Inflammation in our bodies at some point can be good. Like when you get a cut on your finger; inflammation rushes to the scene with helpful white blood cells to repair the damage. You know that inflammation is working when your finger turns red and swells a little while the white blood cells takes on the dangerous bacteria. As the wound heals, the redness and swelling disappears, and the area starts looking normal again. In a case like this, inflammation solves a problem and goes away, as it should.
But what about long-term, whole-body inflammation? Did you know that this type of inflammation is brought on by many factors, including environmental toxins or a poor diet of processed foods and "bad" fats? Systemic inflammation can set up shop throughout your entire body and refuse to leave. It's the same response as when you cut your finger, but now it's occurring throughout your whole body, simmering quietly, damaging cells and tissues. You may not even be aware of it. (By the way, any disorder that ends in "-itis" -- prostatitis, gastritis, or arthritis, -- is inflammation related.)
Believe it or not, what you eat can make a tremendous difference in your body's inflammation levels. Sugar, refined flour, red and processed meat, and eggs create a perfect storm for inflammation. Replacing at least some of those foods with healthier fare -- especially fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, spices, and wild caught fish -- can make a big difference.
Start using more of the omega-3 oils found in fatty, deep water fish like herring, salmon, tuna, cod, and anchovies, as well as olive, grapeseed, and avocado oils. Omega-6s, such as safflower, sunflower, soy, corn, and canola, are not necessarily bad for you, but we use omega-6s far, far more than the omega-3s, that our intake is so unbalanced that our bodies are very much lacking in omega-3s. Most convenience foods are made with popular vegetable oils. So start by passing up your favorite fast food places. In an ideal diet, you could consume three times as many omega-3s as omega-6s.
So what are anti-inflammatory nutrients? Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the highest priority, but you may want to add more of these safe and effective supplements:
Vitamin C: It is a great cold fighter! But more than this it's a hardworking antioxidant with two added bonuses: it helps the body deal with stress, and it boosts the activity of another outstanding anti-inflammatory, Vitamin E. Vitamin C should be taken several times throughout the day in order to maintain sufficient levels of the nutrient. (So say if you are going to take 2,000 mg, take 500 mg doses four times a day.) Fresh fruits, especially citrus, cantaloupe, berries, and mango, as well as many veggies, contain Vitamin C. Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means any excess is flushed from your body in the urine and there's no danger of overdosing. But please check with your doctor first to see what they suggest for you.
Curcumin: THIS is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory. It is the active ingredient in turmeric, the spice used in curries and other Indian foods. Research has shown that curcumin is as effective as cortisone for treating arthritis of all kinds. It also lowers cholesterol and improves circulation and digestion. Studies also show that people whose diets regularly include turmeric have lower rates of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer. Researchers point to repeated successes while using curcumin to treat arthritis, allergies, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic conditions associated with aging. A dose of 500 mg is a good place to start. (Again, please check with your doctor.)
EFAs: Essential Fatty Acids are indeed essential to our health and we must get them from either food or supplements; our bodies cannot produce them. Today's typical diet is overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids, as I mentioned earlier. To correct the imbalance, you need to do three things -- eliminate as many unhealthy oil and foods made with them from your diet as possible, replace those oils with better omega-3 oils, and consume more omega-3s, like wild-caught fish or fish oil supplements that contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The ratio for these nutrients is twice as much as DHA as EPA.
There is a great deal of research that show how beneficial omega-3s are for fighting inflammation, and capable of warding off diabetes and heart disease. I take two 1,000 mg doses once a day and my husband takes two 1,000 mg doses three times a day. (Check with your doctor for your recommend dose.)
Ginger: Ginger was used for medicinal purposes for fighting inflammation long before science began studying it. It's great for arthritis sufferers and is known to remedy motion sickness and other types of nausea.
It's benefits show through research studies that it decreases inflammatory substances linked to various cancers, including colorectal and ovarian. Now that's amazing.
Ginger can be used as an anti-inflammatory refreshing tea by using hot water and a few slices of ginger root. Add some raw honey to enhance the flavor. It's very relaxing and soothing. You can also purchase it already in teabag form. Heat the water and drop it in. The type I get says to steep for 10-15 minutes. I suppose that is to get the full medicinal use of ginger's nutrients.
Here's to your health!
Acknowledgment to Dr. Leigh Connealy.