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Inflammation – it’s the starting point for so many life-altering conditions and diseases. It’s also avoidable, yet every day millions of Americans prime themselves for health disasters – like cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many autoimmune diseases – by making choices that unwittingly promote chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is the result of an immune system imbalance. If we can redress that, we can cut the risk for the aforementioned long-term health problems and help ease many of the near-term low-grade ills – like skin disorders, joint pains, digestive problems, migraines, anxiety and mood swings – that many people experience as a result of inflammation.
One of the most common ways is via what we in the wellness community call ‘leaky gut syndrome,” triggered by alcohol, food sensitivities, certain medications, low grade gut infections and even chronic stress. These cause damage to the lining of the gut or the tight links between the cell wall, letting proteins and bits of bacteria into the bloodstream, setting off an inflammatory response throughout the body.
As grim as inflammation may be, there is some good news – which is that you have the power to stop it, and in so doing, protect yourself from a litany of health problems for years to come. Here’s my preventive prescription – 17 simple fixes to help you tame inflammation:
To me, sugar is public health enemy number one, the worst toxin we expose ourselves to daily on the conventional American diet. Ingesting it consistently sets you up for inflammation and lays the groundwork for every flavor of modern distress from cancer, diabetes and heart disease, dementia and depression, to infertility and acne and more.
Ditch Processed Foods
If it comes in a box or a bag, or has more than 2 or 3 ingredients in the label, it’s a processed, made-in-the-lab ‘Franken-food’ which will deliver little if any nutritional benefit and will most likely be loaded with gluten, sugar, trans fats and other irritants that can trigger an immune response – and chronic inflammation.
Try An Elimination Diet
A great way to quickly put the breaks on inflammation is by eliminating as many foods and liquids that could be toxins, irritants or allergens. For a period of 14 days or more, eliminate not only sugar and processed foods, but also alcohol, gluten (includes wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, rye, barley, and malt), dairy, soy, corn, eggs and nightshade vegetables (includes white potatoes. tomatoes. eggplant. and peppers). Afterwards, reintroduce foods slowly so you learn which ones may be triggers for you, and at the same time, incorporate as many of the following 13 tips as you can to keep inflammation from returning.
Fill Up On Fresh, Real Food
Eating fresh, local or organic produce is one of the easiest, healthiest things you can do to curb chronic inflammation. The more variety the better, to better feed the good bacteria that keep the gut lining strong, preventing leaks and inflammation. Although nightshade vegetables and pasture raised eggs may not be pro-inflammatory for everyone, avoid them for an initial 2-3 weeks as part of an elimination diet.
Cool Down The Inflammation
In addition to fresh produce, eat other foods that help cool inflammation instead of processed foods, which have the opposite effect. Among my flame-taming favorites: wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil.
Go Heavy On Spices
Not only do spices add more flavor to your food, they also deliver an anti-inflammatory boost as well, so apply liberally and enjoy. Topping the spicy list of inflammation coolers: turmeric, ginger, rosemary and basil.
Nourish Your Gut With Bone Broth
Bone broth is full of gelatin and collagen, which soothes the intestinal tract and helps heal leaky gut. The gelatin and collagen also support your joints and bones, and reduce inflammation throughout your body. And it is so easy to incorporate into your diet as a base for soups and stews.
Minimize Chemical Exposure
Buy organic produce when possible, filter your water, switch from plastic to glass for food storage and reheating, use gentler organic or homemade natural cleaning products, and reduce the use of personal care products or use ones with clean ingredients.
Break Up With Advil, Motrin and Alcohol
If you’re one of those people popping a few ibuprofen every day to manage aches and pains, or knocking back a few glasses of wine a night, you’re also throwing off the delicate bacterial balance in your gut, undermining the integrity of your gut wall, and setting yourself up for chronic inflammation. As innocuous as over-the-counter ‘anti-inflammatory’ meds or alcohol may seem, their damage is real, so the less you consume the better.
Say No To Unnecessary Antibiotics
If your doc offers them, and it’s not a critical situation, you’re probably better off just saying no. Antibiotics kill bacteria, both good and bad, and like OCT meds, wind up disrupting your bacterial balance – and from there it’s a hop-skip to leaky gut and chronic inflammation.
Clean Up Your Mouth
We all know that regular brushing and flossing is great for the health of your mouth, but actually, the benefits go far beyond the obvious. Good dental hygiene keeps the mouth’s bad bacteria from sneaking into the bloodstream and triggering inflammation.
Drop Excess Pounds
Need another reason to lose a few? Fat cells fuel inflammation. Turns out, they secrete a type of hormone which contributes to inflammation, so keeping weight in check is simple way to keep it at bay.
Exercise More, But Don’t Overdo It
Regular exercise is great but pushing yourself to the limit with long, hard gym sessions is not. In fact, overtraining actually promotes chronic inflammation – so it may be time to rethink your approach. To find the right balance, particularly as you get older, work with a qualified personal trainer, and trade those long, gym marathons for shorter interval training sessions.
Soothe The Mind And Body
Even a few minutes of meditation first thing in the morning or before bed can help quiet your gut, which means less inflammation. Relentless stress weakens your immune system and promotes inflammation – so fight back by giving mind and body regular meditation breaks.
Sleep Off The Inflammation
When you cut corners to the point where you’re sleeping less than six hours a night, you’re putting your body in the inflammation danger zone. Give your body 7 – 8 hours a night to give it the time it needs to restore, refresh and repair. Coming up short night after night promotes oxidative stress which leads to chronic inflammation.
Clean Out The Gut
A frequent but under-recognized cause of inflammation is an altered microbiome causing a leaky gut. Apart from dietary recommendations listed here, I usually use antimicrobial herbs, like berberine, olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract and oregano oil, which kill the “bad” guys and probiotics, to correct the imbalance.
Boost Your Anti-inflammatory Powers With Supplements
Another way to support your body’s anti-inflammatory powers is with the addition of supplements. My favorite inflammation fighters include vitamin D3, Omega 3 fish oils, and the powerful antioxidant and antiinflammatory, curcumin.