Inflammation: What is it & Why are We So Anti?

 

Inflammation has become somewhat of a buzz word these days. Everywhere you look there are products claiming to be anti-inflammatory, but why is inflammation so dangerous, and how can we avoid it?

 

Inflammation is the body’s defense mechanism to anything that takes it out of homeostasis, often presenting as redness or swelling. That’s to say, our body can inflame (both internally and externally) when it’s under attack from disease, injury, stress, or certain foods. Inflammatory responses can manifest in a number of ways including (but not limited to): dermal rash or hives, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, insomnia, and Alzheimer’s.

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So, how can we avoid inflammation and make sure we’re caring for our bodies from the inside, out? Recent studies are showing that the best way to prevent inflammation is through diet. There are many healthy, whole foods that you can eat that help reduce inflammation in your body. There are also supplements and stress management techniques that can aid in in anti-inflammation. Here, I’m going to share a few simple ideas to help you prevent inflammation in your body.

1-   Anti-Inflammatory Eating:

Certain foods increase inflammation and should be avoided or eaten much less frequently. Some of these foods are:

  •  processed and fried foods

  • refined sugars and some carbohydrates with gluten (sweets, white bread and pasta, etc.)

  • soda

  • alcohol

  • red meat

Certain foods decrease inflammation and should be eaten as much as possible. These are also foods that help to balance blood sugar to prevent insulin spikes, which can stress the body (thus causing inflammation). Some of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods are:

  •   berries that are high in anti-oxidants (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)

  •   fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)

  •   cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale)

  •   avocado

  •   cherries

  •   green tea

  •   olive oil

  •   dark chocolate (72% cacao or higher)

  •   turmeric (I will discuss this further when we get to supplements).

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Intermittent fasting (commonly referred to as IF) is another popular health trend, and one of its benefits is decreasing inflammation in the digestive system (gut health is super important for mental health, and other body functions!). Intermittent fasting means having a shorter window of time you eat during the day, and then fasting anywhere from 12-16 hours, between dinner and breakfast the following day. This is not for everyone (certainly consult with your doc if you have any concerns), but it can be helpful to aid in reducing inflammation.

2-   Anti-Inflammatory Supplements.

When looking for a natural anti-inflammatory supplement, turmeric, or more specifically the curcumin property in turmeric, is one of the most popular and effective. To get the full benefit of turmeric, you will want to consume it with black pepper. The compound peperine in black pepper allows the curcumin to be better absorbed in the blood stream, making it a more effective anti-inflammatory supplement.

CBD is another powerful anti-inflammatory that’s becoming increasingly more popular. With the legalization of marijuana in several state, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid (CBD) has become the subject of much research with regards to it’s anti-inflammatory properties, as well as helping to reduce anxiety, insomnia, and many other benefits. CBD can be used topically in a cream or ointment for achy muscles or injuries, or ingested in a tea, tincture, edibles, vaporizer, or other methods. Because regulation is still new, it’s important to do your research to find a brand that is high quality and is known to be effective.

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3-   Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle.

 Stress is one of the main causes of inflammation in our bodies. This can also be one of the most difficult things to manage in our lives. People have hectic schedules, overwhelming jobs, and time consuming family obligations. It can be challenging to balance everything, and still have time in day to relax and tend to your own needs. This stress can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and depression, amongst other maladies.

 Stress-Reducing Activities:

  • meditation

  • yoga

  • visualization techniques

  • at least seven hours of sleep per night

  • at least four to five days of exercise per week

One Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan:

Breakfast:

¼ cup (uncooked) steel cut oatmeal (you can use ½ cup slow cooked, if you don’t have time for steel cut)

½  cup organic raspberries or blueberries

 (I like to stir in frozen berries as the oatmeal is cooking)

1 cup of green tea

 Lunch:

Kale salad with avocado, tomato, ½ cup of lentils, and a drizzle of olive oil

Snack:

Golden milk latte (see recipe below) or turmeric tea

1 cup strawberries, grapes, or cherries

Dinner:

3-5oz Salmon

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Mashed cauliflower (I like the frozen stuff from Trader Joe’s)

1oz of dark chocolate (72% cacao or more)

(Turmeric) Golden Milk Latte Recipe:

 I use the Gaia Herbs Golden Milk Powder for my Turmeric Latte

(This stuff is great, because it has the peperine needed to activate the anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric)

 1 teaspoon powder

4-8oz warm milk (or milk alternative)

1 teaspoon agave or honey to sweeten (optional)