Can Eating Whole Foods Reduce Inflammation?

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I was excited to write this post, I feel like it's a great predecessor to my last article that talked about foods that can activate low-grade inflammation in the body. Here we're going to talk about foods that can actually help you fight inflammation. I’ve divided them up into four different categories. Fruits, vegetables, oils and spices, and animals products for those non-vegetarians out there. Foods are one of the most effective ways to help combat inflammation, and it doesn't require a prescription drug. As I like to tell my clients, it requires ‘eating from the rainbow,' aka-  filling your diet with the most colorful fruits and veggies you can find. I’ve added some great simple recipes for you to try too!

Let’s start out with the fruits. Usually, everyone's favorite, because let’s be honest who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? I recommend keeping fruit intake to about two cups a day. At the end of the day, fruit still has sugar in it. Although it is natural sugar, it’s still sugar, and too much of it can cause inflammation. So just be mindful of how much you are eating. I personally love adding 1 cup of blueberries to my salads, one cup of pineapple to a veggie smoothie, or an apple with nut butter for a snack.

Pineapple

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Pineapple consist of Bromelain, which is a digestive enzyme. Studies show that Bromelain has immune-modulating capabilities, which means it helps regulate the immune response that can so often create low grade chronic inflammation. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, there are many other benefits to eating pineapple. It’s packed with Vitamin C which makes it immune boosting, improves fertility, great for cardiovascular health, helps fight Cancer, prevents Asthma, aids in digestion, & fights depression and anxiety.

Blueberries

Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant contents, specifically polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins. Blueberries help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation. Want more benefits? They boost brain health, support digestion, encourages weight loss, great for cardiovascular health, and helps fight Cancer.


I’ll be getting my total daily servings of fruit tomorrow moring, because I’m making myself this delicious blueberry-pineapple smoothie as soon as I wake up! YUMMMM!

Blueberry/Pineapple Smoothie:

1 cup Blueberries
1 cup Pineapple
1 cup spinach
1 cup frozen zucchini
1-2 celery stalks
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
A dash of turmeric
A dash of Cayenne Pepper (to help your body absorb the turmeric)
1-2 teaspoons of chia seeds (optional)
1 TBSP of Coconut oil or butter
1 small knob the size of a quarter of fresh ginger root
*Add your liquid of choice, I prefer New Barn Almond Milk


Leafy Greens

How do you think Popeye got so strong? I remember my grandpa saying this to us as kids when encouraging us to eat our spinach. I find myself saying it now, to my kids, and they look at me like "Who the hell is Popeye?"

Not only is Spinach great for reducing inflammation but so are other leafy greens including kale, chard, arugula, endive, collard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens. They all contain significant concentrations of Vitamins A, D, E, K, alpha-linolenic acid, and omega-3 fats, all of which have been found to reduce chronic inflammation.

Helpful tips:
*The darker the greens, the more healthy nutrients they contain.
*Pair your greens with some Olive or Coconut oil. Not only will you get a bigger boost of anti-inflammatory benefits, but your body will be able to absorb the nutrients of the greens better. Studies show that greens can only be absorbed by our bodies in the presence of oil.

Here’s a great salad dressing I like to make with Blackstrap Molasses, which has a high iron count. Great for that time of the month for you women, it helps increase iron levels, helps relieve cramps, and other PMS symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Salad Dressing:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP Blackstrap Molasses
2 TSP dijon mustard (Gluten free)
1/4 TSP fresh ground black pepper
1/4 TSP sweet paprika
1/8 TSP freshly minced garlic
A pinch Himalayan sea salt


Broccoli

Broccoli is an antioxidant powerhouse! It is is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which can drive inflammation. It also high in potassium, magnesium, flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which work together to help fight chronic inflammation!

Beets

Beets have so much protection!! They are great sources of betaine, a nutrient that helps protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. Betaine also fights inflammation, which as you know, helps protect us from developing chronic diseases. What else does it protect? Well, it protects our internal organs, improves vascular risk factors, and enhances our bodies optimal performance.

