Do you wake up with achy joints? Is it hard to grip objects? Do you have pain in your hips? Shoulders? Back? Feet? Does your stomach ache after eating? Do you memorize all of the restroom locations whenever you are out? Do you suffer from headaches or sinusitis? Difficulty breathing? These are just a few examples of the signs that tell you your body is experiencing inflammation.
While genetics has an influence on the diseases that you are prone to develop, your environment and, more importantly, the food you eat plays a critical role in determining if you actually go on to develop those diseases. Think about it for a minute. What substances do you take into your mouth and body at least three times per day? The answer is: the foods you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks. Don’t you think these substances would have a larger impact on your health than say filling up your gas tank once per week or walking past a person smoking?
A lot of our thoughts about our health are dictated to us from the media. So many confusing messages. Many governed by profit and business. We all have common sense. Sometimes it just takes some common sense to break through all of the hype and see the light on the other side.
Did you know that inflammation is believed to be the root of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, the multitude of auto immune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, asthma, Alzheimer’s and the list goes on. What if there was a way to reduce or even eliminate the inflammation in your body simply by changing the foods you eat? Read on for some helpful discussion and suggestions on how you can reduce your symptoms and feel better.
What is inflammation anyway?
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “the medical definition of inflammation is a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.”
This may sound like a mouthful but basically when your body is exposed to substances that should not be in your body it launches an attack. Eating an unhealthy diet results in your body on either constant attack mode or healing and repairing mode. This creates a chronic inflammatory state. Fats, sugars, cholesterol, foreign hormones, antibiotics, and toxins wreak havoc on your vessels and organs. These substances irritate the lining of your blood vessels – kind of like sandpaper.
How a heart attack can happen
Constant irritation rubs the inside of the vessels raw creating mini-wound-like spots. Your body launches a warning bell and the wound-healing team rushes to the spot to clot the wound. If your vessels have been under this kind of irritation for a long time then these healing wounds are sticky collection spots for cholesterol to build up. The more cholesterol you take into your body the more it builds up. Vessels begin to narrow resulting in bottle necks for blood to pass through. Eruption of wound plaques can break off thus resulting in a heart attack especially in these narrowed vessel passageways.
How Type II Diabetes happens
The fat on your lips goes to your hips! Fat cells are not inert cells that just sit there non active. Fat cells are actually very active and are responsible for producing the inflammatory messengers that cause chronic inflammation. The more fat cells you have, the greater the inflammatory responses. Let’s talk about nutrition and how the fat you consume is related to Type II Diabetes, an inflammatory disease.
Glucose is the king of your body. Your body requires glucose to function. Your brain relies solely on glucose. You literally cannot think straight without glucose. Without it your body will eventually shut down and you die. Eating unprocessed foods high in glucose like whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits and veggies will feed your body healthy glucose. The rise of glucose in your bloodstream will be gradual when you consume unprocessed foods. The reason is because it takes your body longer to breakdown your healthy foods into glucose. Unprocessed foods are more complex in composition – not refined into small components. Your body is set up to receive and utilize glucose efficiently and effectively. Insulin is the transport mechanism for glucose to get into cells. When your body detects glucose in your blood it releases insulin in response to the amount of glucose present. Insulin then moves the glucose out of your blood and feeds it into your cells. All good things.
When you eat processed and refined foods such as candy, potato chips, and cookies these foods are broken down very quickly releasing large amounts of glucose rapidly into your blood stream. In this situation insulin is released rapidly too causing a sudden plethora of both insulin and glucose. Frequent ingestion of processed refined foods can take a toll on the pancreas which is responsible for the production and release of insulin. A larger concern is when this food is accompanied by fatty foods.
When you have a lot of fat in your body and in your cells it clogs the cells preventing glucose from getting to the cells that need it to function. No matter how much insulin you make or take it cannot reduce the glucose level in your blood because of the fat blockage in your cells. After awhile your body stops making insulin in response to the constant presence of glucose – it can’t do its job – your body is now insulin resistant. This is how diabetes begins. Of course this is a very simplified explanation but it helps paint the picture.
