The title of this post is a strong statement, but true. I can guarantee that all of us have issues with inflammation and we probably don’t even realize it. Inflammation can look like pain, discomfort, or you could be so used to it that it may not “look” or feel like anything at all. Inflammation may lead to some of the most dreaded conditions we can imagine: depression, skin aging, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, dental disease, and bowel issues. Seriously? Is there anything we can do to combat or even lessen the chances of these things happening? Yes! I’ll share some of my favorite ways to fight back against inflammation that you can use every day!
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is actually a natural process our body performs to heal itself from things like injury and infection, or things that are “foreign” or damaged. This is considered healthy when it’s short term, but when it occurs for weeks or even years, it can be detrimental to our bodies and lives. It can even lead to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Please re-read that sentence to let it sink in. Those 3 horrible diseases are responsible for MILLIONS of deaths each year. And that’s deaths alone. Think of how many people have to struggle with debilitating effects of diabetes, heart issues, and cancer every single day. Multiple studies point to how cancer, diabetes, and heart disease may very well be caused by inflammation that we bring upon ourselves by diet and lifestyle choices. I can guarantee each of us has a personal story about someone we love that has been effected by one of these. It literally can control and ruin our lives.
Is there anything we can do to change it? Maybe event STOP the damaging effects of long-term inflammation? YES ABSOLUTELY! Genetics undoubtedly has a role to play in our health outcomes, however the latest research is pointing toward how we choose to live our lives actually can play a more important and critical role in the future of our health. Wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to live your most healthy, happy life? (YES!)
What can I do to stop inflammation?
In a nutshell, what we eat (or don’t eat), how much we move, and our daily habits are responsible for the amount of inflammation in our bodies, as discussed in the study of plant based foods on our bodies. In other words, YOU have the power to control your health destiny!
1. Eat foods that help stop inflammation
- Antioxidants-these powerhouses are found in whole plant foods including:
- beans (try my easy and delicious hummus recipes!)
- turmeric (1/4 teaspoons per day), and
- **Try my Turmeric Ginger Tea for a delicious dose of inflammation-busting goodness. Ginger has even been found to reduce muscle pain (which is a result of inflammation). It works by stopping an enzyme that starts inflammation in the body. It doesn’t work by just eating a little before going for a jog. According to a 2015 study, you have to build it up in your system by taking approximately 1 teaspoon a day (add it to a smoothie!) for a couple weeks to get the helpful benefits.
- **Dr. Gregor’s Daily Dozen–Dr. Gregor is a physician that has dedicated his life to researching health issues, and has found that a plant-based, whole food diet is the key. I have come to really appreciate all of the research Dr. Gregor has done, and refer to his guidelines and helpful advice a lot. He has a great podcast full of short “snippets” of helpful information. He’s discovered that, by incorporating 12 critical foods/behaviors into into each day, you can combat inflammation. Some of these 12 include berries, whole grains, nut/seeds, beans, exercise, and other important components that I include in this posting.
- Nutritional Yeast-eating just a fraction of a teaspoon (1/16 of a teaspoon!) of nutritional, baker’s, or brewer’s yeast has shown to help combat some cancers in several studies. Ingesting a small amount of nutritional yeast has even shown to decrease the incidence of cold and flu in children and adults. Beta glucans are the magical wonders in yeast that provide so many benefits–and they work by strengthening OUR own immune systems, unlike antibiotic or antiviral medicines, which just work to attack just the illness. So sprinkle some yeast (nutritional is my favorite–it tastes like cheese!) on your salad or in your soup (or just eat it from a spoon)! Check out a delicious way to add some nutritional yeast to one of my favorite Vegan Chili recipes.
- Healthy fats-as Dr. Greger discusses, the benefits of eating avocados and nuts can be amazing. Walnuts are packed with phytonutrients and help PROTECT our arteries and heart. Even when ingested with “unhealthy” foods, they attempt to protect the body when they are eaten at the same time. Furthermore, nuts can help protect your body during blood sugar spikes (aka when eating bread, doughnuts, or something sugary).
