Chronic Inflammatory Disease
Inflammation is your body’s first line of defense against toxins, infections and injuries. The same process that occurs due to an injury or illness is the same process that if left uncontrolled plays a role in almost every major disease, including chronic pain, Heart disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer and even depression. Most people think of inflammation as swelling or redness of a joint or body part after an injury. Those are the external signs that something is wrong internally and that our immune system is at work cleaning up the problem.
Chronic inflammation is caused by poor dietary choices such as processed foods, high sugar consumption and refined carbs, a sedentary lifestyle, food intolerance and allergies, obesity and chronic stress as well as over training in those who exercise vigorously for extended periods of time. I personally found this our while training for triathlons a few years ago. This prolonged state of inflammation causes lasting damage to your heart, brain and other organs. For example, when inflammatory cells hang around too long in blood vessels, they begin to leak and plaque begins to build up. Our immune system sees this plaque as foreign and sends more inflammatory cells. As the plaque continues to build, the arteries thicken, leading to a heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s , etc.
So the next obvious question is what can we do to limit the damage and get our immune system back under control. Here are some tips:
1. Eliminate refined starches (white versions) and added sugars (white or brown sugar, soda, energy drinks). These less nutrient-dense foods promote inflammatory symptoms such as weight gain and elevated blood glucose and lipid levels.
2. Choose monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, which are thought to neutralize inflammation. Found in olive oil, avocados and nuts. Research shows consumption of these fats is associated with decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, which are associated with inflammation.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in wild salmon and tuna, walnuts, and ground flaxseed. Omega-3 is an essential fat that our bodies cannot make. We must obtain it from dietary sources or supplements. Research shows that this form of fat can decrease inflammation associated with exercise.
4. Avoid trans fat altogether. This includes prepackaged baked goods, flavored coffee creams (liquid and powder), some brands of shelf-stable peanut butter, and chocolate or yogurt-coated snacks. There is no safe level of trans fat. It decreases good cholesterol and not only raises bad cholesterol (considered pro-inflammatory) but recycles and reuses it.
5. Consume a variety of colorful berries, vegetables and nuts from week to week to obtain the most nutritional bang for your buck.