Avocado

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Avocados have an abundance of carotenoids, which benefit us with their anti-inflammatory properties. Because of its super high carotenoid content combined with the dietary fats found in an avocado, plus its abundant supply of oleic acid, avocados provide us with optimal carotenoid absorption. And it’s not just the carotenoids found in the avocado itself, but also the carotenoids found in other foods eaten at the same time. So start pairing your avocados spinach, kale, & salmon for an extra boost of anti-inflammatory magic.

Helpful tip:
*I use cold pressed Avocado oil as my face serum morning and night. It’s extremely hydrating, keeps the puffiness away in the morning, boost collagen production, and speeds up wound healing.

Oils and Spices not only add flavor to your foods, but they are extremely potent in small amounts. Packed with nutrients and antioxidants they can amplify anti inflammatory power of your meal!  


Cinnamon

Cinnamon has many health benefits,  including potent anti-inflammatory properties.  Cinnamon can be helpful in the prevention of heart disease, and improves circulation because it consists of blood thinning compounds. Good blood circulation, provides oxygen supply to your cells, which leads to higher metabolic activity and further protection against heart disease.

Helpful tip:
* Add a drop of Cinnamon Bark Oil to some ginger tea and drink before your LED Light Therapy session, get ready for some major inflammation fighting!

Ginger

Ginger has been used medicinally for reducing inflammation for centuries. Studies show that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level. It can be effective in calming the digestive system, relieving pain from menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, muscle soreness, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and more. Plus, it helps in the prevention of cancer. A total win win in my book!

Turmeric

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Turmeric consists of compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important one is curcumin. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, not to mention it’s a strong antioxidant. It also can improve brain function, fights depression, lowers risk of heart and brain diseases including Alzheimer's. Curcumin is so potent, that it can be just as effective as some anti- inflammatory prescription drugs out there, minus all those nasty side-effects. Cheers to that!!

Helpful Tip:
*Black pepper helps activate the turmeric, helping us absorb it better.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil contains more than 36 phenolic compounds, all of which have beneficial effects. There is one distinct compound in particular, known as oleocanthal, that is filled with powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have found that oleocanthal exhibits the same anti-inflammatory response in the body as the prescription drug ibuprofen. Compared to ibuprofen, olive oil’s potency is only 10% less. Plus, it’s super affordable, it has no nasty side effects, it’s 100% natural, and its a super easy thing to add to your daily dietary routine.

Coconut Oil

Studies have shown that coconut oil provides a myriad of health benefits including reducing inflammation, fighting germs and supporting almost all processes of the body. It contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), otherwise known as fatty acids. The most critical of those MCTs is lauric acid, which helps strengthen the immune system, relieve pain, and soothes muscles cramps. Goodbye period cramps!

*Helpful Tip:
*Use coconut oil topically for arthritic pain, before/after workouts, and on your lower belly and back to relieve period cramps.

For those of you looking to add meat and fish to your diets, bone broth and Salmon both have excellent anti-inflammatory benefits.

Bone Broth

Bone broth has been making a huge comeback in our daily diet. Although it has been around since like the beginning of time, it seems like we are using it now more than ever. Bone broth, contains the high anti-inflammatory amino acids: glycine and proline. These two elements are so highly concentrated, that people who suffer from inflammation and inflammatory diseases, will benefit greatly, from consuming the broth. Also, because of the high amounts of collagen and gelatin it’s amazing for our hair, skin and nails, and helps heal leaky gut (which essentially leads to inflammation in the digestive system). So bottoms up my friends!

Salmon

Salmon is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. Omega-3s decrease the production of chemicals that can spread the inflammation and it also inhibits the enzymes that can trigger it. When choosing either wild or farmed, always go for wild. The fish will have less POP’s (persistent organic pollutants) which can cause inflammation, thereby defeating the purpose of everything you worked so hard on.


Here is a jam-packed anti-inflammatory lunch or dinner recipe:

Ginger Salmon Salad:

Salmon:
Rub salmon fillets with coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (gluten-free)
2 teaspoons grated fresh grated ginger
Mix ingredients together and brush on top of salmon fillets, dust with Himalayan sea salt and cracked pepper.
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
* Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Salad:
1 cup of kale
1 cup of spinach
1 cup of microgreens
1 avocado
*Sprinkle with more grated uncooked fresh ginger
*Drizzle with a TBSP of olive oil


Conclusion

An anti-inflammatory diet isn't just for people with autoimmune disorders, thyroid and digestive issues, or chronic inflammatory diseases. Integrating nutritious foods like these, into your diet daily, will help you build a strong, thriving immune system! Not only can it lessen your inflammation, it will have a influential effect on your physical and emotional health. A healthy diet is crucial for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, mood elevation, and improving overall quality of life. So turn up them beets and eat your greens friends!

