Inflammation is the human body’s response to help repel foreign invaders and heal injuries. It is part of our immune system, and it helps us fight off infection. But when the immune system is overloaded, the body may enter into a chronic inflammatory process. Scientists now know this chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and others. Reducing chronic inflation in the body lowers your risk of all those diseases and helps you lose weight, feel better, and have more energy.
Today, probably because of stress, poor diet, lifestyle, and environmental and genetic factors, the immune response is activated too frequently. In a recent article in MindBodyGreen.com, Dr. Amy Shah offered 8 effective ways to prevent or reverse the problem of chronic inflammation for you and your family:
1. Wean yourself off sugar.
The average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. Cut back to two or three spoons (10 to 15 grams) a day, and you will soon find your taste buds adjust. Use stevia or other natural sweeteners in moderation.
2. Remove inflammatory oils and fats.
Fats are important to your health. The idea of cutting back on fat for health has been proven wrong. Instead, be aware there are “good” fats and “bad” fats, and your body knows the difference. Use cold-pressed coconut and olive oil in place of soy, corn or cottonseed oil. Replace animal based fats with raw nuts and seeds, fish oil and avocados.
3. Add in stress-relieving exercise.
Exercise is valuable, but more is not always better. Some researchers now believe intense exercise may be causing an increase in inflammation. Concentrate on walking or yoga, along with optional bouts of more intense exercise, to reduce stress and inflammation.
4. Consider cutting gluten and dairy.
Shah suggests removing one or both of these food groups from your diet for four to six weeks. Gluten increases inflammation in many people, even if they are not allergic to wheat. Cow’s milk protein and casein can also cause inflammation for some. Try a one-month detox period, then gradually add back foods to see whether you develop symptoms. She offers a 3-day starter meal plan.
5. Cut back on processed foods.
The chemicals and additives in processed foods cause them to be inflammatory. If, like most Americans, your diet consists of mostly processed foods, you don’t have to do it all at once. Make it your goal to eat a diet 80% free of processed, boxed, bagged and fast foods.
6. Get more sleep.
Americans today sleep less than 7 hours a night, much less than in 1942. Many researchers believe lack of sleep may be the biggest reason for the rise in inflammatory disease. Dr. Shah suggests you sleep 20 minutes more each night.
7. “Eat” your vitamins.
While a vitamin supplement may offer some extra insurance, the best way to get your vitamins is through whole foods. That’s because we simply don’t know enough about how nutritional compounds work together, and we cannot successfully isolate everything our bodies need and put it in a pill. Leafy greens, for example, have thousands of chemicals which are directly anti-inflammatory. Load up your grocery cart with fresh vegetables and fruit, and healthy fish.
8. Love your bacteria.
Our bodies have more bacteria than they do cells. Good bacteria are vital to health, so avoid taking antibiotics except when absolutely necessary, and supplement your diet with kombucha or fermented vegetables three times a week.
She also suggests minimizing the use of over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, Tylenol and acid reducers. To know your inflammation status, get a baseline set of blood labs that includes a test for c-reactive protein, which is a marker for overall inflammation. Then re-check it again in 3 or 4 months to see how this program has improved it.