Chronic Inflammation

chronic-inflammationChronic low-level inflammation may be affecting your health and aging you, without you knowing it.

Inflammation is the body’s response to infection or trauma. Some simple examples of appropriate inflammatory responses are; skin blemishes, a sore throat, a rash, a cut, or a sprain. In these cases (and many more) inflammation removes damaged cells and bad bacteria from the body. This kind of inflammation is good. We need it to heal.

As I age, I am learning that many of my aches and pains may be due to chronic inflammation, an overactive immune response. This chronic inflammation is nothing but bad! Many of us have chronic inflammation that is undetected because this whole process is hidden from our view. This hidden chronic inflammation is believed to be at the root of ALL chronic illness. It has been linked to: allergies, asthma, Candida, obesity, diabetes, vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression, cancer, heart disease, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, autism, and the list goes on…

What are the causes?

  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Food allergens (gluten, dairy, etc)
  • Environmental allergens and toxins
  • Diet (high in) sugar, refined flour, processed foods, trans saturated fats
  • Chronic infections
  • Obesity

Ways to battle inflammation:

  • Destress – Meditation, Yoga, aroma therapy, a long bath with candles… do whatever it takes to stress less.
  • Avoid food allergens – I have allergies to certain fruits and nuts but I still tried to eat them thinking that a little is ok. Now I know, if you know you are allergic, it is best to cut them out completely. It may be worth it to get tested to see if there are mild allergies that you have not been aware of. 
  • Avoid environmental allergens and toxins – Pesticides, cleaning agents, etc 
  • Regular exercise – Reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, strengthens the cardiovascular system, reverses and prevents insulin resistance, reduces stress, and elevates your mood. 
  • Take probiotics and eat fermented foods to improve the balance of healthy gut bacteria, reducing inflammation.
  • Take a your vitamins – multivitamins and supplements including; fish oil, and vitamin D help reduce inflammation. Tumeric and ginger supplements are also helpful. 
  • Drink plenty of water (use a water purifier if your water has chlorine or other contaminates)
  • Avoid foods that cause inflammation (list below).

What foods are considered anti-inflammatory?

  • Whole Foods – (food that is unprocessed and unrefined before being consumed.)
  • Healthy Monounsaturated Fats – olive oil, nuts and avocados
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – from small fish and ground flax seeds
  • Fruits and veggies (rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants)
  • High-fiber – whole grains (the whole grain as the first ingredient with no added sugars)

 Specific Recommendations: 

  • Nuts – All are beneficial but almonds and walnuts are best
  • Avacados – healthy fats
  • Unprocessed Soy – Soy milk, tofu, edamame
  • Dairy (low fat) – (Casein, dairy protein can cause inflammation for those with mild allergies. But if tolerated, dairy can be an important source of vitamins and nutrients.) Low or non-fat milk, yogurt
  • Juicy red tomatoes are rich in lycopene (an inflammatory). Cooking tomatoes actually increases lycopene.
  • Beets (and beetroot juice) – high in antioxidants
  • Ginger, Curcumin and Turmeric – spices to cook with or take as supplements.
  • More spices: Basil, Black Pepper, Cloves, Cinnamon, Cayenne and Rosemary
  • Garlic, onions and chili peppers – antiinflammatory and boost the immune system
  • Olive oil – (extra-virgin is best) 
  • Clarified butter (Ghee)
  • Berries – all berries seem to have powerful antiinfammatory properties
  • Tart cherries – very high anti-inflammatory content (not sweet cherries) 
  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Sardines, herring, sable, trout and wild salmon are all sources of Omega-3 fatty acids (also found in ground flax seeds).

What foods cause inflammation?

  • Excess sugar causes the body to send cytokines from the immune system which cause inflammation throughout the body.
  • White rice, white flour, white bread, pastries, pastas, and other simple carbs. These break down quickly into sugar and lead to inflammation.
  • Dairy including milk and cream cheese is highly inflammatory for those with milk (casein) allergy. If you have no such allergy, moderate amounts of low fat milk can actually help prevent inflammation. But whole milk or even two-percent is still high in saturated fat and should be avoided. 
  • Anything that you are allergic to should be avoided.
  • Fatty red meats
  • Cheese (particularly those high in sodium)
  • Bad fats – Trans, Saturated, and Hydrogenated fats and oils include: cream, cheese, butter, margarine, and shortening. These fats are difficult for the body to process and are known to damage cells that line our blood vessels. 
  • Processed, Cured Meats preserved and processed using a combination of salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar for longevity and flavoring (i.e., hot dogs, sausages, bologna, and other lunch meats).
  • Alcohol – when not used in moderation, causes bacteria to pass through the protective lining of the intestines, causing an infammatory response. 
  • Vegetable Oils – oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (i.e., soy biannual, peanut oil, sunflower, corn oil, and safflower)
  • Food Additives (i.e., monosodium glutamate (or MSG), aspartame, etc
  • Gluten. Even without a diagnosis of celiac disease, many report feeling better after eliminating gluten from their diet. 

Resources:


Looking for an antiinflammatory recipe book? Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy: 75 Recipes and Nutrition Plan

Recipes: Yummy Green Beans

From the Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book: Protect Yourself and Your Family from Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies — and More by Jessica K. Black 

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 –inch cube peeled ginger, sliced thin

1/2 Teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds

1 Pound green beans

Quarter cup water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Saute mustard seeds and ginger in olive oil over moderate heat until seeds being to pop. Add beans, stir fry over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the water, cover tightly, simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove lid when most of the water has evaporated. Add remaining ingredients except lemon juice, and continue cooking until beans are slightly crispy. Add lemon juice just before serving. Serve warm. Serves 6.