If you are living and breathing on this planet your body is affected by inflammation in some form or another. We are all constantly juggling a balancing act of inflammatory biochemical assaults, while working hard to keep this delicate equilibrium under control. While some inflammation is beneficial in an acute setting (i.e. a swollen ankle after a sprain is important to stabilize it), chronic inflammation can have a deleterious effect on us. In fact, leading scientists are now drawing ties between inflammation to many types of chronic disease facing developed nations in pandemic proportions such as; heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune illness – to even cancer.
Sources of inflammation are abundant in our environment and the lifestyles many of us live. What we eat, drink, breathe, think and experience every minute of every day affects our biochemistry in countless ways. On top of this, so too do the trillions upon trillions of microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal system, all of which ready to heal or harm us with whatever consistent lifestyle choices we choose. The emerging field of Epigenetics is a powerful and exciting field of medicine showing how critical a role our environment plays on our genetics. Dr.’s like Bruce Lipton (author of ‘The Biology of Belief’) have proven that stress has the direct ability to change the ways our genes are activated, thus having a huge ability to influence our health. At the very base of our entire health spectrum is how we control inflammatory processes. What we put in, on, and around our body play a major role in how we look, think and feel. It’s important for you to reduce inflammation and improve your health. Below are my ‘Top 5 Ways to Reduce Inflammation in Your Body’:
1. Step back from the sweet bowl
It’s fitting that the acronym for the Standard American Diet is SAD. What truly is sad about what we eat is the excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates. New research continues to attribute much of the chronic disease epidemic present in developed nations to issues with diet and lifestyle. All you have to do is look around at the ever-increasing number of fast food chains, TV commercials pushing the latest tasty treat, and what gets served at most social celebrations. A diet high in refined sugars will feed inflammatory processes in our body, spiking levels of cytokines, interleukins, interferons, and many other inflammatory signals creating the foundation for chronic disease processes to proliferate. Are you a visual learner? The reaction that occurs in our body from eating foods high in refined sugars is similar to what happens if you were to throw gasoline on a fire. A simple rule is to stick with a diet consisting of whole, non-processed foods. Be mindful if your next comes in any form of packaging – have your health antenna ‘on guard’ and read that label well!
2. Fats that heal, fats that kill
“Sorry Doc, you meant to say all fat is bad, right??” If this is you – please allow me to explain why the above title is not a typo… Yes, it is true – eating some fat is imperative to prevent disease and keep an optimal level of health. In fact, we even need to eat fat to maintain a healthy metabolism. We actually have to eat fat to lose fat! We have been indoctrinated over many decades that fat is the root of all health evils, and that eating a low fat diet is good for us. In truth, nutritional science has evolved and since proven that the entire opposite is true. Of course, there are clearly some fats that are better for our body than others. The healthiest fats often generally come from nuts, seeds, algaes, and clean fish sources. Oils such as Omega 3’s and 9’s are essential for optimal cellular health and are the building blocks of our hormones, brain tissue, etc. Omega 6’s are also very important, however we tend to get enough of these already in a regular SAD. If the omega ratio becomes too heavily weighted on 6’s and not enough 3’s, this creates a pro-inflammatory environment. On the flip side, be sure to avoid oils such as Canola, Vegetable, and hydrogenated oils. These too create oxidative cellular damage and initiate degenerative processes, increasing the risk of chronic disease. One of the healthiest oils to cook with is non-hydrogenated Coconut oil (not olive oil as commonly thought) as it’s biochemical nature allows it to be heat stable. Add some in your next meal- bon appetite!
3. Heal thy gut
We’ve heard it before; we are indeed what we eat. More importantly, I believe it is more accurate to say WE ARE WHAT WE ABSORB. The majority of absorption occurs in the small intestine and is critical to maintaining optimal health. Sadly, our small intestine is often prone to irritation from food sensitivities, microbial imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies that are all capable of creating intestinal permeability, or Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many of us experience gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation/diarrhea, etc. on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of us assume that these symptoms are normal and are just an everyday part of life! This is not normal. These symptoms are signs of inflammation of our gastrointestinal system and can be indicative of malabsorption, opening the gateway to illness. This can be corrected by the 4 R approach. Reduce (irritating foods), Remove, (unhealthy microbial invaders), Reinoculate (with therapeutic doses of healthy bacteria), and Repair (with enterocyte healing nutrients such as l-glutamine, omega 3’s, etc.).
4. Dump Your Toxic Metals
Did you know that most adults over the age of 40 are harboring unwelcome and unwanted toxic metals in our body? Toxic what?? We have all been exposed to metals such as; mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, etc. at some point from our environment. This is often via; paint & gas fumes, flames, vaccines, fish, and dental procedures, etc. It’s a matter of understanding what remains in our tissues as these pose significant increased risk for inflammatory based illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and a variety of auto-Immune illnesses. According to the world re-known Mayo Clinic, the current gold standard way to test for suspected metals is via a provocative urine challenge. While ignorance may be bliss, it is always best to identify these as early as possible. Even if elevated levels of metals are detected – do not sweat! Toxic metals can be removed safely and effectively from your body using a tremendously safe and effective technique called chelation therapy. Chelation therapy should only be administered by a primary healthcare provider certified in functional & environmental medicine.
5. Ante-up your anti-oxidants
Our biochemistry is in a constant dance of sorts – one that is always striving to optimize levels of free radicals and anti-oxidant levels. This occurs every second of everyday we are alive and is essential to how we feel, look, think, age, etc. We often hear how important anti-oxidants are to our health. However, it is important to state that both antioxidants free radicals are needed for optimal health and well-being. Even so, most of us are exposed to an excessive amount of free radical levels that creates oxidative damage. Cue visual learners – this process is just like rust forming on a car or the brown color on an apple that has been left on a counter after only partially eaten. It is this oxidative stress that accelerates most disease progression and promotes cellular aging. Adding multiple servings of dark colored fruits and vegetables to your daily regime is an excellent way to slow down inflammatory damage (blueberries and pomegranates are my favorite tasty super foods). At times supplementing with additional anti-oxidants can be helpful. Vitamins C, D, E, B12 as well as Quercetin, Glutathione, Selenium, etc. can be helpful in the right doses.
Yours in health,
Dr. John Dempster, ND, FAARFM, ABAAHP