Chronic Inflammation: Too Much of a Good Thing
Can you ever have too much of a good thing? When it comes to inflammation, the answer is a resounding YES! Everyone is familiar with inflammation: the sore throat and stuffy nose that happens when you catch a cold, or the pain and swelling that occurs when you twist your ankle. Inflammation is simply your body’s first line of defense when presented with an injury or infection. The immune system sends out the “first responders” which are the cells that release inflammatory mediators, causing the vessels to leak fluid, the blood to become more coagulated and sticky, and the resulting pain and swelling we are all familiar with. This complex process is necessary for us to heal, but what if this process continues non-stop?
The result is chronic disease. Conditions like heart disease, strokes, most cancers, asthma, arthritis, and peripheral vascular disease are all the result of chronic inflammation. Even those conditions that don’t seem inflammatory actually are, like Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimers. The reason that knowing about chronic inflammation is so important is that it gives everyone the opportunity to actually PREVENT these conditions, as well as treating the actual cause of disease instead of just treating the symptoms.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The million dollar question is what can you do to stop this chronic inflammation? The answers are actually pretty simple and most of them are found in the produce section or the farmers market.
STEP 1: Embrace a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet, which is a diet that is predominantly unrefined or minimally refined plants such as vegetables, fruits, beans/legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The chemical compounds in unrefined, whole plant foods (called “phytonutrients”) possess the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that prevent and reverse disease. The equation is simple: diets rich in phytonutrients equal less inflammation and less disease. Diets consisting of pro-inflammatory foods equal more disease.
STEP 2: Decrease (or eliminate) processed sugars, white flour, meat/animal products including dairy, soda, junk, and processed food. These foods promote inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. The rise in inflammatory markers happens immediately after eating these foods and lasts around 4 to 6 hours before returning to normal. But then, it’s time to eat, and the inflammatory process starts all over again.
STEP 3: If you smoke, STOP NOW!
STEP 4: Exercise daily. Moderate physical activity has positive effects on inflammation.
STEP 5: Meditate. Stress has very harmful effects on the body, including decreasing immune function and increasing inflammation.
The wonderful and remarkable thing about eating to stop inflammation is that you treat MULTIPLE conditions at once. Your arthritis and asthma go away, but so does your high blood pressure and your type 2 diabetes. That’s because chronic inflammation is truly the underlying cause of most of what makes us sick.