Inflammation in the body is always uncomfortable. Sometimes you may notice inflammation when you injure yourself or are fighting an infection, and other times inflammation may be chronic and unnoticeable. When you live a high-inflammatory lifestyle for a prolonged period of time, your body stops being able to turn off the inflammatory response and as a result, your healthy tissues may become damaged. When your body is constantly inflamed, you may start to suffer from conditions such as arthritis, bowel disorders, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and so much more! The sad part is that a lot of people don’t know the warning signs that their bodies are in a state of chronic inflammation until it’s too late. Why must we torture ourselves???
Reasons you might be experiencing inflammation include carrying excess weight than what is normal and healthy for your body height and build, constantly breathing polluted air, having a high stress occupation where you constantly have anxiety, or simply eating unhealthy, inflammatory foods. Other factors may include lack of sleep or unhealthy habits like smoking.
Symptoms of chronic body inflammation include:
- Arthritis symptoms such as ongoing joint pain and swelling
- Memory lapses (more than the usual “Where did I put my keys?… for the 5th time in a row”)
- Allergies or asthma that may have developed later on or continuously get worse
- High blood pressure or blood sugar
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome or constipation or loose bowels
- Constantly feeling exhausted
- Skin rashes
- Snoring or trouble breathing that isn’t asthma related
Recognize any of those symptoms?? Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” Well if it is you, there are steps you can take to reverse some of those symptoms. Let’s look at diet, shall we? If you make a point of keeping yourself well nourished, your body becomes strong enough to fight off inflammation and heal faster from other stresses.
Food habits that are considered “high inflammatory” that you may want to avoid:
- Consuming too much sugar
- Eating too many simple carbohydrates and refined grains such as white rice and bread
- Getting too much saturated fat from the wrong sources of meat
- Aim for grass-fed and pasture raised meat when at all possible
- Eating foods with a high ratio of omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid (I talk more about this below)
- Not eating enough healthy fats
- Aim to consume avocados! Olives! Coconut oil! YUM!
- Ignoring any food allergies, even if they may only be mild
- With dairy, gluten, and other food that may trigger allergies (even if your reaction is mild but still noticeable), if you continue eating those foods regularly, your body will be in a constant state of inflammation. It has an ALLERGY to those foods, meaning it has a negative immune system response when you eat them. Do your body a favor and just kick those foods once and for all!
So why all the hype around getting the proper amount of omega-3?
Well, American diets are often heavy with foods that contain higher amounts of omega-6 fatty acids with lower amounts of omega-3’s. A higher level of omega-6 fatty acids is linked to increased inflammation in the body due to its potential to produce PGE2, an inflammatory prostaglandin. Omega-3’s on the other hand metabolize in our bodies to produce PGE3, a non-inflammatory prostaglandin. When the ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s is higher, the non-inflammatory prostaglandins from the omega-3’s blocks the inflammation from omega-6. Since it is hypothesized that inflammation may be the leading driver to many illnesses and diseases we see popping up lately, keeping these levels at a healthy ratio may be in your best interest.
Now, I’m not saying that all sources of omega-6 are bad, because they’re not! They are still essential to have in your diet. Your body can’t create them yourself so you need to consume them from the right sources. The problem we are facing is that most people are getting the majority of the omega-6 in their diets from processed foods like fast foods. Things fried in vegetable oil, packaged baked goods made with shortening, and processed high-sugar, high-fat (not the good kind) junk food. The products to avoid usually include canola oil, corn and soy oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, margarine, and shortening. The heating and processing of these oils can create oxidation, which can then create oxidized lipids in our blood. Combine all of that with low consumption of omega-3’s and yeah, you’re going to have inflammation. So having a healthy balance and a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is ideal.
Foods that provide a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids:
- Fish and seafood
- Tuna, herring, sardines, anchovies,
- Krill oil is a great choice because it has high bioavailability and potency in the body, and it is usually sustainably harvested.
- Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon is also great because it has been tested to have the lowest contamination risk from mercury, pesticides, and other organic pollutants. The way of harvesting wild Alaskan salmon is also usually a more sustainable practice than salmon fishing elsewhere.
- 3-4 ounces twice a week is ideal.
- Raw nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds
- Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, and grass-fed organic butter
- Eggs with their yolks
Other good foods to eat:
- Coconut oil is a good oil substitute when cooking
- Fruits and veggies – aim for 9 servings a day with a serving being 1 cup
- Free-range or grass-fed meat
Look for oils that are minimally processed such as expeller-pressed or cold-pressed oil, not refined, and that are bottled in dark colored glass rather than clear plastic since high quality oils can be damaged by heat or light and plastic may leach chemicals into the oil.
Eating these foods and minimizing the others can lower the inflammation in your body. This in turn can cause a decrease in blood pressure, protect against chronic conditions, protect your joints and your heart, and may even lead to weight loss.
Thinking you need a little more help than that to speed along the reduction of inflammation in your body? Turn to herbs and spices!
Some awesome anti-inflammatory herbs include ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary. If consuming turmeric in any of its forms, you may want to consider taking it with black pepper because the active ingredient piperine in black pepper helps make the curcumin in turmeric more bioavailable in your body! Without it, a lot of the compounds cannot get absorbed. Black pepper may act as a liver inhibitor though, so if you are worried about it, you may also choose to take a Curcumin BCM-95 supplement instead, which is a highly bioavailable form. If you aren’t including spices and herbs into your daily routine, you my friend are missing out!
Are you suffering from a high inflammatory diet? Well make today the day you do something about it! Your health will thank you in so many ways!
“AHA’s Recommendations on Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats.” Mercola.com. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
Harris, W., D. Mozaffarian, and E. Rimm. “Omega-6 Fatty Acid and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease.” AHA Journal. 29 Jan. 2009. Web.