Inflammation is your body’s innate way of providing acute healing to an area of your body, but when it persists on a low level throughout the body, it can do much more harm than good. Because chronic inflammation isn’t something you can see with your eyes, many suffer from its consequences and don’t even know it! It can surface in sneaky ways in the form of allergies, skin rashes, pain, insomnia, migraines, food allergies, and more. In addition, it sets a perfect stage for many serious age-related diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, neuro-degenerative diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
The Stress Connection — When you are constantly stressed, the sympathetic nervous system signals your body to produce the stress hormone cortisol to meet the demand. This leads to an increase in blood sugar designed to give you the energy to flee whatever’s “chasing” you. But because nothing’s actually chasing you, you are left with elevated cortisol and blood sugar levels that can lead to a whole host of metabolic imbalances. Because neuropeptides (proteins that deliver messages in your nervous system) that mediate stress also mediate inflammation, it’s likely that stress causes an inflammatory response in your body. And if that weren’t enough, elevated cortisol levels spark inflammatory reactions that diminish immune system function. Obviously, getting stress under control is a key piece of keeping inflammation in check.
Diet Guidelines — Try to eat all organic food if possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full; don’t repeat the same food more than five times a week; plan meals so they roughly follow this breakdown—40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats.
Foods to Steer Clear of — Here’s what you’ll want to wean yourself off of in order to reduce the inflammation in your body: wheat, dairy, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, sugar, citrus fruits (except for lemons and limes), pork, commercial non-organic eggs, shellfish, peanuts and peanut butter, coffee, alcohol, juice, caffeinated teas, soda, anything containing hydrogenated oils, processed foods, and fried foods.
Foods to Eat More of — You can think of the Mediterranean diet as a jumping off point. You want to incorporate a variety of fresh food and think of eating from the rainbow. These foods will specifically help decrease inflammation:
- cold-water oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and halibut as well as oils extracted from these fish
- organic berries
- fruits and vegetables (except those mentioned above)
- seeds and nuts (except peanuts which contain aflotoxin, a cancer-causing agent)
- garlic, ginger, and turmeric
- flaxseed oil and olive oil (if not heated too high)
To keep you motivated to adopt this truly healthy way of eating just remember this: anti-inflammatory = anti-aging!
Resources Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid