I began looking into inflammation, how it affects our bodies and holistic and nutritional ways to fight inflammation in the body a few years ago. My mother had chronic inflammation caused mainly by rheumatoid arthritis. She also had some other medical issues that contributed to here overall health, such as COPD, hoshimoto’s disease and macular degeneration. She fought chronic pain and side affects from the RA on a daily basis. Unfortunately, she had some unhealthy habits, like years of smoking, that also contributed to the chronic inflammation.
I am one of those people that just wants to help “fix” things. I see a problem and want to make it better. It can be a simple problem around our home like the clothes dryer, a broken toy or a gadget that will make me crazy until I can figure out how to make it work. My friend says I “MacGyver” things (remember that show?) and she is exactly right. However, it doesn’t have to be some broken object that I want to help fix. Sometimes it is some ache or pain in a muscle, something amiss in a diet or the body. I will ask questions, do the research and want to help “fix” that sort of problem, as well. Of course, I can only go so far as we all know I am no doctor or nurse! However, I do believe there is an amount of control we have over our bodies and that there are all sorts of opportunities and services available that are good options to help us take care of ourselves and keep us healthy.
Watching my mother tackle RA and deal with its side affects was painful. It limited her ability to go and do the things she wanted. There never seemed to be a break. If one area felt okay then another area was inflamed. If it wasn’t the shoulder one day, then it would be the knees, or the back or hips. RA causes the body to actually attack itself and it was clear that was happening. While her doctors prescribed medications for pain and steroids, I often wondered whether a diet overhaul would help bring relief. After completing more research during my nutrition certification on inflammation and nutritional ways to fight inflammation I think that while it would not have been a cure for the chronic inflammation it may have reduced some of the distress.
If you are asking what exactly is inflammation, here is a quick tutorial, without getting too “sciencey”, that covers the basics. Inflammation is the process in which the body’s white blood cells and other cells help protect it from infection. There are two kinds: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is what we are all used to. It is the body’s natural response to something harmful happening to the body, like a cut or wound or an infection. The body naturally heals itself until the invader is gone. If that invader does not go away or the body cannot heal itself, the acute inflammation can turn into chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is not what anyone wants. Chronic inflammations at the heart of most chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and just about any other chronic disease that can have severe, life-threatening consequences. It is the prolonged condition in which the inflammation, tissue injury and attempts at repair all exist together. It is like an overload on the body and puts the body in distress. Excessive stress, poor diet, environmental toxicity, lack of sleep and lack of exercise all contribute to low levels of chronic inflammation. They can go undetected for years and buildup to eventually lead up to a number of chronic diseases. Though there are many things you can do in your life, your habits, and your environment to prevent this from happening, one of the big ways to prevent chronic inflammation is to eat a healthy diet.
There are actually foods that contribute to inflammation in the body. These are the foods to eliminate to keep you from ever developing chronic inflammation or to avoid if you feel your body might be showing signs of inflammation.
Sodium intake is linked to blood pressure and too much sodium man lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).
Sugars can wreak inflammatory havoc in both solid and liquid form. Foods with a high glycemic index cause a decrease in levels of antioxidants in the blood. This, in turn, causes a rise in the free radicals and tissue damage. Studies have shown that drinking sugary drinks and eating sugary foods increase inflammatory activity and raise the inflammation markers in blood tests.
Trans Fats are found in processed foods from hydrogenated oils. Research has shown that trans fatty acids increase certain markers of inflammation and add to a risk of heart disease.
These three categories of foods are the ones to avoid. Any foods that contain trans fats, high amount of sodium, added sugar, nitrates and preservatives can potentially add to inflammation in your body. Keep these foods out of your pantry and then they will stay out of your body!
So, if you do have chronic inflammation and are trying to make a change in your diet, what do you need to eat? Here’s a great list. It is not comprehensive, so if you want more information or more foods not mentioned here just contact me!
Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Eat:
Antioxidants: fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables
Anthocyanins: skin of apples, skin of berries
Omega-3 fatty Acids: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, salmon, freshwater trout, tuna, walnuts
Organosulfur compounds: garlic, onions
Phenolic derivatives: honey
Polyphenols: dark chocolate (no sugar added), red wine, tea
Vitamin C: broccoli, citrus, red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes
Looking at this list, you will see it is a list of whole, clean foods. Basically, if a person is eating a clean diet with a variety of whole, real foods, they are eating an anti-inflammation diet. While I was never completely successful in getting my mom on board to eliminate certain foods and make big changes in her diet, I have personally tried this.
Sometimes if my body begins to feel achey, maybe my joints bother me, tendinitis flares up here and there, I take a look at what and how I have been eating. If it’s not been very well then I know it’s time to clean it up. That has happened recently, and I began to focus on the foods listed here even adding turmeric to my morning smoothie or green juice. After a few days I notice a few changes and begin feeling like I should.
I think it’s important to pay attention to ourselves, our bodies and how we treat ourselves early on. If we take the right steps now, hopefully, we can avoid some bad stuff, like chronic inflammation, later on.
Have you experienced inflammation? Have you tried an anti-inflammation diet? Eat any of the listed foods on a regular basis? Remember McGyver?
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