Inflammation Causes, and How To Use Diet To Improve Health
Written by: Karen Moreland L.Ac., Generations Acupuncture LLC
Many medical conditions involve some kind of inflammation in the body. Some examples include: pain, sciatica, asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, arthritis, eczema, headaches, depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, emotional disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, irritable bowel, and many others. If you have had any of these problems you know how your quality of life can begin to decrease quickly, and you start to feel like nothing works and you have nowhere to turn.
Where does all of this inflammation come from? One of the biggest contributors is your diet. Everything you put into your body plays a role in how healthy you feel. A healthy digestive system can go a long way in reducing inflammation and improving symptoms. Many studies have been done on the relationship between the gut and the immune system. Studies have shown 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. If the gut is inflamed due to a poor diet, the immune system can become hyperactive and cause things like autoimmune problems, emotional disorders, and allergies.
To begin to heal, several things are important to include. First you need to decrease inflammation quickly. There are many different natural treatments that can be done to decrease inflammation. Acupuncture works very well. Depending on what’s wrong, laser therapy, massages, ion footbaths, Epsom salts baths, western or Chinese herbal treatment, cupping, and many other therapies also work well.
Often inflammation has been building up in your body for so long that it will take some time to bring it back down to a level where your symptoms will decrease. The time it takes depends on how long the inflammation has been there, and how deep it is in the body. For most people inflammation has been building up their entire lives. Symptoms appear when the body is in a weaker state and cannot deal with the inflammation, like in the very young, or very old, or after a traumatic event, disease, or many years of high stress. This is often why children with asthma see it go away when they get older, and then come back many years later.
Next, changes in your every day life can go a long way in helping the treatment you are getting work faster. Diet changes are extremely important. If you drink alcohol, smoke, use drugs, or chew tobacco, it’s a good time to stop. When the time is right incorporate physical therapy, exercise, Yoga, Tai-Qi, Qi-Gong, Pilates, or other forms of physical movement. These help circulate good stuff into the tissues and move inflammation out.
After inflammation in the body has been decreased to the point where the symptoms are gone, it is an important time. You need to keep diet changes going, so the inflammation does not build up again, and your symptoms come back. At this point you may notice your symptoms return for a short period if you slip up on your diet, or go out drinking one night.
Guidelines For A Healthy Diet
Listed here are some general diet changes that would go a long way in improving your health. (This is a general recommendation for most people; if you suspect you have a food sensitivity or allergy, don’t eat that food.)
- Remove as much sugar, and artificial sweeteners as possible. If you must use a sweetener, use stevia.
- Small amounts of honey and dark chocolate are ok. Consuming local honey that has not been too processed, is best for people with allergies and will help with nasal symptoms.
- Remove white breads and pastas.
- Instead replace them with whole grain breads and pastas.
- If you eat potatoes always eat the skins too, or switch to sweat potatoes. The skins include fiber that will help stabilize your blood sugar.
- Remove alcohol and soda (soda water without sodium added is ok to drink)
- Remove high fructose corn syrup. It goes by many names: corn syrup, natural sweetener, etc. so be careful. It’s also in many things, so check your labels.
- Remove artificial dye. This is especially important for kids.
- Remove foods that are highly processed or have lots of preservatives.
- Wash all veggies and fruits, even if it has been prewashed.
- Remove fried foods
- Drink more water. In general men need about 3 liters per day (12 cups), women need about 2.5 liters per day (10 cups), and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need 3 to 3.5 liters per day (12-14 cups).
- Include more fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds (unless you are allergic), and legumes. Veggies should be about 50% of the diet, fruits should be 9%, nuts and seeds 4%, and legumes 9%.
- Keep red meat in your diet, but eat it in moderation. Protein should be 17% of the diet normally. It should be higher for kids, or someone doing a lot of exercise. Pregnant women need 80-90 grams of protein per day.
- Remove trans fats. These are in hydrogenated oils like margarine, canola, vegetable, corn, and peanut oil.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, ghee, macadamia nut oil, sesame oil, avocado, salmon, and olive oil. These help a lot to decrease inflammation.
- Add in hot tea. Green tea, black tea, herbal tea, etc. Green tea helps to stimulate your metabolism. These also contain anti-oxidants.
- Reduce dairy or remove it, especially dairy that is served cold like milk or ice cream.
- Dairy creates phlegm in the body, and increases mucous in the sinuses and lungs; or can create other problems like cloudy thinking.
- Reduce ice cold drinks.
- Drink beverages at room temperature or warm. If you must have cold drinks have them slightly chilled. If your digestion is at all weakened this is very important. When you put cold food or drink in your body, then your body has to put more energy into it to warm it up so it can be processed. This further weakens your digestion.
- If your digestion is weak, reduce raw or uncooked foods like sushi and salads. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
- Start taking a pro-biotic supplement every day. Get one with 6 different strains of beneficial bacteria or more.
- Eat organic when you can.
Written by: Karen Moreland L.Ac., Generations Acupuncture LLC
Pitchford, Paul, Eating with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books 2002.
Schmalzriedt, Jake, DOM, General Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines. Herbal Medicine Press 2015.