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Why you need to be on guard against inflammation

Turmeric is a powerful anti-oxidant that fights inflammation

What do Alzhei-mer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Crohn’s disease all have in common? Though these are diverse conditions with multiple contributing factors including genetics and environmental exposure, there is one common denominator — chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation is an essential mechanism in response to irritation, injury, or infection. It is a protective process that initiates healing. Symptoms of acute inflammation include swelling, redness, and sometimes loss of movement, such as with a sprained ankle. Your body walls off the damaged tissue area with swelling, while messages are sent to the rest of the immune system for healing action.

This inflammation lasts a few days and ends when the injury has passed the first few stages of healing. If acute inflammation is left unresolved, it can evolve into chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is defined as any inflammatory process persisting beyond two weeks. Causative agents include persistent nondegradable pathogens, unresolved viral infections, persistent foreign bodies, and overactive immune reactions. Many chronic inflammatory processes are easily undetected because they are typically not as obvious as acute conditions.

The cumulative damage of chronic inflammation contributes to many serious conditions like those mentioned above, anything that ends in “–itis,” and external ailments like acne, eczema, and psoriasis; internal conditions such as asthma, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, intestinal bowel disorder; and many more.

One of the most sensitive screening tools for detecting inflammation levels is determining C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels in the blood, which rise in response to inflammation. Detection of this protein cannot diagnosis any condition, but can give physicians a clue to look deeper.

My patients often report that when they reached their 40s and 50s, their health took a drastic turn for the worse, with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. But the processes of these diseases started laying their foundation when the patients were in their 20s and 30s. So it is important to be proactive and invest in yourself by incorporating healthful diet habits.

Diet

Avoid anything white. The average American eats 160 pounds of white sugar and 200 pounds of white flour per year. This rule includes white salt, white flour, white rice, white potatoes, and white sugar. These foods create quick spikes in blood sugar, causing an elevation in hazardous by-products in the blood stream. The immune system reacts to clear these by-products, which are linked with premature skin wrinkling, cataracts, diabetes, and heart disease.

Reduce animal fat consumption. The diet of conventionally raised livestock is mostly grain. The negative effects of their diet are imparted to you as well, and their meat contains 20–30 times more omega-6 inflammatory fatty acids. A more healthful choice is grass-fed meat, which has a higher ratio of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammatory chemicals. Other foods high in omega-3s include salmon, walnuts, and freshly ground flaxseeds.

Eat the rainbow. Add lots of colorful, fresh foods to your diet. The color in fruits and vegetables reflects the food’s antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants are extremely protective against chronic disease by acting as scavengers searching for inappropriate inflammatory chemicals in our tissues. Foods rich in antioxidants include fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, dark chocolate, and red wine in moderation. Ensure that every meal has at least five different colors.

Fish oil. High fish consumption has become a catch 22, because the heavy metal toxins fish may carry sometimes outweigh its health benefits. Supplementing a high-quality fish oil daily can help maintain the healthful fatty acids you may be missing. Fish oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA is particularly helpful in reducing general inflammation, while DHA is highly brain specific and an excellent nutrient for preventing memory loss in adults and healthy brain development in children.

Curcumin. Found in the spice turmeric, curcumin is highly researched as a potent antioxidant that fights inflammation in conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-surgical edema. It’s available in pill form, or you can incorporate turmeric into your daily diet. If you are targeting a particular condition, the best benefit can be achieved via the encapsulated form.

Boswellia. Also know as frankincense, Boswellia is an ancient Ayurvedic herb from India similar to curcumin in its anti-inflammatory effects. It balances the immune response and has been shown to cause death of cancer cells. I see this herb have profound effects on reducing pain and increasing range of motion in my arthritis patients.

With chronic inflammation at the base of all chronic diseases, it is important to reduce our inflammatory load for our long-term benefit. Diet and lifestyle are both areas to make a powerful change in the direction of your health.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background in-cludes conventional and alternative modalities; her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: drthalia@discoverhealthmd.com