I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend over the weekend, and talk (naturally) turned to health – one topic we kept returning to was inflammation. You used to hear about inflammation more than you do now – I guess it isn’t on trend anymore – but we should talk about it, because it’s kindof a big deal, and the basis of all kinds of nasty chronic disease. She was ‘asking for a friend,’ of course – but in case it’s on your mind too, this is what I told her.
The body’s inflammatory response is highly personal, so it’s important to understand your triggers. It will probably take some experimentation to get it right. That said, there are some common foods and lifestyle factors that tend to produce or aggravate inflammation, including sugar, highly processed foods, trans fats (especially anything fried), wheat, and alcohol. High levels of stress or a sedentary lifestyle also contribute to the body’s inflammatory response.
Nutrition should be your first line of defense
Load up on plants – especially berries, vegetables, and dark leafy greens.
Get your Omega-3s - a potent natural anti-inflammatory found in flaxseed, hemp, and chia seeds, as well as walnuts and avocados. Omegas are also plentiful in wild, fatty fish such as salmon, cod, and sardines (though you can get plenty from plants). They matter because Omega 3s have been shown to decrease the degradation of cartilage in osteoarthritis and to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by up to 40%.
Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme in fresh pineapple, works by breaking down protein-based inflammatory compounds and is useful in treating both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, joint pain, ulcerative colitis, and even sinus inflammation. Take on an empty stomach for best results, and if you juice your fresh pineapple, be sure to include the core, which is where the enzyme is most concentrated.
Everyone has heard of turmeric, and for good reason – it is a superstar when it comes to inhibiting inflammatory compounds (often just as well as NSAIDs), and it can relieve chronic pain from osteoarthritis and RA. If you use the dried/powdered root, aim for ¼ to ½ teaspoon per day; or peel about an inch of the fresh root just like you would ginger, which is also a great anti-inflammatory. Black pepper boosts absorption by almost 2,000 times. (See the recipe below for a delicious anti-inflammatory drink that I blend up every Sunday and drink through the week.)
All cherries and berries have anti-inflammatory properties, but tart cherries are the standouts when it comes to decreasing pain associated with RA, osteoarthritis, and gout. Two ounces of pure tart cherry juice daily should do the trick – taken regularly, tart cherry juice improves sleep due to their melatonin content.
Take Your Supplements: Magnesium, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins are critical.
Watch Your Weight: Excess body fat releases an inflammatory lipid called palmitate that increases the body’s inflammatory response. A clue that excess weight might be contributing to your own inflammatory response (including insulin resistance) is an increased waist circumference – adult females should stay under 35 inches and males under 40.
Get Some Exercise: Use it or lose it, basically. Even twenty minutes a day can be enough to fight chronic inflammation.
Chill Out: Chronic stress leads to inflammation of the brain and body and is a risk factor in 90% of all diseases, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.
Apollo’s Anti-Inflammation Juice Shots
In the canister of a high-speed blender (such as VitaMix), add:
4 cups cold, filtered water
1 large orange, peeled and quartered
1 large lemon, peeled and quartered
½ - 1 cup chunked fresh pineapple
1-2 inch section peeled fresh ginger
2-inch section peeled fresh turmeric OR 1.5 Tbsp powdered turmeric
A couple shakes of ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, or both
Blend on high speed for 30 seconds; strain into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator. Shake before serving.
Drink ½ cup each morning on an empty stomach for best results.