The chronic inflammatory process is the underlying cause many diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and more. By reducing chronic inflammation in your body, you are fighting ALL those diseases at once, while also feeling more energetic, looking better and losing weight.
But what is "inflammation" and how can we stop it from causing all kinds of problems ranging from weight gain to severe disease?
Inflammation is our immune system's response to foreign invaders and injuries. A healthy immune system helps fight off infection every single second of the day, but when it becomes too activated or confused, that's when the problems start.
In today's world, the immune response often gets too activated. This, we think, is because of our modern environment, poor diet, lifestyle and genetic factors.
How do we reverse this problem?
It's becoming increasingly clear that the root cause of all these inflammatory diseases can be boiled down to a few causative factors. Although there are debates on what's most important, I have put together my top eight ways you can prevent inflammatory disease in yourself or your family:
1. Wean yourself off sugar.
Our taste buds get accustomed to high amounts of sugar (average American diet includes about 20 spoons!) and as you reduce it you will notice how things you once enjoyed now taste "too sweet." Cut down to 2-3 spoons (10-15 grams) TOTAL a day. Use stevia or natural sweeteners sparingly.
2. Remove inflammatory oils and fats.
Replace soy, animal-based fats and corn oil with cold-pressed coconut, avocado and olive oil. Gone are the days of no fat or oils. In fact, I strongly recommend adding raw nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, hemp seeds, fish or algae oils, avocado, coconut.
3. Add in stress-relieving exercise.
Some exercise is good, but remember that more is not always better. In America, we're obsessed with extreme endurance sports, but a new thought process suggests that this type of intense exercise can be causing inflammatory harm. I agree, and incorporating yoga or walking routine (with optional bouts of intense exercise) is an great anti-inflammatory combo.
4. Consider cutting gluten and dairy.
I suggest taking out one or both of these food groups for four to six weeks. Gluten is inflammatory to many people whether or not they have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Cow's milk protein and casein is similarly inflammatory to some. Try a one-month detox, then add back both to see if it causes you symptoms. Here's a free three-day starter meal plan I made in case you need help.
5. Remove processed foods.
Processed foods contain chemicals and additives that make them inflammatory. You'll probably need to gradually wean yourself off these, especially if you're like me and relied on granola bars and chips since childhood. Your goal isn't perfection; your goal is to be 80% off processed, boxed, bagged and fast foods.
6. Increase sleep.
Sleep is arguably the most important recommendation. Forty percent of Americans sleep less than seven hours each night, and we sleep much less than in 1942. Could this be the singular reason for the rise in inflammatory diseases? The jury is out, but I think that if there's only one thing you can do starting today to reduce inflammation, it's sleep 20 minutes more every night.
7. "Eat" your vitamins.
I'm convinced that the reason why vitamin pills aren't the answer to our inflammatory woes is because in biology, you cannot isolate one factor without considering the rest. For example, eating your iron in foods is better than taking a pill. In fact, in the case of some supplements, research studies showed some increased risks.
In my mind, vitamins can be extra insurance (as in the case of B12 supplementation in vegans), but shouldn't be your primary means of getting vitamins. Leafy greens, for example, have thousands of compounds some of which are directly anti-inflammatory that cannot be recreated by supplementation.
8. Love your bacteria.
The bacteria in our body outnumber our own cells. We work together in symbiosis, so don't take antibiotics and other bacteria-killing medications unless absolutely necessary, and eat good bacteria as much as possible Try kombucha or fermented vegetables three times per week.
Bonus tips: minimize medication use especially NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), Tylenol, and acid-reducing meds.
Also consider a baseline set of labs plus c reactive protein (a marker of overall inflammation) and then check it again in 3-4 months to see if it's improved!
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.