*** This is part two of two. For part one, click here: INFLAMMATION PART ONE – OVERVIEW AND WHAT CAUSES IT
So, in part one we discussed what inflammation is and what causes it. Now it’s time to discuss how to help your body maintain healthy levels of inflammation. For most people with the Standard American Diet (SAD) or those that have issues, it will mean trying to reduce any and all causes of inflammation while adding as many anti-inflammatory strategies to your lifestyle as possible.
Let your food be your medicine.
Hippocrates once said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. He was right. By eating certain foods, and more importantly avoiding other foods, you can allow your body to heal. The body is amazing and will take care of most things on its own as long as you don’t overburden it. An extreme example of this is how some health clinics help their patients fast on water only for up to 60 days or more (under observation, do not try this on your own). At these clinics, simply taking away everything we burden our body with allows people to heal and overcome a variety of diseases.
Fasting aside, what can we all start doing this very minute? Avoid inflammation promoting foods and eat more anti-inflammatory foods. We already talked about inflammatory foods in part one, so here we will focus on the anti-inflammatory foods.
Foods can be anti-inflammatory for a few reasons. One, due to their chemical composition, they contain more anti-inflammatory fatty acids. As we begin to increase more of the anti-inflammatory fatty acids in our diet, they begin to catch up with the pro-inflammatory fatty acids in concentration. The net result is your body is better balances and can turn on or off the inflammatory process as appropriate vs. always being somewhat inflamed. Two, there are other components of food that have a direct anti-inflammatory effect. These components are called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients is just fancy word for plant chemicals.
Here is a short list of foods that are anti-inflammatory. Try to substitute these foods for others that you are eating on a regular basis. For a more complete list, click here (pdf file): Anti-Inflammatory Pocket Guide
Meats: wild Alaskan salmon, wild game, meats from grass fed animals
Fruits: blueberries, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, acai berries (basically, berries!)
Vegetables: garlic, broccoli, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, kelp
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts
Grains: quinoa, buckwheat, barley, rye
Beans: lentils, peas, garbanzo, and pretty much any type of dried beans you can find.
Beverages: any juice from the berries listed above (home-made is best, using a Vitamix or blender), green tea (made from tea bags yourself), red wine (no more than 1 glass per day, otherwise it becomes health damaging),
Spice your way to less inflammation
In addition to the foods we eat, the spices we use to make them can be strongly anti-inflammatory as well. Some people take these in supplement form, but the more you can use these on a daily basis as part of your cooking routine, the more everything starts to work together.
Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Basil, Cardamon, Chives, Cilantro, Cloves, Garlic, Parsley
Food first, supplements second
I want to be very clear about this next point. Although there are many anti-inflammatory supplements out there on the market, diet MUST be addressed. Eating a primarily pro-inflammatory diet and trying to take a few anti-inflammatory supplements is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.
With that said, there are several good supplements out there. Not all of these can be taken at once of course, but I usually recommend taking the basics and rotating in 1-2 of the anti-inflammatory supplements. Note that everyone is different, so you’ll want to check with a health care professional familiar with your health history and the use of natural supplements.
First, the basics. The basics include a good quality multivitamin/mineral, an omega-3 oil supplement, and probiotics. The multi ensures that we get the bare minimum nutrients that our body needs to function correctly. The omega-3 supplement in anti-inflammatory and can be one or a mixture of fish, flax, and borage oils. These oils help balance out the inflammatory fatty acids in a poor diet. Probiotics are the good bacteria found in our body. If the concentration of this bacteria is not sufficient, our digestive system does not work as well and can lead to inflammation (leaky guy syndrome).
As for other supplements to rotate in and out of your daily supplement regimen, you can research the following. Each on the list is clickable that will take you to a page with more info on the particular supplement.
White Willow Bark
Evening Primrose Oil
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid
Put all of this together and you have Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid.
Addressing other causes of inflammation
As mentioned in part one, hormonal imbalances, stress, etc. can cause inflammation as well. Stress is a major contributor to inflammation due to the release of cortisol. I’d venture to say that almost everyone one reading this (including the one writing it) has issues with stress. We can’t get rid of it completely, but what we can try to do our best to manage it. Hormonal imbalance can cause inflammation as well. Whether it’s elevated cortisol, hormonal imbalance, or other similar cause of inflammation, these are more involved and require an evaluation by health care practitioners familiar with these issues.
Try it, you never know how well these strategies can work
If you have any health issues, or even if you don’t and you just want to prevent issues from happening and be more healthy, give these strategies a try. It should not replace your doctor’s advice, but can be done in addition to whatever plan your doctor has for you. Also, since everyone is different, you may want to consult with your doctor about any changes you are making. If you need further help, feel free to give our office a call or consult with a health care practitioner near you that is familiar with strategies like the ones mentioned in this post.
Keep in mind that if you are having issues, they are usually the result of many years of slow, insidious changes. So, don’t expect the feel a major difference by taking a few doses of supplements or following the dietary advice for a day or two. Give it several weeks and you won’t be disappointed. By that time you should start to notice some changes. Beyond that, it may take several months or years to get to where you want to be. Or, you may never get to 100%, but it’s worth trying to be the best you can. Improving your health is a journey, not a destination. Always do the best you can, when you can. No one is perfect 100% of the time, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Oh, and don’t forget, it is OK to treat yourself on occasion. If you’re doing your best most of the time, there’s not need to feel guilty about the occasional treat here and there.
As always, thanks for reading, and please share this with others you know that may benefit from this information.
For further reading on this subject, here’s a few links I found to be helpful:
Herbs for Pain Management
Nine Anti-Inflammatory Herbs
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Food Pyramid
(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County. He helps people develop strategies to improve their health and overcome issues through changes in diet and other lifestyle factors. For a free consultation to discuss your issues and determine if he can help, call the office at 570-366-2613.)
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