Despite what you have been told – it is all about the fat and not the sugar. The sugar or glucose levels in your blood are merely a symptom of too much fat in your cells. By reducing your fat intake you can reverse your diabetes. Note: no diabetic should change their diet without first consulting their doctor. Reducing your fat intake can result in significantly reducing the amount of insulin you need on a daily basis (and save you money and your health!).
How can you change your health?
Inch by inch it’s a cinch. Take one step in the right direction. By increasing the amount of whole grains (rice, pasta, quinoa, bulgar, etc.), veggies (beans, potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, etc.), fruits, nuts and seeds and reducing the amount of animal products (meat, dairy, fish, cheese) and processed, refined foods (including oils) you eat on a daily basis will result in improved vibrant health. There are a ton of delicious, easy, cheap and fast recipes you can use to start incorporating healthy foods into your diet.
Wouldn’t you love to save money and your health?
You don’t need to spend lots of money to eat healthy. Buying frozen veggies and fruits is a great way to start a healthy diet. Canned and dried beans and legumes (low sodium), rice, potatoes, pastas, and leafy greens are not cost prohibitive. Plus, think of all of the money you will save from not eating out all of the time. Begin slowly and soon you will be on your way to a healthier life free of crippling, painful and costly disease!
You don’t need to spend a lot of time cooking!
By planning easy-to-prepare meals you won’t be spending all of your time cooking. Making rice bowls where you have a little buffet of food items that your family can load on top of rice in a bowl such as beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, avocado, the sky is the limit. These foods are filling and good for you. Make potato bowls the same way – add a little broccoli, white beans, corn, carrots – see what the family likes the best and go with it. Pasta night – whole grain pasta with jarred sauce and a side salad with whole grain bread. Taco night! Tortillas with beans, rice, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa. Add a little mango or pineapple to the tacos for a little sweetness. Add a side of corn on the cob or watermelon when in season. All of these meals can be put together quickly and cheaply.
Here are some foods that help keep inflammation at bay!
Leafy Greens & Cruciferous Veggies
Spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and arugula can be used in a variety of ways to help keep inflammation down.
Strawberries and Blueberries
Load up on your favorite berries and watch your inflammation decrease and brain power ramp up. Full of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants they help keep cells healthy and doing their job.
Cherries and Oranges
Cherries contain anthocyanins which contribute to their anti-inflammatory properties. Oranges which are rich in Vitamin C and beta carotenes create a healthy environment for cells to function.
How can anything this beautiful not be good for you? Add peppers to salads, wraps, soups and even humus to benefit from its rich lycopene and Vitamin C content.
A great way to reduce chronic inflammation. Tofu absorbs the flavor of whatever spices you are using, adds protein to your dishes and has phytoestrogens and omega 3s which are great antioxidants.
Adding a few walnuts to your salad, morning oatmeal or cereal will go a long way to help reduce inflammation. They contain the highest concentration of plant-based omega 3s plus 10 kinds of antioxidant phytonutrients.
Long touted as having wonderful medicinal value it is one of the best ways to fight inflammation. Great for nausea too.
Who does not love a nice piece of dark chocolate? Full of powerful antioxidants and free radical fighting substances such as flavonoids and polyphenols. It is believed to have the highest levels of these substances than most foods. It’s health benefits in addition to reducing inflammation include aiding in circulation and increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind!). Nibble away.
They get their rich orange color from carotenoids which are important anti inflammatory agents. Plus they are loaded with Vitamin C and E that also play a role in fighting free radicals. Bake, roast, steam, boil, or even juice raw – there are so many ways to cook them, prepare them and to eat them.
Basil & Avocados
Eugenol, the volatile oil found in basil, mimics the anti inflammatory properties of some over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Advil. It also contains flavonoids which are anti inflammatory compounds.
Avocados contain carotenoids and are high in omega 9 fatty acids – all of which promote a decrease in inflammation in the body when consumed.
Whether it is black, white or green – tea contains catechins and polyphenols which are instrumental in preventing inflammation in the cells. Drink it hot or over ice.
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