- Red wine-Not all wines are created equal. I love FitVine’s low sugar, natural wines. The Cab is my favorite. They have a fraction of sugar and only sugar from the grape. This type of wine also helps lessen the body’s reaction to sugar spikes from eating bread or carb-rich foods, according to Gregor’s studies. Another good reason to drink wine especially on pasta night. 🙂
- Mushrooms-Chaga mushrooms are one of my favorites, and are an easy one to make into tea. Although even the plain mushrooms you find in the grocery store have shown to help with inflammation (and even have been found to halt cancer growth in estrogen-fueled cancers, as well as help stop infections). **Try my Turmeric Ginger Tea which uses Chaga
- Grapes-contain anthocyanins (anti inflammatory) and resveratrol (antioxidant)
- Bell Peppers-contains a powerful antioxidant, quercetin and Vitamin C
2. don’t eat foods that cause inflammation
Limit inflammation-causing foods, including:
- other meat products. These foods may actually encourage hormone production, including the ability of tumors to make their own hormones and grow!!
- sugar (except sugar from fruit)-sugar causes oxidative stress on our bodies, which increases inflammation
- most packaged foods
- fried foods
Is there an app for that?
If you like using Apps to make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff, download a FREE App called Dr. Gregor’s Daily Dozen (FREE! on many mobile app devices). It easily lets you track the recommended servings of his Daily Dozen. It also provides quick links to helpful hot topic videos and other useful resources. He has a plethora of simple and easy follow articles and videos that cover just about anything.
Exercising vigorously for at least 40 minutes per day (i.e. jogging), or 90 minutes of lower intensity (i.e. walking) is recommended by Dr. Gregor. Try walking for just 20 minutes a couple times a day and make it a habit.
Another study found that doing Yoga (and the breathing done during yoga) for just 20 minutes a day can greatly reduce inflammation in our body as well! So many reasons to love and do yoga!
On the flip side, too much exercise (marathoners or advanced weight lifters) can actually cause inflammation by stressing the body. So with everything, there is balance. (Check out how watercress may help battle inflammation caused by over exercising.)
4. Start Earthing–it’s really a thing
Okay stay with me–you may think I’m really crazy in this paragraph if you don’t think I’m crazy already, but more studies have shown that earthing (aka “grounding“), also known as standing barefoot on the grass, dirt, or concrete, can greatly reduce inflammation. Yep–just standing there for 20 minutes-1 hour charges your body with the Earth’s negative ions (which are good things) that our bodies currently lack. Furthermore, earthing proves positive for reducing pain and lowering stress.
5. Other ways to reduce inflammation
If you don’t like the options above, a few additional ways to reduce inflammation include:
- Exhaling-yep! the simple act of breathing found in the practice of yoga can actually help decrease inflammation
- Collagen-adding it in smoothies is the easiest
- Magnesium-absorption through lotion or via vitamin
- Cryotherapy-cold bath or other cold water therapy
- Sulfur-rich foods like red onions, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, olive oil, avocado
- Deep tissue work-this doesn’t have to mean a massage. Foam rolling will do!
Why Aspirin does the opposite of what you think it does–and actually damages your body
According to a study done on athletes taking NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti inflammatory Drugs, like Aspirin, aka Ibuprofen or Motrin) can cause gastrointestinal and cardiovascular damage, as well as muscle and bone issues (which is the OPPOSITE desired reaction we’re taking these for in the first place).
Did you know that simple herbs like cumin (1 teaspoon) has the same effect as taking an aspirin does? WITHOUT the nasty stomach, muscle, and bone side effects? Even chili powder and paprika have aspirin-like effects on the body! Dr. Gregor shares that as well as other plant based options if you are looking for pain/inflammation relief. And a huge bonus, many of these have whole food options have antioxidant properties that may protect against cancer!
Getting rid of inflammation can make us less fat
On top of all the benefits of eating a whole-foods, plant based diet listed above, the so to speak “icing on the cake” of all of this is, by getting rid of inflammation in our body, we can get rid of some of our fat. When our bodies are inflamed (by stress, the food we eat, lifestyle, etc), the inflammation turns off CGMP signaling (aka something that burns fat in our bodies), according to Dr. Cate Shanahan. Furthermore, one way our body naturally can reduce inflammation is by fasting (not eating calories within a window of time, i.e. 12-16 hours at a time). Fasting enables a “cell cleanup” in our body, essentially cleaning up any bad cell/cell damage in our bodies. That cell damage=inflammation, and fasting helps with the recovery of our bodies.
Make at least one change today, right now, to help stop inflammation and chronic disease in your body. Not only will these inflammation-fighting foods and habits help your overall longevity, but you’ll mentally and physically feel the benefits of investing in yourself!