We hear a lot about silent inflammation and the damage that it does to our health, but do we know exactly how it starts? I'm going to simplify what causes inflammation, what foods to eat that quell it and how to prevent chronic illness going forward.
Here are some of the causes of inflammation:
- Eating processed foods - anything with more than 1 ingredient (sometimes 3-5 are okay).
- Partially hydrogenated/hydrogenated or Trans Fats - found in margarine, shortening and many pies, cookies and baked goods from the supermarket.
- Fried foods.
- Sugar and White Flour - Since sugar is addictive, Americans are eating more than ever. While you don't have to eliminate all sweets from your diet, cutting back will definitely help. Also, think "fruits" when you want to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Gluten - Since wheat has changed from years ago, many people have a sensitivity to gluten which can cause lots of problems.
- Artificial Sweeteners/Flavorings.
- Food Additives such as colorings, preservatives, etc.
- Dairy (today's dairy products are filled with hormones, antibiotics and many other ingredients you want to stay away from).
- Toxins - these can be the chemicals in the food you eat, the creams and lotions you put on your body or environmental toxins.
- Stress - A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response.
Since chronic inflammation is the root cause of many illnesses, here are my 5 picks for foods you might want to include in your diet:
- Tumeric - An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, "Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal and anticancer activities. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health say: "Laboratory and animal research have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties of turmeric and its constituent curcumin."
- Fermented Foods - These foods help strengthen our immune system and help control infections that are often the underlying causes of inflammation. (Check out my recipe for a great fermented cabbage!)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids - Wild-caught salmon, sardines, cod, flax seeds, hemp seeds/oil and flax oil are great foods to bring down inflammation which can be caused by too much Omega 6 fatty acids which are found in vegetable oils.
- Onions & Garlic - According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, onions, garlic, and their family members also contain flavonoids and phenols. White onions are not as rich in these antioxidant compounds as yellow and red, and shallots are especially high in polyphenol levels. Red onions are particularly rich in anthocyanins (also abundant in berries) and quercetin. Flavonoids such as quercetin can contribute to preventing damaged cells from advancing to cancer, and also have anti-inflammatory effects that may contribute to cancer prevention.
- Exercise - As exercise can reduce stress and stress is one factor that can contribute to inflammation, it just makes sense to incorporate movement into your daily life. According to the Journal on Epidemiology, physical activity may lower the risk for coronary heart disease by mitigating inflammation, which plays a key role in the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis.
We all know that there's no bypassing the aging process, but there are definite ways to slow it down and to feel energetic and happy in the journey. Incorporating some healthy foods into your current diet and implementing an exercise program can be just the necessary tools to keep you looking and feeling younger going forward.
Last but not least, think about MEDITATION! Meditation may promote telomere health. Telomeres are the protective ends of chromosomes, and are linked to longevity. Using this as a model, researchers are testing further connections between meditation and longevity relationships. (Ibid). HOW COOL IS THAT?!!