In the previous post I discussed the damage inflammation can do to our bodies. So the solution is obvious- we need to reduce the inflammation! Thankfully, there are several ways we can do this. Knowing where our inflammation stems from gives us a great head start, but even if we don’t know, we can still support our bodies by making a few simple changes. In this post, I want to talk about ways our diet contributes to our health and inflammation levels.
These days our food is far removed from what our ancestors ate. They look, feel, smell, and taste the same. But they are not the same. In attempts to improve food on both global and local levels, technology has had some unfortunate effects on our meals. Many foods have been grown with the influence of chemicals, hormones, or pesticides. In an effort to produce prettier, bigger, tastier foods we have sacrificed quality. It’s obvious that these synthetic agents are harmful in and of themselves. But the story is bigger than just that. When food is treated to grow faster, it loses its natural growing time that allows it to absorb as many minerals from the soil as possible. So the faster we grow and harvest it, the less nutrition it likely has. Add to that fact that proper soil treatment methods and crop rotation are less commonly employed and we also experience depleted soil. This means there are fewer nutrients in the soil to begin with. Now consider that we have learned to grow these seasonal foods year-round. Growing seasons contribute to nutrient levels, too. So winter growth of a summer vegetable yields produce with different nutrition, since much of the growth factors will have been simulated. And finally, remember that year round access to otherwise seasonal foods usually means long travel times and harvesting before the food is truly ready. We may have food that is available faster, and more often throughout the year, but we suffer greatly in nutrition content. And we are likely to be consuming a fair amount of chemicals, waxes, and pesticides with each serving of food.
This manipulation of our food looks great on a surface level, and we are able to feed more mouths as a result. But over time the negative effects accumulate and the toxins add up. Our bodies are designed to remove toxins, so we should not expect or aim to live a completely toxin free life. But at this point, we are inundated with these harmful substances and our bodies are overwhelmed. All of our detoxifying organs are overworked and not functioning as optimally as they should in this day and age.
Thankfully, we can restore some of our body’s natural defense mechanisms by simple shifts in our diets.
- A great first step is to think about eating organics. Focusing on foods that have not been treated with chemicals and pesticides goes a long way to reducing the toxin load in our system. If expense is a concern for you, I highly recommend making small steps to start. You are likely familiar with the dirty dozen list by now, but in case you are not, check it out here: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/index.php. You will see there is also a clean fifteen list to help you find which foods are best to focus on for organics.
- If you are already a believer in eating organics, you can start thinking about eating locally. This ensures that you are eating foods that are in season, therefore higher in nutrition; plus properly grown, plus you are supporting local area farmers! It’s a win-win. If you are not sure where to find your local resources, I suggest here: http://www.eatwild.com/ . With that list you will find local farms organized by state. It’s a fantastic place to get in touch with your farmers, and you can locate sources for produce, meat, and dairy.
- Now that we have that covered, let’s move on to specific foods to consider eliminating from your diet. High on the inflammation list is gluten, wheat, soy, sugar, dairy, and nuts. These items are often contaminated with GMO’s, pesticides, and hormones. In addition to this, they are generally highly refined by the time they reach our plates. Each individual will react differently to foods, so there may be others that are also inflammatory for you. Likewise, some of these may be fine for you. The best thing to do is consider a two to three week elimination of all of these items. After this time period, you can add one item in every three to five days. Only one thing should be reintroduced at a time so that you can watch for any symptoms of intolerance. If you are overwhelmed by the thought of eliminating all of these things at once, I recommend you eliminate one thing at a time for two to three weeks, gradually removing one more thing until you have accomplished this list. Chances are that as you remove them, you will feel increasingly better and each consecutive item to remove becomes easier and easier.
- So it’s not all about elimination. Here, we get to think about what things are important to add! So many foods have great health boosting effects that we rarely consider. Nature has provided us with much of what we need to maintain optimal health. We just need to figure out ways to get more of these foods into our diets! So, without further ado, here is my list of anti-inflammatory foods to put in your regular routine:
- fish, preferably sustainable, wild caught (salmon, sardines, anchovies, white fish, etc.)
- green tea
- herbal teas
- healthy fats (olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, avocados, etc.)
- organic produce
- leafy greens
- local, seasonal fruits (citrus, berries, apples, etc.)
- grass-fed meats
- properly pastured eggs
- bone broth (preferably from grass-fed, pastured animals
Diet is key to our health. The old adage “You are what you eat” definitely holds true, and if you have made the above switches to your own diet you know how true this is. When we eat poorly, we feel poorly. But, the reverse is also true- when we eat well, we feel well. Many people notice reduction of their inflammation symptoms quite soon after they adjust their diet. And while it’s easy to become disheartened thinking you are restricting yourself from something, it is just a matter of flipping to the other side of that coin- think of all the things you will feel more able to do, or how much better you will feel, by including some of these above mentioned measures to your life! See? That’s not restriction at all!
So sit down and think about the times when you feel tired, achy, down, or just not motivated to do things. Think about the times when you hurt, can’t think clearly, or suffer from bad moods. These are clear signs of inflammation. Now, for each one of those reasons you listed, look to these options to help you cross them off of your list. Why not give it a shot and see how diet can effect you? Diet always contributes to your health, one way or another. Why not let it help you this time? Why not let diet be your friend and not your foe? Food is medicine, should we choose to use it this way. And when we think about it, it’s probably one of the most cost effective, efficient, and successful ways to help ourselves feel great each day.