What Role Does Our Diet Play in Our Body’s Inflammatory Response?

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The nutrients we put into our body, is a conscious decision, that we make every day. Diet plays a huge role in our bodies inflammatory response. We can choose to eat foods that strengthen our superpower or eat foods that destroy it. Knowledge is key when it comes to our health, and we are constantly being bombarded with the latest ‘good for you, bad for you foods’. There are so many conflicting studies on foods we may deem ‘healthy’, but the fact is it’s probably doing our body more harm than good. I have never spent so much time on PubMed in my life, which I don’t wish upon anyone because frankly, it makes your brain hurt! Probably one of the main reasons I’m not a Doctor. But I did it, and after weeks of research, I finally finished this post! Total bonus - you don’t have to do the research now. LUCKY YOU!

There are certain foods that can activate a low grade, but consistent, inflammatory response in the body. Let’s take a quick look at some of these common foods that destroy our superpower turning it into chronic inflammation.

Sugar:

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Added sugars are a significant proportion of the US diet today. Over the past 25 years, the average person’s sugar intake has gone from 123 to as many as 160 pounds a year. Crap that's a hella a lot of sugar! That’s more than 20 teaspoons of added sugar per person per day. These sugars like to hang out in processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, energy drinks, & pretty much anything that contains artificial ingredients. These added or excess sugars can stimulate inflammatory signals that can lead to inflammatory pathways in the body. The addictive nature of sugar is a vicious cycle. One of our body’s goals is to get glucose into our brain cells for brain function. But when we have inflammation in our body, it prevents the glucose from getting to those brain cells. The result? You end up craving more glucose, which makes you eat more sugary foods, which then increases the inflammation and starts this whole vicious cycle over again!

Saturated Fats:

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Saturated Fats can create, Adipose, which is a fat tissue inflammation.  Studies have proven that diets high in saturated fats can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, asthma, certain cancers, and more. The majority of Saturated fats we eat come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products like fatty beef, pork, butter, and cheese. It also can be found in fried foods and baked goods.

Trans fats:

Basically can be found in anything artificial or processed. Those dreaded words: “partially hydrogenated oils” is where you’ll find them. And just as a side note: On June 16, 2015, The FDA made a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food. YUCK. Trans fats are an immense contributor to systemic inflammation. Run. Run as far away from this crap as possible.

Refined Carbohydrates:

Refined carbohydrates encourages oxidative stress and high inflammatory markers contributing to inflammatory disease. Again, processed foods take the stage. Most refined carbs are processed and stripped of all fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When shopping for bread, rice, or flours, keep in mind that if its white, its void of any nutrients and full of empty calories. Also goes the same for pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars. These all have a high glycemic index, which leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar & insulin levels after eating. This can lead to overeating and a vicious cycle that leads to more sugar cravings.


Are we seeing a pattern here with Processed foods? All these foods listed above are not real, whole foods. Most of them are man-made, packed with artificial ingredients, preservatives, and colors.

Other groups of foods that can trigger chronic inflammation are those that cause ‘sensitivities’ or ‘allergies’ in people. These include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and nuts. If you suffer from health issues such as leaky gut, IBS, Celiacs, and Hashimoto's, (just to name a few) eating these foods can exasperate the already present low-grade inflammation that is common with these diseases.


Gluten:

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, & barley. These proteins can irritate our gut. They are like an annoying papercut or splinter, that just keeps digging into our gut lining, causing chronic inflammation. People who suffer from celiac disease, when they eat gluten it triggers a negative immune response, that damages the lining of the small intestine. This interferes with their bodies ability to absorb nutrients from food, causing a host of other symptoms leading to problems like osteoporosis, nerve damage, infertility, and seizures. However, eliminating gluten is not just for people with celiac disease. Because gluten affects our gut, it is wise for people who suffer from any type of gut issue to steer clear of it.

