Are you done hearing about inflammation?
I thought I was, because I was tired of not being offered concrete solutions to try to manage the problem. Strong research is suggesting two simple fixes to support our immune system and help manage chronic inflammation – eat more vegetables and protect the good gut bacteria, which we previously discussed.
Inflammation has two heads, one useful but still irritating and one chronic, causing and/or contributing to disease.
Inflammation is a natural reaction to an injury. You cut yourself, blood cells and fluids rush to the area to clean up the tissues and begin the healing process. This extra fluid causes the mild swelling around the cut and maybe some clear fluid oozing, which may turn into the protective scab. Swelling from the additional fluid causes a bit of discomfort but subsides in a few days and our amazing healing system works in the background until the wound is healed.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system doesn’t realize the alarm signaling its call to action is no longer needed. We know chronic inflammation plays a key role in heart disease, cancer, neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, pulmonary conditions, anxiety and depression. Inflammation is being studied for the effect it has on Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, osteoporosis and asthma.
Fiber and phytonutrients found in plant-based foods are central to assisting the immune system. Fiber works in the gut to boost the friendly bacteria, the best sources of fiber coming from plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. Phytonutrients are the active compounds in plants that enhance immunity, repair tissues and damage from toxins and even encourage genes to behave in a more healthful manner.
No one nutrient or food is perfect and will instantly turn around a chronic inflammatory situation. Generally the following is a great place to start adopting a better immune support system:
• Eat a whole-food, primarily plant based diet.
• Consume 25-30 grams of fiber daily.
• Eat a majority of meals cooked – 90% cooked food and 10% raw.
• Choose organic when possible, unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, salmon and halibut) and use healing spices (turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, basil, fennel, cayenne, cloves and black pepper).
• Eat mindfully, not rushed or when angry or frustrated.
• Slow down, chew slowly and enjoy the meal.
• Remove processed and packaged food, limit stimulants to occasional use and avoid processed sugar and artificial sweeteners.
• Feed your gut bacteria with prebiotics such as leek, raw garlic, raw red onions, peas, dandelion greens and banana.
• Add fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, apple cider vinegar and tempeh.
• Strongly limit saturated fat consumption from land animals, dairy, fried foods and bakery goods.
• Rotate foods on a four-day cycle, not eating the same food continuously (OK, I’m working on this one, but it helps!) and incorporate one new food a week.
Does any of this speak to you? Are you chronically fatigued? Energy slumps before or after meals? Do you have allergies, skin conditions, heartburn, indigestion, bloating or constipation? Trouble focusing or concentrating, struggle with short-term memory? Experience pain in muscles or joints? Have you been exposed to pollutants, tobacco smoke, radiation or chemicals? Cravings for sweets or stimulants?
If you have some of these triggers, you might have inflammatory responses that can be controlled with dietary changes. Simply moving toward a more healthy diet will not increase your risk of illness and may make you feel immensely better.
Happy change, happy eating, happy life.
— Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at email@example.com.