Chronic Inflammation: The Root of Many Health Problems
Of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States (and many other developed countries) 7 out of 10 stem from chronic inflammation in the body. In the recent years scientists have come to understand that inflammation is a major contributing factor to a wide range of health problems. These health problems include diabetes, heart disease (the leading cause of death globally), Alzheimer’s, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease and certain types of cancer. So what causes inflammation in the body and why is it so prevalent?
Let’s first begin by understanding what inflammation is:
Inflammation is a natural response by your body to help protect itself from harmful microorganism and to help heal wounds. For instance, any sort of trauma to your body, like a cut, bruises, an allergic reaction, a bacteria or viral infection (like the common cold) all trigger an inflammatory response. Depending on the injury or illness, you may experience pain, swelling, redness and /or warmth in that area. This response is known as acute inflammation, which means it’s temporary and will subside once the problem is corrected by the body. Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal. In this case inflammation is necessary, however, when inflammation becomes chronic, you are now opening yourself up to a multitude of health problems, many of which I listed above.
Chronic inflammation means long term or constant inflammation. This type of inflammation can last anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. One of the primary causes of chronic inflammation is an unhealthy diet. Specifically a diet high in refined sugars, processed foods, and fried & barbequed foods AKA the Standard American Diet (SAD). These sorts of foods create an overly acidic environment in your body. A poor diet followed with nutritional deficiencies and lack of enzymes all contribute to chronic inflammation.
When you consume unhealthy and unnatural foods inflammation is immediately triggered in your body. Therefore by constantly eating a poor diet, chronic inflammation will persist. In addition, the consumption of unhealthy foods also produces free radicals in the body. Excess amounts of free radicals in the body are damaging and have been linked to a number of diseases, such as, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cataracts, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain and stiffness, and kidney disease. The good news is that if you have any of the health problems like high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and other diseases attributed by chronic inflammation it can be reversed. Don’t fret, there is a simple solution to preventing chronic inflammation in the body.
Inflammation Diet (Causes / Contributors)
A healthy body is slightly alkaline. Those who eat a standard American diet have bodies that are generally over acidic. Over acidic bodies create chronic inflammation and other health problems.
Acidic Foods You Should Eliminate From Your Diet
- Fast Food (McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, etc)
- Fried Foods and Trans fats (Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol. Scientist and medical doctors all agree that trans fats are the worst type of fats and should be avoided.
Alternative: Opt for baked, steamed, lightly sautéed clean foods.
*Anything that has hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils should be avoided, make sure to read the labels.
- Foods with Trans Fats:
-Commercial baked goods (Little Debbie is not your friend), crackers, cookies, cakes, French fries,
-Shortening and most margarine are high in trans fats.
-Corn, cottonseed, soybean, and safflower oils
Alternative: Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil (best for cooking), palm oil, sesame seed oil, hemp oil, flax seed oil, truffle oil, hazelnut oil, walnut oil, pumpkin seed oil.
- High Sugar Diets
Refined sugars, high fructose corn syrups, artificial sweeteners, aspartame, equal, sucralose, NutraSweet, pop (soda) are not your friends.
There are many scientific studies linking aspartame to cancer. Study: Aspartame Linked to Blood Cancers
“A newly published long term study that spans 22 years shows that drinking one or more aspartame-sweetened soft drinks per day increases the risk of several blood cancers in men. The study was led by Dr. Eva S. Schernhammer of the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.”
Alternative: Whole fruit sweeteners (dates), coconut sugar, stevia, xylitol, yacon syrup, lucuma powder.
- Refined Grains
White flours, white rice, enriched flours & white potatoes.
Alternative: Whole grains, quinoa*, amaranth*, buckwheat*, millet*, oats, wild rice*, black, brown and red rice*, and teff*.
- Red Meats & Processed Meats
Beef, pork, bacon & lamb
Processed Meats = smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine confirm that red meat triggers chronic inflammatory response.
Alternative: Pastured raised chicken, wild caught fish, cold water fish: wild pacific salmon, ocean char, cod, halibut, haddock, sole, pollack, tuna, stripped bass. Sardines, anchovies.
If you decided to keep red meat in your diet, select grass-fed and wild meats, and keep it to no more than once per week.
- Dairy Products
60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk. In fact the ability to digest milk as an adult is a genetic adaptation. This genetic adaptation is primarily present in people of Northern European ancestry. Africans, Asians & Native Americans generally do not have this genetic adaptation and should completely avoid milk and other dairy products.
