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Why Everyone Should Follow An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An image of a salmon, blueberries, pineapple, avocado and other anti-inflammatory foodIn the last few decades, more and more health professionals are realizing that chronic inflammation is at the root of most chronic health problems. From gastrointestinal issues to depression and anxiety, to skin conditions, to neurodegeneration - we find inflammation involved in some way or another. And that makes adopting an anti-inflammatory diet a very important step towards better health.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is essentially your body trying to keep you safe; it's a key player in the biological response to potential threats like bacteria, pathogens, toxins, and damaged cells. Without inflammation, your body cannot heal. It’s also one of your body's most potent weapons against stress. It's one of the six circuits of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, along with the Hormone, Bioenergetics, Cardionomic, Neuroaffect, and Detoxification Circuits.

Your NEM's Inflammation Circuit involves your immune cells, your microbiome, and your gut. Indeed, chronic inflammation almost always begins in the gut and then spreads elsewhere in the body. It works closely with your NEM's Detoxification Circuit to clear out dead and damaged cells, as well as eliminating the original offenders while promoting tissue repair.

When Inflammation Turns Chronic

So the problem isn't inflammation in and of itself. The problem is when inflammation goes from being an acute and necessary response to such threats to a chronic state that your body is constantly in. It's basically when inflammation is out of control, leading to a slew of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and adrenal fatigue– along with possible links to maladies like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

And, the most dangerous part of this is that it's a silent epidemic– you can be feeling just fine and not know that your inflammation levels are soaring. And failure to regulate excessive inflammation can have devastating effects on your body. That's why we believe everyone should be leading an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, whether they know they have inflammation or not. And there four key ways to reduce inflammation are the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Exercising daily
  • Effectively managing stress
  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet

Key #1 to Reducing Inflammation: Body Weight

The number one way to keep inflammation at bay is to maintain healthy body weight. The weight loss alone is “anti-inflammatory”.

The prevalence and severity of osteoarthritis, for example, is higher amongst people who are overweight or obese, according to Patience White, MD, the chief public health officer for the Arthritis Foundation. The good thing is, if you follow the suggested anti-inflammatory diet presented in this article, you may very well find yourself losing weight in the process.

But we should mention that extreme dieting or over-exercising to reduce your body weight is not something we recommend. It's always better to naturally shed the weight after adopting a sustainable healthy lifestyle that you can keep up even after you've lost weight. Otherwise, you may not only find yourself putting all the weight back on, but you might add a lot of stress on your body and your adrenals. This can trigger or worsen adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is what happens when you're facing chronic stress, making your adrenals overwork to produce cortisol, your body's most important stress fighter. In the beginning stages of AFS, your cortisol levels rise beyond the healthy range, but after a while, they drop significantly below that range. Each stage will have varying intensities of AFS symptoms.

Key #2 to Reducing Inflammation: Exercise

Getting regular exercise is not only a key component in decreasing inflammation, but it is also essential in having good overall health. But the kind of exercise you do matters, especially if you're recovering from adrenal fatigue or if you have another chronic condition that may be putting your body under a lot of stress. Click here for more information about AFS exercises.

Walking is a gentle form of exercise that is suitable for many people, but if your body is in somewhat good shape, you can do more. In that case, for optimal fitness, try to incorporate a mix of aerobic, anaerobic, and flexibility exercises. Besides helping to lower inflammation, another great benefit of exercising is that it is one of the best ways to manage stress.

Key #3 to Reducing Inflammation: Stress Management

An image of a woman holding her inflammed wristIn today’s busy world, stress has become a part of daily life. Most of us don't even realize that we're stressed. All the while the stress takes its toll on our health. And no matter how much this becomes the norm, it's not something the human body was built to handle. Your NEM is perfectly capable of dealing with acute bouts of stress here and there and then helping your body to return to normal as quickly as possible. But it is not made to be constantly battling chronic stress.

You need to take action to help lower your stress levels and take some burden off your NEM. And, thankfully, there are many ways to do that:

  • Adrenal breathing exercises
  • Therapy
  • Support groups
  • Taking a walk in nature every day
  • Playing with a pet
  • Taking quiet time for yourself
  • Meditating
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Reducing your workload
  • Journaling

It's also imperative that you allow yourself to get enough rest and sleep. No matter how much you meditate or go to therapy, if you're not letting yourself rest and sleep, you will not recover properly and your body will always be under pressure.

Another important factor to take into account is that stress is not just psychological. Eating an unhealthy diet is a huge form of stress on the body. That's why the last and possibly most important key to reducing inflammation is eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

Key #4 to Reducing Inflammation: An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

You've probably heard that the Mediterranean-style diet – which is full of low-fat proteins, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and unrefined carbs– is linked to better heart health. The anti-inflammatory diet is quite similar in this regard.

One of the problems of the Standard American Diet is that it contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are associated with higher levels of cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that trigger inflammation, and your cells release them. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids can help to significantly decrease inflammation. And those are found in oily fish and walnuts, among other things. The trick is to try to decrease your intake of the former while increasing your intake of the latter.

Some experts suggest that eating more vegetables, which contain phytochemicals – natural chemicals found in plants that are thought to reduce inflammation - can help reduce chronic pain.

The anti-inflammatory diet generally includes eating: lots of fruits and vegetables; lots of whole grains; lots of spices such as ginger and turmeric; fewer saturated and trans fats; fewer refined carbohydrates like pasta and white rice; more lean meats like chicken; less red meat; and no processed or refined foods– avoid these at all costs.

