Some of my patients have been asking me recently, about a new medical condition, inflammation, that’s being investigated as the underlying cause of fatigue and most diseases including, cancer and heart disease. As I tell my patients, the truth is, inflammation is not something new, though our unhealthy diets and lifestyles may be adding to the rise in its occurrence. Inflammation, and its ill effect on health, have been around for centuries, and have been well studied and treated by alternative, non-Western medicine, for just as long. Seems Western medicine is just starting to catch on to damaging, chronic inflammation.
Inflammation, or yang, as it’s called in Asian medicine, is one of the pernicious influences in human health. Together with it’s opposite; the dampness/coolness of yin, Asian medicine believes that these two forces form the root of all diseases. However, you don’t have to go to the Far East to get rid of inflammation as the treatment is the same in Western medicine, i.e., re-balance the blood and tissues to cool the inflammation. Allow me to tell you a little about this condition and share with you some simple things you can do to rebalance your yang force and obtain better health.
Inflammation, Friend and Foe
Inflammation can help us and hurt us. Acute inflammation is the beneficial side of the condition that occurs when we injure ourselves through a cut, bruise, sprain or fracture. The surrounding area turns red and may become hot to touch. This is our immune system’s first defense attempt at healing the damaged part. It sends white blood cells to the area which causes the tissues to heat up in order to kill an infection that may develop from the injury.
On the flip side, chronic, low-grade, ongoing inflammation, can be damaging to our overall health. Somehow, the body’s immune system just keeps pumping out inflammatory responses and instead of healing the body it starts to make it ill. But how does this happen? Well, it can come about from a variety of factors, the following being the most common:
- Too much alcohol
- Too much refined sugar, high glycemic carbohydrates
- Insufficient good fatty acids (Omega 3’s) in diet
- Insufficient antioxidants
- Too little exercise, overweight
In short, the immune system starts to think of itself as under constant attack from poor diet and lifestyle habits and works overtime. In fact, many researchers now believe that inflammation may be the key to understanding how all diseases start, from Alzheimer’s, asthma, arthritis, GERD and ulcers, to heart disease and even cancer. Interestingly, treating these diseases successfully may also lie in treating the inflammation that’s fueling them.
How Can You Get Rid of Inflammation?
In order to work on reducing inflammation, you first have to know if you have elevated levels of certain tests that are excellent markers for inflammation. These are:
- CRP – short for C-reactive protein, elevated in chronic inflammation.
- Homocysteine – elevated, usually from a lack of folic acid and/or too high iron in diet.
- MPO – short for myeloperoxidase. A relatively new test for inflammation can help determine potential cardiac risk factors such as atherosclerosis.
Next, do everything possible to stop any inflammation-producing activities. For example, quit smoking, cut down on alcohol or limit it to special occasions. Get some exercise. People who exercise frequently tend to weigh less and have lower CRP, homocysteine and MPO levels. Reduce your weight as fat cells are filled with cytokines which boost inflammation. Get tested for diabetes. Untreated, uncontrolled diabetes can fuel inflammation, damage blood vessels, and put you at increased risk for heart disease.
Follow an inflammation-fighting diet such as the following:
- Limit sugar/refined carbohydrates. Cakes, pies, candy, some fruits, and high glycemic carbohydrates (bread, pasta), all create a high acid condition which fuels inflammation.
- Eat more good fats. Add high monounsaturated fats like mixed nuts, avocado, olive oil, as well as fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines a few times a week. If you eat canned tuna, choose water packed as the Omega-3’s leach into the oil packed varieties that will get drained off before eating. Or, take two 1,000 mg fish oil capsules a day.
- Limit acid foods. High acid foods like animal meats, eggs, lemon, grapefruit, and tomato.
- Eat more alkali foods. Yellow, dark green, vegetables like yams, kale, cucumbers fight inflammation by balancing acid with alkali.
- Add antioxidants. Our modern diet can’t possibly contain enough antioxidants to do us much good fighting inflammation. Add a good supplement that contains Vitamin C, resveratrol, E, selenium, Vitamin D3, bilberry, blueberry. Spices like turmeric (curcumin), ginger, cayenne, parsley.
- Increase fiber. Fiber helps sweep inflammatory toxins out of your system.
- Avoid dehydration. Our bodies thrive on water to cool itself and dilute inflammatory acids. Drink at least ½ your weight in water a day.
As I tell my patients, learning how inflammation creates diseases may be the biggest health news of this decade. Following the tips here can help you both prevent it and get rid of it and go a long way toward keeping you healthy and active long into your silver years!