Dairy:

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There are many conflicting studies on dairy causing inflammation in the body. Why? Well, because it’s not the dairy itself that causes the inflammation. It’s what is in the dairy that doesn't agree with most populations digestive systems. The four main culprits are Lactose, Casein, hormones, and antibiotics. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and most dairy products. People with a lactose intolerance don’t produce the lactase enzyme, which is needed to break down the sugar. People who are not lactose intolerant, but still have trouble with dairy, are usually reacting poorly to the Casein, which is the protein found in milk. The immune system mistakes casein as something the body needs to fight off, which triggers an allergic reaction.

Now let’s talk about the hormones that are injected to most of the cattle in America. Dairy Farmers, in America, have been injecting cattle with genetically engineered bovine growth hormones to increase their milk production. This increase in milk production causes their udders to get a mastitis infection. Which then leads to the injections of antibiotics. These hormones and antibiotics, of course, make their way into the dairy products we consume. Interestingly enough, when I was doing the research for this blog post, I said to myself- well LED Light Therapy helps with Mastitis, why aren't dairy farmers approaching this holistically and using LT instead of nasty antibiotics?

Soy:

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The effect of Soy on the body is a more personal one for me. I couldn’t get pregnant because I had such an overabundance of inflammation in my body, due to my soy intake. It wasn’t just in the food I was eating, but also in the skin and makeup products, I was using on myself and others all day long. As a makeup artist for 20 plus years of my life, all those toxins were flooding my body, seeping through my skin, via my hands. Both soy and gluten, unfortunately, are in most of the cosmetics, hair care, and skin care companies out there. So here’s the thing with soy- it has high levels of phytoestrogens, which are compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Our Endocrine System does not produce this naturally, we can only consume or ingest them. Because it acts like a ‘false’ estrogen, it can disrupt the Endocrine System in both females and males. Phytoestrogens block and replace naturally produced estrogen which can cause, inflammation, infertility, premature menstruation, ‘man boobs’, and more. And PS- there are 78 alternative names for soy on ingredient listing labels, so beware!

Corn:

The protein found in corn can look like gluten and this can cause a gluten-like cellular immune response. The molecules in corn, like gluten, trick our body by imitating our body’s own tissues which contribute to autoimmunity. Here lies another major problem: as gluten-free diets are consistently on the rise, more and more gluten-free junk foods are coming into the marketplace. Much of these gluten-free foods are derived from genetically modified corn. Because corn is plentiful and cheap you will find them in almost all processed foods using corn derivatives such as corn syrup, corn oil, corn starch. When corn is refined, it spikes blood sugar, which leads increased insulin and inflammatory responses.

Nuts:

I have very mixed feelings about nuts. I personally love them, and yes, I eat them. But, if you suffer from digestive issues or have an inflammatory disease, I usually recommend that you stay away from them. For starters, they are a histamine-rich food. Histamine is a chemical we produce that is responsible for major functions like communicating messages from our body to our brain, a component to stomach acid- helping us break down our food, and is a part of our body’s immune response. When histamine levels get too high or cannot break down properly, it can cause inflammation. Another issue is the Omega-6 fatty acids. Even though nuts contain healthy anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, they also contain high pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. Again, striking a balance here is critical, eating too many nuts can cause increased inflammation. Lastly, because nuts are also high in phytic acid, it can impair the absorption of essential minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium, which can create mineral deficiencies in our body’s. Being deficient in such minerals can contribute to chronic inflammation. After discovering these nut facts, I’m reconsidering the elimination of nuts from my diet. But oh those nut butters...Why are they so good?!?!

Conclusion:

These foods can ignite inflammatory responses in your gut. When your body ingests these foods it can see them as foreign invaders, causing macrophages (a large white blood cell that that ingests foreign particles and infectious microorganisms) to attack them. It's as if a bomb has gone off in your digestive system creating a cascade of negative effects on your body. The result is inflammation in your bloodstream. And the more inflammation we have in our intestines, the more we allow toxins to enter our bloodstream. So, eating unhealthy foods is like battling a chronic infection that triggers our immune response, causing inflammation.

Learn more about how LED Light Therapy can reduce the inflammation caused by unhealthy diet.