What do Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer and Alzheimer’s have in common? Inflammation!
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to injury and illness and is a key part of our immune process. However, low-level inflammation, the kind you and your doctor may not even be aware of can be damaging to your body’s cells and tissues. This kind of chronic inflammation over prolonged periods of time is associated with an increased risk of disease.
How do you know if you have inflammation?
There are many contributing factors to chronic inflammation. Among them: Dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria in your intestine), elevated cortisol levels from constant physical or emotional stress, or it may be happening in response to a diet high in inflammatory food.
If you haven’t yet been diagnosed with a disease but you suffer from any of the following symptoms there is a good chance that you will benefit from taking measures to reduce inflammation in your body.
- Fatigue or low energy
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Allergies, headaches, skin problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- Gastrointestinal discomforts or digestive issues
Consider your Diet
When you eat a diet high in fried and processed foods your body creates free radicals that are damaging to cells and need to be neutralized by your body. Without adequate ability to neutralize these harmful agents, inflammation begins to act upon your cells. It may take many years for signs of disease (such hardened arteries or elevated blood pressure as in the case of Coronary Artery Disease) to surface, but make no mistake the disease is there because inflammation preceded it.
What foods cause inflammation:
- Diets high in refined and fried foods, saturated, and trans fat
- Sugar – causes the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines
- Animal derived foods are rich in Advanced Glycation End products (AGE’s) that are involved in inflammation. Also, consumption of animal food favors the growth of negative intestinal bacteria which release inflammatory endotoxins.
- Gluten has been shown to have an inflammatory effect on the intestinal tract. The metabolism of processed foods containing gluten can result in higher blood sugar levels and an increase in inflammation.
How do I reduce inflammation?
Good news! It may not be too late to reverse some of the damaging effects of inflammation. First of all, become as cool as a cucumber and learn to manage stress. Stress triggers the hormone cortisol and initiates the inflammation process. In addition to stress management, it is important to get regular exercise and incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet. Lots of anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and phytonutrients such as bioflavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins will help slow the assault of inflammation on your body’s cells and tissues.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods Include:
- Pineapple, berries, cherries, and citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and lemon
- Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage
- Spices and herbs such as ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, thyme
- Omega 3 fat sources such as olive oil, flax oil, avocado, walnuts, hemp and chia seeds
- Salmon and other fatty fish or fish oil (if you consume animal products)
- Green tea
But that may not be all that’s required. Your inflammation promoting habits of the past have likely created other problems that need to be addressed such as weakened digestion, dysbiosis, and potentially, a leaky gut. Addressing diet, digestion, and intestinal health together will yield the best results. If it sounds daunting, don’t fear, a qualified nutritionist can help you address each of these concerns while making an anti-inflammatory diet practical and delicious.
Here are some tips:
- Enjoy fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and miso.
- Reduce animal food to between 5 and 8 servings per week.
- Choose naturally gluten-free grains such as quinoa, oats, amaranth, and brown rice.
- Substitute dairy for non-dairy alternatives such as coconut milk or almond milk.
- Enjoy bone broth, regularly, to help heal the lining of your gut. It is high in collagen, minerals, and amino acids such as glycine, arginine and proline which help to restore intestinal health.
- Eliminate processed foods containing sugar and other additives. High blood sugar increases the formation of AGE’s and other inflammatory compounds.
Most importantly, as with any lifestyle change, it is important to get support. Get your family involved – it will benefit them, too. Seek peer support through online communities or consult a qualified nutritionist who can help with recipes and meal planning advice to make these dietary changes enjoyable and practical for your whole family!
Amanda Janes, Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner is a Registered Holistic NutritionistTM practicing in Conception Bay South, NL. As a cancer survivor and busy Mom of 4 she knows how vital (and challenging!) good nutrition can be. Her passion is helping her clients overcome obstacles to healthy eating in ways that are practical and delicious. Contact her today: firstname.lastname@example.org.