Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves with or without our help. Inside us, Millions of microscopic cells spring into action the moment an illness or injury takes place. Break a bone and the mighty osteoblasts begin to knit new bone matter, cut yourself with a kitchen knife and neutrophils—some of the first blood cells to respond to infection—dash to the wound. These mighty soldiers are joined by macrophages, another white blood cell that actually feeds on harmful bacteria, virus, and fungi. This is to name just a few of the cells that join the fight in the healing process.
Unfortunately, sometimes our bodies get it wrong when they send these helpful cell warriors into battle. The result can be chronic inflammation. Simply put, inflammation is the body’s effort to self-protect against harmful conditions such as damaged cells or intruders such as irritants or pathogens. With chronic inflammation, the on-switch to the immune system gets stuck on high alert even when our bodies are not in imminent danger.
Dr. Axe, one of my favorite on-line reference sources, says, “When we look at the diseases that plague our society — arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — we see that long-term lifestyle changes are needed. What might not be as obvious is the common denominator tied to all of them and more: inflammation is at the root of most diseases. By addressing the inflammation with anti-inflammatory foods, not only can the symptoms of these diseases be alleviated, but we could even see them cured.”
Besides food, there are a number of ways to reduce inflammation-producing stress. In this column, we have explored ways in the past to reduce and disperse stress. The conclusion tends towards no silver bullet, but rather a personal decision on which lifestyle choices we keep or discard. Personal Trainer and writer for Prevention, Sarah Klein, identifies six common causes of inflammation—extra pounds, distressing relationships, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, birth control pills, and gut bacteria. The connections between these causal factors and chronic inflammation can be fascinating.
For example, Raymond Yung, professor and researcher on immune and inflammatory disease at the University of Michigan states, “As we get older, some of the cells in our fat tissue age, when they do, they promote inflammation.” And while tobacco is associated as a cause of lung cancer, some experts believe that constant, recurring inflammation caused by the smoke itself may be the reason cells mutate and lead to cancer. Joel Linden, PhD, a professor at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in California, describes these situations as”…the inflammatory response gone awry.” A glimmer of good news is that inflammation markers drop significantly within weeks of quitting smoking, according to a study published in Chest in 2009.
And, of course, there is a plethora of lists for anti-inflammatory foods you can scope out online. Besides those foods that make the ‘beneficial’ list for almost every good cause—green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts/seeds, and beans/lentils—other anti-inflammatory super foods you may want to add to your diet are: allium vegetables, acai fruit, sprouts, organic red wine, green/oolong/white tea, dark chocolate, beets, blue berries, pineapple, celery and bone broth. Advantageous spices include garlic, ginger, basil, chili peppers, cinnamon, curry powder, celery seed, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric. You may find that you already have a number of these foods in your pantry. While turmeric is a personal favorite, information indicates that it has interaction with medications that slow blood clotting. As always, do a little personal investigating to ensure you do not have medication interactions, even when adding natural substances to your diet.
Many nutritionists promote ‘eating the rainbow’. As you consider the many wonderful choices we have and the positive, immense variety of health results we get from these foods, you may find yourself agreeing with Dr. Axe that “food IS medicine.” I invite you to join us at the Sedona Community Center for a balanced, delicious lunch at the Center or delivered to your home. Come early and join an exercise or yoga class to work up an appetite! The Wiggle and Giggle Exercise Class will be discontinued through June/July and resume August 15th and the Sedona Women group will be leaving to resume September 6th. All other classes and events will continue as scheduled and newcomers are always welcome. A small $5 fee covers your participation in most classes. Check out our menu and calendar at www.sccsedona.org or visit us at 2615 Melody Lane.