Foods and Beverages to Incorporate Into Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Below is a list of food and beverages that can help reduce inflammation as well as having other important health benefits.

Beverages That Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects

  • Green tea is full of polyphenols, which may help to lower the concentration of free radicals in your body. Many cultures have used it for its medicinal properties for centuries. But because it contains caffeine, you shouldn't overdo it. Especially if you have adrenal fatigue.
  • Cranberry juice is effective in preventing stomach ulcers. Helicobacter pylori are the bacteria that cause ulcers, attacking the protective lining of the stomach or small intestine. A study found that one daily cup of 100% natural cranberry juice (not the juice with added sugars– which are inflammatory) for three weeks helped to eliminate nearly one-fifth of all cases of H. pylori infections without the use of drugs.
  • Peppermint is effective in relieving pain as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Botanists recommend brewing tea with peppermint leaves to help alleviate any kind of pain. IBS, a rather uncomfortable condition, can be eased with peppermint oil, as the menthol in peppermint can prevent muscle spasms. Another way to find relief with peppermint is to massage the oil into your temples, wrists, or the back of your neck– the result is quite soothing.

Although coffee may have anti-inflammatory effects, we usually don't recommend it as part of a healthy diet. This is especially the case with our adrenal fatigue patients. Although those with AFS feel they need coffee to function, we try to help them reduce and even eliminate coffee, at least for a while. Most stimulants tend to aggravate adrenal fatigue.

Anti-Inflammatory Oils, Herbs, and Spices

An image of some salmon, garlic, nuts, and other anti-inflammatory foods

  • Olive oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory diet addition and a staple of the Mediterranean diet. It helps to mitigate the risk of stroke and even some cancers. Just make sure you use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best results.
  • Garlic is known to benefit the immune system and is proven to be anti-inflammatory. It also has pain relief properties and can even help to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of psoriasis.
  • Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been used for thousands of years. It is excellent in helping with a plethora of maladies including stomach aches and heart conditions.
  • Turmeric, ginger’s relative, can help to protect the body from joint inflammation, tissue destruction, and even cancer.
  • Sage has flavonoids that aid in the reduction of swelling. It may also help boost memory function.
  • Cayenne contains an oily compound called capsaicin, which is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter products like creams and ointments for pain relief. Cayenne has antioxidant properties in addition to being anti-inflammatory.
  • Cinnamon is known as a healing spice, containing both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can also decrease heartburn.
  • Cloves are not only antioxidants, but they also contain a chemical called eugenol, which has been proven to reduce inflammation. The benefits of cloves include helping in the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

Foods That Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

  • Salmon and other oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to lubricate the joints, relieve back and neck pain, and improve mood and cardiovascular health. You can also opt for fish-oil supplements if you can't eat fish regularly.
  • Nuts are not only a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they are packed with antioxidants that can help ward off inflammation and its resulting damage.
  • Soy contains isoflavones, which are plant hormones that have anti-inflammatory properties. Try to avoid purchasing heavily processed and genetically modified soy– choose the organic options of tofu, tempeh, or edamame.
  • Whole grains, as opposed to white refined grains, have been proven to lower levels of the inflammatory C-reactive protein in the blood. Ensure that such products contain whole grain as their first ingredient, with no sugar added.
  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens contain high levels of phytochemicals and vitamin E, which help to protect the body from inflammatory cytokine molecules.
  • Cherries can neutralize free radicals within the body as well as prevent tissue inflammation. They are full of antioxidants.
  • Tart cherries, along with berries, get their deep red color from anthocyanins, which have pain-relieving abilities.
  • Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that might help to relieve swelling caused by osteoarthritis.
  • Beets contain a plant pigment called betalains which boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They may also protect against heart disease and cancer.
  • Yogurt containing probiotics like B. infantis and L. acidophilus can help to mitigate inflammation, pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms of IBS.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and AFS

Although it may seem like a tall order at first, think of the above steps as a lifestyle rather than a quick change. You can take it one step at a time, changing one thing at a time. The aim is to live this way, not just use it as a quick fix then go back to your usual.

Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can take time and consistency to produce any sort of result. The advantage of drugs is that they are fast-acting. However, they often come with side effects and skim over the root of the problem. Eating healthier will make you healthier, so commit - especially if you are recovering from adrenal fatigue.

But the wonderful thing about taking these steps, including eating an anti-inflammatory diet, is that they will improve your health and wellbeing in every way. Your mental health will improve. Your job performance will improve. You will recover from infections and illnesses more quickly and easily. And, if you have adrenal fatigue, you will regain your strength and energy again.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Conclusion

An image of various anti-inflammatory foodWe recommend that you go on this journey with the help of an experienced health professional. Especially at first. That way you can avoid the pitfalls and wrong turns that many people run into in the beginning. Once you've learned how to do it by yourself, you can then take matters into your own hands and lead a healthy, balanced life.

If you have questions about the anti-inflammatory diet or adrenal fatigue recovery, you can contact the Dr. Lam Coaching team. We can offer you a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and what your options are. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2019-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

An anti-inflammatory diet is a diet that is free of processed food, simple carbs, and sugar and is full of fruits and vegetables. It also contains a combination of different herbs, spices, and specific foods that are known to fight inflammation. Find out what those are.

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