If you scratch your skin with your nail and it turns red and the skin raises slightly along the lines of the scratch, that is inflammation. Your skin is reacting to something that is abnormal and your body is starting to fight back to prevent infection. This is a normal response and is how our body heals itself. It is acute and temporary and the body recovers quickly and the skin’s color and texture return to normal.
But did you know that inflammation is likely occurring in your body right now? It could be acute, but most people today are experiencing chronic inflammation. We now know that chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. If you are experiencing any of the following you are likely dealing with chronic inflammation:
high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides
abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes or pre-diabetes
IBS or Irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or heartburn
hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
arthritis or joint pain
headaches or migraines
skin rashes including psoriasis or eczema
brain fog or cognitive slowness
overweight or obesity
The list can go on, but you get the idea. Inflammation is rampant in our bodies. How do we reduce inflammation in order to prevent chronic disease or reverse chronic disease if we already have it? There is a method to reducing inflammation and it starts in the gut. Here are the ways to reduce inflammation in your body and prevent disease:
Stop eating junk. Limit or avoid processed foods and sugars, especially refined sugar in sweets and sodas, processed and packaged foods as well. Instead choose whole foods. I like to say: “Imagine how this food came from the earth and how many steps did it go through before it ended up on your plate?” The fewer the better.
Choose organic when possible. Some foods are more vulnerable than others and have a higher pesticide or herbicide load. Our bodies are not made to metabolize pesticides and they can build up over time in your system and cause inflammation. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php. Spinach is great, but it’s also loaded with pesticides. You may be doing your body more harm than good by eating a spinach salad. Choose organic.
Limit or avoid gluten. Gluten causes inflammation for many people. One reason may be that the genetically modified seed combined with pesticides and preservatives are a recipe for disaster. I find gluten to be one of the top foods causing inflammation with food sensitivity testing. And if a patient with gastrointestinal distress opts not to do food sensitivity testing, they at least have a significant reduction in symptoms (gas, pain and bloating) when they eliminate gluten from their diet.
Limit dairy. Dairy is another food group that I find (and backed by research) causes inflammation in many patients. Casein is the main protein present in dairy and also causes inflammation. If you do want to keep dairy in your diet, I would recommend a small amount of organic ghee or clarified butter and organic unsweetened kefir or yogurt occasionally. A small amount (1 ounce or a domino-size) of a minimally processed organic cheese such as Cabot should suffice without causing too much inflammation.
De-stress. Easier said than done, but chronic stress and lack of sleep will increase inflammation. Find tools to manage your day-to-day stress such as breathing exercises, moderate exercise, meditation or prayer. A recent study showed that yoga had more benefits than cardiovascular exercise in increasing cognitive function and preventing dementia. Mind-body-spirit connection is proving to be even more beneficial than your spin class or long distance runs.
Supplement your diet. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. If you don’t know if your vitamin D level is within normal limits, that means you need to get yours checked. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level and if it’s low, you may need a prescription dose until it is within the normal range. Low vitamin D levels increase inflammation and your risk for multiple diseases and conditions. Low vitamin D is related to abnormal blood glucose levels and can actually prevent you from losing weight. I recommend taking 2,000mg to 4,000mg of vitamin D3 daily. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend 2,100mg to 2,400mg of fish oil daily to reduce inflammation. I recommend Co-enzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10) if you have a history of heart disease, especially if you are taking statins. I recommend 100mg of CoQ10 per day.
I never recommend a magic food, beverage, herb, spice or oil that will help reduce inflammation. There are great studies that show that turmeric can reduce inflammation, or that cinnamon can reduce inflammation, or blueberries for example. However, after using the Food Inflammation Test to detect for food sensitivities in patients over the past few years, I know that some of these foods, spices, etc. that are known to reduce inflammation can actually increase inflammation for some. For this reason, I refrain from touting some things as anti-inflammatory that other practitioners might recommend. However, if a patient takes the Food Inflammation Test and I see that they do not have an inflammatory reaction to turmeric, for example, then I would recommend that the patient try increasing their intake of that spice in order to reduce their systemic inflammation. However, I could be doing them a disservice if I recommend this without test results*.
If this feels overwhelming to you, start with one step that feels feasible to you and build on your anti-inflammatory plan from there. Reducing inflammation is the key to preventing disease and improving your quality and quantity of life. Annnnd go!
*If you are interested in learning more about the Food Inflammation Test or FIT 132 that I offer within my practice, please check out the link on my website : https://www.rinutritiontherapy.com/shop/food-inflammation-test-132-panel-fit-132