by Gail Bowman
Studying inflammation is like studying ocean polluting factors. There is so much information and so many different types and consequences that you just want to give up. In this article I am going to attempt to explore the simple truth about inflammation, reducing it, and some ways to prevent it.
First of all, what does inflammation do? It turns out that “inflammation” can be behind almost every illness or imbalance we experience. These include:
- cardiovascular disease
- insulin resistance
- adrenal and hormonal imbalance
- heart disease
What causes inflammation? Put very simply, the “centerpiece” of inflammation is NFkB (nuclear factor kappa beta), and it is a factor in the cytoplasm of the cell that turns on inflammatory cytokines. So, what we want to do is turn off the NGkB. Maybe we could just call a TV repair guy or something? I wish! The way to lower inflammation is through lifestyle change, healthy eating and supplementation.
First of all, we can work to reduce the stress in our lives. I was once diagnosed with Systemic Lupus. My darling husband made sure I slept 12 hours a day, only allowed me to go to work if it was with him, and hired a houskeeper! It took years, but I got better. Stress feeds inflammation. Inflammation causes disease. Is your stress worth your life?
Sleep. Our bodies create hormones, flush toxins and generally recharge when we are sleeping deeply. No sleep and guess what? Stress and Inflammation! Melatonin is a powerful sleep hormone with no side effects that is also a powerful antioxidant that captures free radicals! If you don’t sleep well, I suggest you try it.
Wait a minute! What are “free radicals”? Everybody just assumes that we all know what they are. Well, if you don’t know, here is the definition: Free radicals are oxygen molecules that have lost an electron in interactions with other molecules. As a result, these molecules are extremely unstable or reactive. Free radials steal electrons from other healthy molecules in order to try and heal themselves, creating more free radicals in the process. This leads to damage in cell components in our bodies. Free radicals are a by-product of normal bodily processes like breathing air and digesting food and external factors like sunlight, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. You can help to fight the effects of the free radicals with antioxidants (Like vitamin C and vitamin E) that capture or repair free radicals.
Substances like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and marijuana place a heavy burden on your system, so eliminate them or at least moderate your intake. This is not going to make a lot of people very happy, but one of the fastest ways to reduce inflammation is to stop smoking and using stimulants. Need more incentive guys? Well, alcohol and caffeine turn testosterone into estradiol. This lowers testosterone levels, adds weight around the tummy area, and causes inflammation! Darn!
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, Pacific or Alaskan salmon (unless organically farm-raised), sardines and anchovies. Add generous portions of brightly-colored vegetables to every meal and snack for their fiber and natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Many herbs and foods such as peppers, buckwheat, apricots, cherries, prunes, rose hips, citrus fruits, cherries, dark grapes, broccoli, red and green peppers and herb teas, cocoa, wine, turmeric, oregano, garlic, green tea, blueberries, and ginger contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that limit free radical production. You can also include a small handful of nuts and seeds in your diet daily, especially walnuts and freshly ground flaxseed, which are good sources of omega-3’s.
Eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet completely. Next would be the countless gluten-containing foods like wheat flour and oats (among others) that line supermarket shelves. Do every thing you can to cut out additives and preservatives even though they are often hidden in processed and packaged foods, making them even more difficult to avoid. MSG, aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal and diet sodas are among a group of chemicals that will fry your neurons and cause brain cancer, Alzheimer’s and neurological disorders. And stay away from food that you are allergic to, sensitive to, or that just doesn’t make you feel well. Listen to your body!
Add essential fatty acids to your diet, especially Omega 3s. Present in fresh flax and cold water fish , borage and primrose, olives, walnuts, spinach, kale, and eggs, there is broad scientific consensus that these fatty acids sustain and protect our bodies, and reduce inflammation.
Add a high-quality whole-food multivitamin/mineral complex. There is a clear connection between adequate blood levels of certain nutrients and lowering the risk of health conditions caused by inflammation like arthritis, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Along with folic acid, B vitamins and essential fatty acids, as described above, vitamin D too has a known anti-inflammatory effect, and vitamins C and E are widely celebrated as powerful antioxidants, countering the harmful effects of free radicals. One day we’ll have greater knowledge of how vitamins, minerals, and micro nutrients work on our behalf as natural anti-inflammatories. But what is important for us to understand now is that the damaging effects of inflammation can be prevented and reversed by making healthy dietary changes and adding certain supplements to the diet.
Aside from the large group of bioflavonoids I’ve only touched on above, the plant kingdom has so much more to offer us in the way of compounds that quiet inflammation in our bodies:
- HOLY BASIL (Ocimum sanctum) – Contains ursolic acid, which significantly enhances detoxification and promotes a healthy inflammation response.
- ROSEMARY offers full spectrum eicosanoid balance and support detoxification.
- HU ZHANG (Polygonum cuspidatum) Richest known resveratrol source.
- CHINESE GOLDTHREAD AND BARBERRY naturally promotes a healthy inflammation response.
- BAIKAL SKULLCAP naturally promotes healthy inflammation response.
- CAT”S CLAW contains potent phytochemicals called Quinovic Acid Glycosides. Studies indicate that some of it’s constituents can inhibit inflammation from 46% to 69% in tests.
Additionally, Chicken Collagen contains anti-inflammatory properties and has been clinically demonstrated to decrease pain and discomfort stemming from joint disorders.
Adopt healthy habits and get some physical activity every day. Keep your joints flexible and well-nourished by exercising every day. I have found that I have far fewer aches and pains when I am out riding my bike or doing yoga at least once a day. Exercise is a great way to counteract stress, especially when combined with deep breathing — as with yoga or Pilates. I know, it seems wierd, but it tuns out to work and I am up for the things that make my life better.
Reduce the toxins in your environment. Examine your surroundings and color them as “green” as possible. Use natural cleaning products and detergents. Limit your reliance on dry cleaning and air fresheners. Consider high quality air and water filters. Bring in lots of houseplants to help filter the air you breathe. Pay attention to the chemicals that come into contact with your sinuses and your skin. A great check for yourself is, “If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin!” Think! Your skin transfers whatever you put on it directly into your blood stream! Bathroom cleaner? Dish soap? Toxic soaps and shampoos? What about makeup? Think before you touch! (Natural, non toxic cleaners are now available in most grocery stores. Look for non-chlorine everything. Some companies like Seventh Generation and Ecos (by Earth Friendly Products) are in most stores now and are making better cleaning products.)
Practice a gentle detox or cleansing program a couple of times a year. It’s impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to environmental toxins, so it’s a good idea to periodically detoxify.
Getting interested in detoxifying your life, improving your diet and reducing inflammation in your body is something you can do right now to heal yourself from illness and help prevent problems with your health in the future. We live in a culture that says, “Give me a pill.” “Warm it up in the microwave.” “Plastic is easier.” “Just stop by McDonald’s.” And we are in a downward spiral with obesity, cancer, hormonal imbalance and auto immune diseases taking over. Do the research yourself. Then take control of your life and start repairing your body.