Unlike the margarine-and-no-eggs-mania of the 90s, the current Inflammation-lowering focus du jour has A LOT of science and logic to back it up. Check it:
Medical researchers far and wide have come to realize that inflammation is the major underlying common denominator of some our most tenacious and debilitating modern day diseases: heart disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia and alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, thyroid disorders, asthma, eczema, inflammatory bowel disorders, hay fever, hives, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, pre-mature aging and even depression and some cancers are ALL safely snuggled under the big umbrella that is Chronic Inflammation.
No surprise then that normalising the body’s inflammatory response has become a highly prioritized prevention and treatment measure for individuals and medical practitioners alike.
But what the heck is Inflammation?
It’s the body’s perfectly smart and protective response to injury. You stump your toe or slam your thumb and straight away there’s swelling and redness as your skin cells holler “OMG YIKES! what just happened?”. Your immune system declares war on the potential invaders and sends out its biggest, most badass immune cells to fight off any local bacteria that may have snuck in. Job done, no one gets hurt.
Sometimes the injury is internal, caused by harmful toxins from pollution, tobacco smoke, cosmetics, medicines, alcohol, allergens and everything in between. Again, our immune system gets temporarily fired up and bounces the bad guys without too much fuss or consequence… UNTIL the source of irritation persists for a little longer than the occasional ‘toe-stump’ (think everyday happy hour and daily 4pm sugary treats- hello modern life!) Immune body guards on overtime can get confused and turn against themselves, punching their harmless colleagues in the face and wreaking more havoc (Hi auto-immune disease) This is when the inflammation that originates somewhere hidden (the gut perhaps) becomes wide-spread, showing up elsewhere seemingly random like the skin, joints, arteries or brain.
And as if that’s not enough, we also now know that the always-on, fast pulse stress response we carry around with us all day like a cell phone, further exacerbates this whole disordered immunity drama.
Any good news?
Yes. Out of control inflammation and it’s plethora of accompanying diseases can be controlled by legit lifestyle shifts. You can lessen your symptoms and make some hardcore head way to health.
Here are 6 ways to ease or prevent inflammation and keep your entire system cool as a cucumber:
1. Eat a plant based diet chock full of whole fruits and veg, nuts and seeds.
Ditch the manhandled pro-inflammatory processed meats, dairy, sugar and bread. Opt for deliciously satisfying vegetables like naturally-syrupy beets or sweet potatoes. Become besties with not-grains like quinoa and amaranth and make cauliflower ‘rice’. Get acquainted with nut and rice mylk and experiment with earth’s limitless fruit & veg menu. There’s a whole world out there beyond granny smith apples and bananas, I swear. Finally, if you’re an every-day-of-the-week kinda carnivore, reduce your red-meat intake in favour of more plants on the plate (yes, too much red meat is pro-inflammatory, sorry) and when you do have steak-and-wine night, pay the premium on proper grass-fed, free range produce to make sure you’re getting more of the good proteins and essential fats.
2. Get over your fat phobia.
I have a separate buttery post coming up dedicated solely to all things FAT but in the context of inflammation here are 3 words to remember: Essential Fatty Acids. Yes, that jar of Omega 3s collecting dust in the back of your bathroom closet. Or those cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds you never eat. Or those walnuts you think will make you fat. ‘Essential’ is the key word here, implying we actually can’t make these healing greases ourselves and must get them from our food. Unfortunately our modern Western diet is drastically low in these inflammation-busting ingredients. When was the last time you had a wild sardine and seaweed salad drenched in a cold-pressed flaxseed oil dressing?
3. Micromanage your microbiome.
Start popping prebiotic fermented foods like there’s no mañana. The trillions of bacteria that reside in your digestive tract are making massive waves in the world of health care as we discover their power over everything within- from switching our genes on or off (!!) to controlling the efficacy of our immune system and ensuring the proper absorption of the micronutrients in our food. Up your levels of beneficial bacteria by getting your daily dose of a good quality, high potency probiotic supplement and include gut-loving prebiotics like fermented foods - sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha.
4. Go easy on the Advil.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs (painkillers and any NSAIDs) are a common household quick-fix solution to all our big and small aches and pains. Millions of prescriptions of anti-inflammatory drugs are made by doctors every year and the numbers are expected to rise as chronic conditions increase. But guess what the most common side effect of NSAIDS are?? Gastrointestinal injury . So injury to the gut that houses and controls our immune system?! As in inflammation of the gut?! Yes. See point 3 above about taking care of your gut. I’ll leave you to do the math on the sad irony here.
5. Eat your anti-inflammatories.
Add the potent anti-inflammatory herb Turmeric (curcumin) to stir fries, salad dressings, curries, soups, tea, lattes! Get the super healer Ginger into your belly by adding it fresh to juices, smoothies, tea, stir fries, everything. Eat fresh berries every day. Keep following Both Sides Buttered for recipes, research and more foods that calm inflammation naturally.
6. Get smart about stress-management.
Start a disciplined practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction to lower the level of damaging stress hormones that flood your blood every day. All your devoted diet efforts will be in vain if you don’t get this down. It’s one of those no-real-way-around-it situations.
Good luck and good job for taking the first empowered steps towards a more energetic, lighter, focused, pain free YOU.