Recently, one of my students was having some shoulder and arm pain, and her primary care physician was not able to help her. She asked if I had any ideas. Well, since I also knew that she’d been having some trouble with swollen feet and ankles recently, (which her doc told her was due to the summer heat) and she also happened to be concerned about being overweight, but insists that she eats a healthy diet, I had a bit of information to go by.
My first question to her was – has anyone ever talked to you about inflammation or an anti-inflammatory diet? “No – what’s that?” was her reply. “Wow”, I thought…
Inflammation is actually part of our bodies’ defense/healing mechanisms. Our immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, pathogens, and inflammation is a result of the healing process. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would not heal.
But inflammation can be a sort of invisible illness, the problem arising when we have chronic inflammation. Over the last several decades, scientists have identified dozens of new immunological and inflammatory molecules and the pathways through which they interact. The loops and feedbacks of those pathways mean inflammation can be turned on and off in any number of ways. BUT, when the on switch is left on for long periods of time, you have chronic inflammation, which wreaks its own brand of havoc.
Here are some examples of auto-immune illnesses caused by chronic inflammation:
Irritable Bowel Disease and Celiac
Coronary Artery Disease
And, ladies, according to recent studies, we women get these diseases at more than twice the rate of men — 6.4 percent of women vs. 2.7 percent of men. Lovely… What’s a gal (or guy) to do?!
- Keep regular dental appointments to spot and treat periodontal disease
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods like:
walnuts and almonds
leafy greens, including spinach and kale
salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel
blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries
- And get some exercise!
All aerobic exercise is good for your heart health but high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which focuses on short, intense bursts of activity, interspersed with periods of recovery, is especially potent for reducing inflammation. Research has shown that HIIT lowers inflammation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where our emotions come from. HIIT has also been found to decrease inflammation in type 2 diabetes patients, as well as in people who are obese or overweight. Many docs recommend doing HIIT three times a week for 10 -12 minutes for the best results. Now, come on – ten minutes, three times a week? YOU CAN DO THIS!
Meanwhile, here’s another great recipe that includes several anti-inflammatory foods! Breakfast should not mean that you automatically reach for a box of cereal…
This is my own recipe – my favorite breakfast:
½ cup wild blueberries
½ cup organic strawberries
1/3 cup walnuts, crushed or chopped
½ cup plain yogurt (I use sheep or goat to avoid the lactose)
Mix up all the berries, with the yogurt, then top with the nuts and enjoy!
Play with this recipe and mix and match your own favorites. Let’s make breakfast FUN again!
Best of Health,