Do you suffer from headaches, joint pain, or allergies? Are you frustrated because you’ve taken 6 advils a day to get rid of your headache, but can’t shake off the pain? Over the counter anti-histamines don’t do much for your allergies, but it’s the first thing you reach for anyway. If you wonder why this is not working, here’s a clue: your body is inflamed, and you need to heal it.
My battle with inflammation started with joint pain in my hands. As a chef, I thought this was a repetitive motion injury. But I started to notice my joints would hurt after I ate certain foods, or drank too much alcohol. The fact that my sinuses have been chronically swollen for years clued me in as well, especially with my worsening allergies in the last 4 years.
Inflammation is the cause of many diseases in Western culture. From arthritis to allergies to fibromyalgia, inflammation is the the basis of these diseases. What causes this inflammation? Stress is a major cause, but for this post, we’ll focus on the foods we eat. Here’s the short list of foods that are likely to cause inflammation:
Industrial seed oils: That’s canola, safflower, corn, soy, etc. The issue with these is their omega 6 to 3 ratio. Linoleic acid, the omega 6 component found in these oils, gets converted into arachidonic acid, the latter of which is highly inflamatory. Omega 6 isn’t the devil, but the problem is that we eat far too much of it compared to its anti-inflammatory omega 3 cousin. We’re supposed to get a ratio of 1:1. If we did, the inflammatory 6’s would be balanced by the anti-inflammatory 3’s, and that would be great. But since we get far more omega 6 than 3, our bodies are being thrown into an involuntary inflammatory response, and this is not a good thing.
Refined sugar: That’s white sugar, organic cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, etc. Foods that are high on the glycemic index cause a spike in insulin. This rises your blood sugar higher than it should be, which triggers an immune response that causes inflammation. Also, high insulin levels trigger an enzyme that causes the body to produce more of that arachidonic acid, which we’ve already learned is inflammatory.
Dairy: Not everyone is sensitive to casein, the dairy protein responsible for allergy and sensitivity to milk products, but if you are, your body reacts as if it is under attack. That means you are releasing histamines and anti-bodies, which leads to swelling and inflammation.
Wheat: Similar to casein, gluten sensitivity is a major cause of inflammation. Another issue is that wheat turns to sugar in the body, thus rising insulin levels. So if you’re sensitive to gluten, you’ve got a double whammy inflammatory response that isn’t going to be pretty.
Aside from doing an elimination diet to determine what foods you may be sensitive to, what can you do about inflammation? Here’s 3 steps you can take towards healing those pesky headaches or whatever inflammatory ailment you may be suffering from.
1. Drink turmeric tea.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory root. You can usually find the root at Whole Foods – it looks like ginger. Simple grate an inch piece into 2 cups of filtered water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. If you don’t have turmeric root, use the powder. I do about a tablespoon per two cups of water. It doesn’t taste as good as the fresh stuff, but it really works. To increase the bioavailability of the turmeric, you can add a crack of black pepper and a little coconut or olive oil.
2. Improve your omega 3 ratios by taking fish oil.
Since we’re trying to even out our omega 6 to 3 ratio, taking high quality fish oil high in DHA and EPA omegas is a good start. You can do this cod liver oil as well, which not only has the benefit of having the omegas, but also has vitamin A and D, the latter of which is needed to reduce inflammation as well.
3. Take a strong probiotic.
Sound odd? Our gut is 80% of our immune system, and inflammation is an immune response. There’s a strong correlation between ‘leaky gut’ and inflammation. Leaky gut is for a different post, but the point is that our gut flora is messed up by years of antibiotics use and lack of good soil and needs to get back to a balanced state for us to be healthy. Eating fermented foods is a better choice, but if you don’t want to eat sauerkraut and kimchi on a regular basis, this is the best thing you can do for yourself. Make sure you can the medical grade stuff. My naturopath recommended the VS3 brand, so if you’re overwhelmed with all the choices, that’s a quality brand.
Are you dealing with inflammation? What have you tried to help yourself heal, and has it helped?