Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Multi-faceted Approach to Wellness

Inflammation causes both acute and chronic diseases including allergies, obesity, dementia, periodontitisatherosclerosisrheumatoid arthritis, and even gallbladder carcinoma.1,2 The process of inflammation is a healthy part of the immune response. This is demonstrated by the swelling and redness that occurs after one’s skin has be cut. It helps to localize infection so that healing can begin. With dietary exposure to allergens, this inflammation become systemic.

Long-term exposure to undetected food allergens can leave one with a multitude of health problems. The body’s resources become depleted from an overactive immune response. Resulting nutritional deficiencies can lead to other health problems. Removing allergens from the diet is a key first step, but is not the entire solution. (Information on how to perform an Elimination Diet to detect food allergies/sensitivities.)

A multifaceted approach is essential to systemic reduce inflammation. This requires some lifestyle, as well as dietary, changes. Everyone who has a desire to attain optimal health and well-being can reach that goal by following a few simple principles.

Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into the diet. These foods include shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and olive oil. Recipes like Potato Mushroom Casserole make a meal of these ingredients.  Other great anti-inflammatory foods include wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, blueberries, cherries, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower,) dark leafy greens, kelp, and papaya. In addition, herbs can be a great asset. Try adding a bit of turmeric, thyme, clove, fennel, garlic, or ginger to recipes. Teas, including lavender, chamomile, licorice root, orange peel, and green tea, can help as well. Processed and pre-packaged foods, especially those which contain sugar and flour, cause inflammation and should be avoided.

It is important, when available, to purchase organic foods. Non-organic produce and animal feeds may be sprayed with petroleum-based pesticides. These pesticides can further be a source of inflammation in the digestive system as a foreign non-nourishing substance. All produce, whether organic or not, should be washed before use.

Consume a diet rich in alkaline pH-reducing foods. Lowering tissue pH is a generally accepted mechanism for quelling inflammation.3 The Natural Way’s website provides a chart of alkalizing and acid forming foods. Make sure that 70-75% of daily calories come from foods that alkaline in nature.

Minerals are also beneficial for tissue pH balancing. They occur naturally in fresh whole foods and sea salt.  This type of salt should be used to season food instead of acid-forming table salt. Trace mineral supplements, like Concentrace, can be added to water. Both are naturally allergen-free.

Use anti-inflammatory remedies. Taking a baby aspirin (80mg dose) daily has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by quelling inflammation4. Essential oils, such as Birch and Wintergreen, have the same component as aspirin. Oils of Thyme, Rose, Clove, Eucalyptus, Bergamot, and Fennel fight inflammation.5 Essential oils should be applied externally, using only a few drops.

Integrate light movement and breathing into an exercise plan. Gentle forms of exercise, such as walking, yoga, and tai chi, help relieve inflammation. This benefit is not found in strenuous forms of exercise. Dr. Mark Hyman, who has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show as an expert in Functional Medicine promotes yoga, meditation, and deep breathing to lower inflammation.

Clean with natural products to reduce exposures to toxins which can stimulate the immune response and spark inflammation. Seventh Generation, as well as Mrs. Meyers, make a variety of household cleaning products made with natural ingredients. You can even make your own using common household ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar, water and peroxide. Good Housekeeping’s The Daily Green has formulas and other tips for green living.

Incorporating these principles into one's lifestyle separately is a smart way to get started . Changing behaviors with a clear goal of optimal well-being can promote lasting changes for long-lasting health.

Eat well and be well,

3 Evaluation of pH changes in inflammation of the subcutaneous air pouch lining in the rat, induced by carrageenan, dextran and Staphylococcus aureus. Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine, January 1987; 16(1):36-44, A Punnia-Moorthy
4 Clinical Use of Aspirin in Treatment and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Thrombosis, October 2011