Ultimately, it is inflammation that plagues us, pure and simple. Almost every contemporary chronic illness finds its root cause in inflammation. Whether you are talking about Rheumatoid Arthritis, IBS, Diabetes or Cardiovascular disease or even asthma, allergies and certain types of cancer, and let’s not forget our auto-immune disorders like MS and Lupus, they all share a simple common trait, inflammation.
Essentially inflammation starts off as a positive thing. Inflammation itself is designed to fight off bacteria, virus and other dangerous cells that are introduced through illness or injury. However, when we feed that inflammation a steady diet of pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids through vegetable oils, refined grains, processed sugars and even meats fed a grain diet, the body’s balance is thrown off and we fall into a perpetual state of inflammation. So, the inflammation that was originally the body’s defense mechanism against a foreign invader, instead becomes a constant condition that wreaks havoc on our entire system.
It is widely believed that there are also a whole host of environmental factors that also result in an increase in chronic inflammation. A variety of toxins found in the chemicals in cleaners, skin products, and of course pharmaceuticals are believed to fan the fires of inflammation. There is even some belief that synthetics, either fabrics themselves or the dyes used in manufacturing some of our clothing, could also be contributing to our chronically inflamed state.
Other major factors that are known to disrupt the body’s delicate balance of inflammation are Physical Stress and Emotional Stress. Unfortunately, during these rather harrowing times in society, anxiety and emotional stress are almost unavoidable, try as we may through exercise and relaxation techniques. Even fluctuations in our hormone levels can lead to inflammation.
However, we can control the foods that we put in our body, and the science is clear that much of this inflammation originates from the gut, so it only makes sense to start there.
Omega-3 fatty acids are key nutrient in the battle against inflammation. These are the anti-inflammatory compounds found in some plants and many types of seafood, most especially coldwater fish; the fish actually get these fatty acids from the seaweeds and kelps they eat. Fiber is also a critical soldier in the fight against inflammation. Increased fiber consumption has been linked to a reduction in C-Reactive protein, a compound produced in the liver that is linked to increased levels of inflammation. Fiber is abundant in fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Fiber also helps us feel full longer aiding with weight loss, which also helps in reducing inflammation.
Sugar is without a doubt the worst food to consume for inflammation and actually works to feed the inflammation, encourating it to thrive and flourish within your body. A 2018 National Institutes of Health study evaluated the connection between the consumption of sugar, specifically sugary beverages and the increase of inflammation markers. The study concluded that the C-reactive protein markers, which are directly linked to inflammation, did see a significant rise with increased sugar consumption.
Sugar is also a highly addictive compound and, if you struggle with the very idea of giving up sugar, then it probably is something you should consider. Like most foods, going cold turkey is best. Once you eliminate sugar from your diet completely, those cravings usually dissipate significantly after 72 hours. What is more significant is that you should experience pain and inflammation reduction almost simultaneously to cutting out sugar. An added bonus is that weight loss will also occur after sugar consumption reduction and often it is extra weight that puts pressure on joints and increases pain, so cutting out sugar works in multiple ways to help decrease inflammation rather quickly. Think of it this way, sugar is what feeds inflammation, and when you cut the food source of anything, it will eventually wither and die off. So, by cutting out sugar, we cut off inflammation’s power source.
Vegetable oils such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, and corn are also incredibly harmful compounds to those who suffer from inflammation. These oils are made up of mostly pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids which throw off our body’s natural balance and tip the scales towards inflammation. These oils are what are used in most store-bought baked goods and all fried foods, so these are also on the do not eat list.
The good news is that very simple changes to diet and lifestyle can make significant inroads to eradicating chronic inflammation. Here are some basic tips that go a surprisingly long way to keeping inflammation at bay and don’t require huge shifts to how you cook and eat.
SIMPLE CHANGES TO MAKE
1. Olive Oil should be the primary oil for all cooking at home, even baking
2. Purchase only grass-fed or pastured meats and chickens
3. Purchase only wild-caught fish
4. Consume your daily 9 - ½ cup servings of fruits and vegetables
_the RECIPE box
PICKLED BEET AND CARROT SLAWThis time of year, you can easily pick up local carrots and beets at farmers markets and green grocers, or even out of your own garden. Once made, this slaw lasts for weeks so go ahead and double the batch if you like. Great on its own or on top of a burger of any kind - meat, fish or plant!
- 2 cups shredded beets (about 2 medium beets)
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tbs. pickling spice (coriander seed, cumin seed, mustard and celery)
- Heat up vinegar and add ginger and spices
- Once bubbling slightly, pour over vegetable mix
- Combine thoroughly and let rest for at least 1 hour before eating
***will last in the fridge up to 1 month
BEANS AND GREENSThis recipe has enough nutrients to stand on its own, but for a heartier meal serve over brown rice or toss with whole grain pasta. You can also have it as a side dish paired with your favorite grilled fish, because you can always use an extra dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- 1 can or 2 cups cooked white beans (rinsed)
- 2 cups fresh greens (spinach, bok choy, kale, swiss chard) chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- Olive oil for cooking
- Saute garlic in oil for a minute and then add greens
- Once greens begin to wilt add lemon juice and zest
- Add beans and saute until warmed throughout adding a bit more olive oil if necessary
- Season with salt and pepper and serve
CURRIED AVOCADO SOUPThis is a family favorite and is great served cold in the summer and warm in the winter. It pairs the anti-inflammatory powerhouse tumeric, the spice that makes curry powders yellow, with creamy avocados.
- 1 medium white or yellow onion
- 1 tbs. curry powder
- 2 Haas avocados Juice of 1 lemon (a tablespoon or so)
- 1 quart good quality vegetable stock** - Olive oil for cooking salt and pepper to taste
- Saute onions in a bit of oil until soft
- Add curry powder and stir for another minute
- Add broth and bring to a boil
- Turn off heat and scoop avocado into heated broth, squeeze lemon let the avocados almost melt into the hot broth for a few minutes
- Using an immersion blender, blend avocado until smooth
*** If you plan on serving the soup hot you can also use a mineral rich bone broth instead of the vegetable broth
GOLDEN MILKThis special drink is believed to be one of the greatest tools at fighting inflammation. Try a small cup before bed to help with sleep, as well as reduce inflammation overnight and hopefully result in a less stiff morning.
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and sliced
- 1 inch of fresh tumeric, peeled and sliced
- ¼ tsp cinnamon squeeze of lemon
- Simmer all ingredients over low heat for about 10 mins and then let sit.
- This can be watered down a bit as coconut milk is rather rich
- Drink 4 ounces before bed or upon waking