June 15, 2018
Inflammation is a natural function with a bad reputation. It’s a word most of us associate with pain, discomfort and poor health - yet its ultimate purpose is actually to help us. Without inflammation, injuries could fester and infections could become deadly.
When the body is injured, inflammation is a signal to the immune system to send white blood cells so the healing process may begin. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues on for too long, it can potentially trigger numerous other chronic health issues in the body including cancers, depression and asthma. In fact, some say inflammation is the “new cholesterol” due to its direct link to heart disease.
In some cases, inflammation occurs when the immune systems revolts against us and attacks our own bodies. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, IBD, among dozens of others. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases.
First, let’s take a quick look at inflammatory foods that you definitely don’t want to put into your body. You probably already know all the usual suspects by name – sugar and artificial sweeteners, fried foods and saturated fats, processed meats and grains, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. These foods can disrupt gut bacteria, spike insulin levels, and bolster inflammation.
Organic foods are a great place to start when looking to adhere to a more anti-inflammatory diet. Grown in mineral-dense soil, organic foods tend to be more alkalizing and have a higher vitamin and mineral content.
In order to keep those vitamin and mineral levels high, it’s also helpful to eat raw fruits and veggies, which are also known as life-giving foods. Cooking can deplete minerals, which is why it’s important to take every opportunity you can to get eat fresh and raw so you get to enjoy the full nutritional benefits. For example, Vitamin K is found in dark leafy greens like broccoli and spinach, and is excellent for reducing inflammation.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes are also alkaline foods that can help balance your pH and reduce acidity. While being mindful of your body’s pH, you might be wonder about the impact of acidic foods, like tomatoes or citrus, and how they affect inflammation. Surprisingly these foods don’t create acidity in the body. Instead they may actually help to restore your pH balance. Even apple cider vinegar is alkaline-forming (however, other vinegars are not).
Believe it or not, most high protein foods, like meat, can actually be acid forming. In this case, plant proteins, such as almonds and beans, are great alternatives to reduce acidity and inflammation.
Need your meat? Then eat more fish. Fish oils, as well as other foods rich in healthy fats like omega 3, are proven to have a variety of health benefits, including significant anti-inflammatory effects.
Fish is also a great source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a wide range of inflammatory conditions.
Those susceptible to chronic inflammation may also benefit from supplementing their diets with food sources that contain bioactive molecules. For example, curcumin is the compound found in turmeric root that gives curry its bright yellow color. A powerful antioxidant, curcumin’s ability to reduce brain inflammation has been shown to be beneficial on both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression. Curcumin has been shown to not only prevent memory problems from worsening, but also to improve them.
Complement your curry with a little watercress salad on the side, including pears, dill weed, onion and chives – all sources of the antioxidant known as isorhamnetin.
Add a little red wine and some berries for dessert, which are rich in resveratrol, and you’ve got yourself an anti-inflammatory party. Resveratrol is an antioxidant produced by certain plants in response to injury or when under attack by bacteria or fungi. This is what makes dark-coloured grapes and berries such excellent health boosters for your body.
And of course, you can’t forget the dark chocolate! The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which are great for your brain and your heart. New research also shows that consuming dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (minimum 70% with 30% organic cane sugar) has a positive effect on stress levels and inflammation, while also improving your memory, immunity and mood. You read that right – chocolate really is good for you (but make sure its good quality and that you are not over doing it).
While diet definitely plays a role, stress is also a major contributor to inflammation in the body. Stress can be triggered by lack of sleep, lifestyle changes, or any other number of factors. Getting a good night’s rest and making time to meditate or practice other stress-reducing activities, like yoga or Tai chi, are also very effective ways to promote good health and reduce inflammation.
All it takes is a few conscious decisions about your diet and lifestyle and you are on your way to a healthier you.
To your best health!
Dr. Susan Slipacoff, ND and the KIH Clinic Team