Listen to Your Body, Eat Well
As a holistic chiropractor, I often see patients dealing with a myriad of chronic issues: gastritis, migraines, eczema, colitis, joint pain, neck and back pain, thyroid insufficiency, fatigue, high blood pressure and asthma. At the root of many of these disease states is chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the body's natural response to injury or infection (the sending of immune cells to affected areas) never "shuts off."
Several foods are known to create inflammation in the body. Tomatoes and potatoes, wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, sugar and alcohol are some of the more common foods that act as "irritants" to the body, relentlessly triggering it to create inflammation.
However, chronic inflammation is as much about lifestyle as it is about nutrition. When our systems are overburdened to the point where they are giving us symptoms, it's a good time to stop and listen, and take stock of habits that may be contributing to our inflammatory state. These habits may include:
- Staying up surfing the internet rather than sleeping
- Pushing to meet a deadline rather than taking time for self-nurturing
- Opting for fast foods/frozen meals (GMO/preservative-laden) over fresh home-cooked "slow foods."
Tips for reducing chronic inflammation1. Optimize the function of your digestive and immune systems by decreasing chemical and emotional stressors, and by getting your spine aligned and nervous system balanced regularly. 2. Get tested by your holistic practitioner to create an anti-inflammatory diet specific to your needs. 3. Create your own anti-inflammatory food cleanse. Try it out for 30 days. And if you feel great, do it for longer! The regime below is adapted from Dr. K's Autoimmune Hypothyroidism Diet. You can also find Autoimmune, FODMAPS and Low-Histamine Paleo shopping lists here.
- Eat organic vegetables, excluding nightshades. At least 1/2 of your plate should be vegetables. Substitute grains for nutrient dense tubers and squashes. For those with digestive problems, eat proteins with veggies OR starches with veggies - sometimes it's hard to digest proteins together with starches. Eat only cooked foods. Nutrients from cooked vegetables are better absorbed than raw; raw vegetables are good for roughage.
- Add fermented foods (for their probiotic content): kimchi, poi, pickled ginger/radish/green papaya, fermented cucumbers, sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, etc. Opt for kefir. If you have adrenal issues, avoid kombucha due to caffeine content.
- Seek organic or hormone-free/antibiotic free proteins: including low mercury fish, chicken, lamb, turkey, duck. A daily serving is about the size of the palm of your hand. Pea protein may be a good vegan option. Those digestively compromised might opt for simple meals with only one protein and one type of cooked vegetable. Breathe deeply and relax prior to eating; and drink ginger or dandelion root tea until your digestion improves.
- Snack on organic fruits in moderation, limit to 1 serving a day at least 30 minutes before meals. For those dealing with candida/yeast imbalance symptoms, try reducing to 1 serving of fruit a week and increase by one serving each week until you reach maximum 1 serving a day. Although many tout the benefits of drinking water with lemon, citrus has shown up as a problematic food for some patients. Tart apples, berries, guavas, cherries are good. Smaller servings of mango, soursop, papaya, pears, peaches, plums, lychees, rambutan, pineapple or star fruit can be enjoyed as well.
- Snack on nuts (if tolerated) and seeds, especially roasted almond butter, sunflower butter or tahini, and avocados. Avoid peanuts. If you need help with elimination, drink soaked chia seeds (1-2 tsp), add tahini to you dishes, or try psyllium husks.
- Use quality organic cold-pressed oils: cook with coconut oil and avocado oil. Lightly cook or dress with olive oil, macadamia nut oil, sesame oil. Keep these oils in a cool, dark place to prevent rancidity. Change it up to benefit from the variety of omega 3/6/9 ratios that each of these oils offer.
- Enjoy antioxidant/anti-inflammatory herbs and spices in dishes and as teas, such as ginger, cinnamon, basil, fennel, cardamom, licorice, cilantro, coriander, cumin, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, nettles, tulsi, lavender, rooibos, and tumeric. Refresh your spice cabinet to maximize potency. Don't wave your spice bottle over a steaming pot otherwise it will spoil.
- Make your own veggie soup purees, organic miso soup, and bone broths.
- Use high quality Himalayan, Celtic or Real salt. Choose chips and snacks with sea salt and avoid vegetable (soy) /corn/cottonseed and partially hydrogenated oils.
- Drink spring water or filtered water. Have 8-10 cups per day. Minimize or omit alcohol, caffeine (even decaf), and avoid soda. 3-6 oz of mineral water may also be helpful.