Milk is a common allergen that causes systemic inflammation, weight gain, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation, acne, and abnormal digestion.
Alternative: Almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk.
- Overweight & Obese
Research now shows that obesity and inflammation in the body is directly related to certain types of cancers.
- Poor Gut Health
Poor gut health and lack of beneficial bacteria induces inflammation in the body as well as lowers our immune system.
Also too many antibiotics wipes out both good and bad bacteria causing unhealthy microbes to invade your body.
- Chronic Stress
- Alcohol & Coffee
High consumption of these two create chronic inflammation and promote tumor growth and increases your risk for cancer.
Alternative: Consider subbing in green juices, green tea, yerba mate, smoothies & water. If you can’t give up alcohol and coffee, consider reducing your consumption. The general recommendation for alcohol consumption: no more than 2 drinks a day for men and no more than 1 drink a day for women. Have your green juice before you grab a coffee also try out yerba mate instead of coffee.
- Lack of Physical Activity
- Lack of Sleep
A community study by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine found that people who don’t get enough sleep or sleep poorly have higher levels of inflammation.
Anti Inflammatory Diet
- The first step to reducing inflammation in the body is limiting overly acidic foods. 80% of the foods you consume should be alkaline and 20% should be acidic, known as the 80/20 rule. This should be followed for each meal you consume, instead of just trying to consume all alkaline foods for one or two meals and acidifying foods at other meals. This ratio gives the body what it needs to neutralize the acid residue and prevent any buildups in the body.
- Eat plenty of vegetables with every meal. Vegetables are one of the most alkalizing foods you can eat. Avoid overcooking; aim for more raw and lightly steamed vegetables to preserve nutrient content.
- Incorporate a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets are anti-inflammatory because they contain anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which prevents our bodies from overproducing inflammatory compounds. There’s no need to turn vegan overnight, just start by making a few meals a week all plant-based. Plant foods have 64 times more antioxidants than red meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in many antioxidant compounds, which reduce inflammation in the body. Study shows that fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant levels reduce inflammation the most. Fruits and vegetables each contain unique phytonutrients compounds unique to them, we miss out when we just stick to a few types of fruits and vegetables.
- Choose Healthy Fats and Oils. Not all fats are bad for you. No more than 30% (preferably 20-25%) of fats should come from your diet. Important fats you should include in your diet daily are the essential fatty acids (EFAs). These fats are required for optimal health and must be obtained from your diet as your body does not produce them. The most important of the EFAs are the omega 3 and omega 6. Omega 3 are especially important because they contain anti-inflammatory properties and other compounds to normalize cholesterol levels and help prevent stroke and cancer. The Standard American Diet lacks this essential nutrient.
Plant based source (excellent)
Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.
Animal source (excellent)
Wild-caught salmon, fish oil supplements and sardines.
- Drink Pure Water Daily. Approximately 70% our bodies are made up of water. Water is essential for many functions in our bodies, such as: proper metabolism and digestion, delivery of oxygen into the bloodstream, proper kidney and urinary tract infections, joint lubrication and muscle functions, healthy respiratory function, elimination of toxins and much more. As a general rule aim for 1 quart (32oz) of water for every 70 pounds of weight. Drink water through your day and always drink water or any liquids 30 minutes before a meal or after. Drinking a lot of water while you eat will interfere with digestion. My personal recommendation is to start your morning with a glass of fresh water upon raising.
- Drink Fresh Green Juices Daily. Juicing alkalizes the body and offers protection against unhealthy inflammation. Juicing also improves your body’s ability to remove toxins, which is another cause of inflammation. Have at least 1 quart (32oz) of fresh green juice a day.
Special tip: Consider adding flax seed, hemp seed or chia seed oils to your favorite vegetable juices for an added anti-inflammatory boost.
- Do Some Form of Physical Activity. Maintain a body weight with in a normal range. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of some form of physical activity each day. It can be as simple as a walk around your neighborhood.
Now that you have read this article, I hope that you have a better understanding of how and why healthy dietary habits are so important to your health.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Dr. Ann Wigmore
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Juice Recipes for Inflammation
- 5 Carrots, 1/2 Beet, 1 Cucumber and 1/2 Parsley bunch
- 1 Cucumber, 3 Celery stalk, 4 Kale leaves, handful of Spinach, 2-3 Granny Smith Apples, knob Ginger, 1cm turmeric & 1/2 Lemon (rind removed)
- 1 Cilantro bunch, 2 Cucumbers, 2 Celery stalks, 1 Lime & 2 Pears