We are all familiar with inflammation. The redness, pain, and swelling that accompany a sunburn, a cut, a sprained ankle or a cold cause us short term discomfort but are signs that our bodies immune and repair functions are working well. These kinds of inflammation are good, and we need them to survive. They go on for only a finite period of time and then resolve. The problem occurs when the body is exposed to chronic inflammation over long periods of time. An overactive immune response and too much inflammation can result in conditions we associate with inflammation such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, inflammation can be at the root of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and some forms of cancer. While acute forms of inflammation such as a cut or chronic inflammation such as joint pain can be obvious, in many cases we may be having chronic inflammation without even noticing it. This smoldering fire, if left unchecked, can go on for years before we develop an obvious disease state. Some of the causes of this hidden inflammation are:
- Food allergies/sensitivities
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Diets high in processed foods
- Diets high in “bad” fats such as trans-fats and excess saturated fat and low in “healthy” fats such as those that come from cold water fish and flaxseed.
- Chronic environmental allergies such as mold and dust mites
- Toxic exposures
- Chronic viral, bacterial, or fungal infections
Because chronic low-grade inflammation is not always obvious, it can be difficult to figure out the cause and to make changes to decrease it before it has effects on your overall health. Fortunately, there is a blood test that can be done called HS-CRP or high sensitivity C-reactive protein that can indicate whether or not chronic inflammation is an issue for you. If your HS-CRP level is elevated, the next step is to make dietary and lifestyle changes that help to decrease inflammation such as:
- Eat whole foods, minimally processed diet.
- Limit intake of dairy products and when you do consume them, make sure they are organic.
- Limit intake of animal products and choose grass fed, free range and wild game meats when you do eat it.
- Include wild cold-water fish such as Alaskan salmon, halibut, mackerel, and sardines into your diet.
- Limit foods containing refined sugar and refined carbohydrates. Avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils or transfats.
- Choose omega 3 eggs from chickens that have been fed flax seeds.
- Include oils in your diet that are high in omega 3 fatty acids such as flax seed, walnut, and pumpkin.
- Include anti-inflammatory spices in your cooking such as ginger, turmeric, curry powder, garlic, onions, and cinnamon.
- Include at least 5 servings of vegetables in your diet each day, including anti-inflammatory options such as broccoli, beets, kale, cauliflower, chard, and sweet potatoes.
- Take dietary supplements that help to decrease chronic inflammation such as curcumin, black seed, and fish oil. You can order these through the online dyspensary Fullscript.
In addition, it may be necessary to investigate the underlying causes of inflammation such as food allergies/ sensitivities, environmental allergies and toxicities, nutritional insufficiencies, or chronic infections. Discovering the cause of the “fire” can help you to be able to put it out and decrease your risk of developing a number of chronic diseases.
I can help to investigate if you are having chronic inflammation, what is causing it and develop an individualized health plan to help to decrease inflammation and help you on the path towards optimal health. Call today for more information or to schedule an appointment.