Prevent and Treat Inflammation – Naturally
Chronic health issues seem to be continually on the rise in the U.S. In fact, the CDC indicates that 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have at least one chronic disease, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease, among many others. And at the root of many of these diseases is a perhaps surprising culprit—inflammation, which results when the immune system is activated to attack foreign invaders in the body such as chemicals, pathogens, allergens, and inflammatory foods. It can also be a response to stress, which is increasingly common in our society and accounts in part for the rise in chronic health issues.
It Starts with Your Diet
This may come as a surprise, but your diet is likely the leading cause of inflammation. The American/western phenomenon of fast foods, eaten in places the world over, contains many of the foods and ingredients that cause inflammation. The worst culprits:
- Sugar (including added sugar in foods)
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, white pasta, white rice
- French fries and other fried foods
- Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
- Margarine, shortening, lard
- Preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, possibly genetically modified foods (GMO)
- Alcohol in excess
Manage Your Stress
Chronic stress is the other primary cause of inflammation. Although we generally aren’t in immediate danger when constantly reading our emails and checking social media, our bodies respond to our busy lives of instant gratification and information at our fingertips by releasing cortisol—the stress hormone that helps send more energy to the large muscles by making more blood sugar while also narrowing the arteries, causing the blood to pump harder. Energy is diverted from non-essential functions like digestion and the immune system, inhibiting the production of insulin, which is needed to suppress inflammation. When this condition is sustained over time, it creates a chronic fight-or-flight response and in turn chronic inflammation, leading to the devastating diseases so prevalent in our society.
An Ounce of Prevention…
Simply by changing our diets and eating the right foods, we can help prevent inflammation and in turn the chronic diseases it causes. We must remove those culprit foods and add these whole, fresh foods to our daily diets:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Good fats like those found in olive oil and avocados
- Nuts and seeds; raw, not roasted
- Wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines
- Fruits and berries like blueberries, oranges, grapefruit, apples
- Squashes and sweet potatoes
- Legumes such as chickpeas, beans, lentils
- Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, farro
There are certain meats, such as wild game and pasture raised, that can occasionally be eaten in small quantities. These are good sources of protein and vitamin B, which can be difficult to get in a vegetarian diet. However, consumption must be limited, and it may be better to go without entirely if you don’t have access to wild or pasture raised. Factory farming, which uses corn and soy grown with pesticides, will create even more inflammation.
You can also help treat inflammation by incorporating certain herbs into your diet or supplement regimen, including Boswellia (frankincense), turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cardamom, along with countless herbs used in Chinese medicine in different combinations, depending on where the inflammation is located.
Unfortunately, many Americans may not be aware of how harmful our diets can be. It is important to educate the country, children and adults alike, on the harm of processed, refined, and junk foods and the importance of switching to a whole-food diet of fresh, organic foods when possible, as well as managing stress in our everyday lives. As a Chinese medical practitioner and integrative nutrition health coach, I have helped many clients manage their stress, diet, and health concerns using coaching, nutrition, herbal medicine, and mind–body techniques to reach their health goals. If you’re looking to make a change but don’t know where to begin, a nutritionist or health coach is an excellent place to start.
Donna Bunte, MSOM, LAc, of Donna Bunte Whole Health can be reached at her office at 203.698.0793, cell at 203.253.9885, or email: email@example.com.