Have you noticed the word inflammation is everywhere right now? Headlines, articles and even on bus ads and in recipes? Inflammation has been named a factor in everything from arthritis to cardiovascular disease, to dementia and alzheimer’s, diabetes, autoimmune disorder and even asthma. Is it really as bad as it sounds? If, so what can you do about it?
It’s the current health ‘buzzword’ and for good reason.
Imagine you sprain your ankle. Your ankle will get red and puffy; it gets ‘inflamed’. Inflammation, marked by local heat, redness, swelling, and pain, occurs in response to injury and/or germ attack. It’s the body’s way of getting more nourishment and more immune activity to an injured area in need of them, at which time the inflammation will subside. This is acute inflammation and it resolves with the healing of the underlying cause.
When inflammation turns chronic it leads to tissue damage and disease. Acute inflammation lasts hours or maybe days while chronic inflammation has been building for weeks, months and years. Inflammation is the body’s way to help us through injury, to fight off bacteria, viruses and parasites. It does what it is supposed to do and then the process ends. It’s when it doesn’t end, for any number of reasons like poor diet, stress, food intolerance, genetic predisposition, toxins or a sedentary lifestyle, that the problem starts.
The body will fight what it doesn’t recognize (toxin, food, etc). This activates the immune system and begins the inflammation process. But if we keep adding in (ingesting) that foreign object over and over again, white refined sugar for instance, the process never stops. It’s like going into a room filled with smoke, you look for the source of the smoke. You don’t just give up and walk away, you keep searching and searching. The body reacts similar, it keeps reacting and fighting with every input of the refined sugar so the inflammation creation never ends.
The best defense to inflammation may sound almost too basic- eat a healthy diet, exercise, manage stress and floss your teeth – but offers the best defense. Diet and lifestyle changes are at the root of fighting chronic inflammation.
The foods we choose to eat, or not eat, can affect inflammation. Incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet offers the opportunity to reduce, or at least minimize, dietary components that trigger inflammation while also increasing the intake of nutrients.
While stress, lack of exercise, genetics and toxins can all increase chronic inflammation, the average American diet, which is overloaded with trans fats and refined sugars, has become a major culprit. Heavily processed foods are difficult for the body to break down effectively taxing the immune system. Refined carbs raise blood sugar so quickly that the body can become immune to insulin, which also increases inflammation. Foods to avoid, or at least reduce, include gluten, dairy, sugar, additives and processed and fast food.
An anti-inflammatory diet promotes health, defends against inflammation and gets us back to the basic whole foods. Load up on vegetables, good fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, omega-3 fatty acids, wild caught fish, hormone free meats, green tea, ginger and turmeric.
There is no ‘overnight fix’ for reducing inflammation. It’s not about an extreme, short lived diet. It’s about sustaining life-long changes. Strive to make one small change at a time. Start with this delicious Inflammation-fighting Ginger Tea:
Inflammation Fighting Ginger Tea
2 cups water
1” fresh ginger root, sliced thin
1” fresh turmeric root, sliced thin
Pinch of cinnamon and black pepper
1 tbls maple syrup or honey
1 slices of fresh lemon
Combine all ingredients, except lemon, together over medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy with a slice of lemon.
*I make a big batch of this and store it in the fridge for up to a week.