing.
Contact me today and let me help you identify the issues that are creating inflammation in your body and devise a plan that suits your unique needs. With support, making changes offer you a huge payoff and can make a tremendous difference in how you feel in a surprisingly short period of time. My experience has been that tipping the balance — away from pro-inflammatory, toward anti-inflammatory — can feel like an overnight miracle for some clients.
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