A Brief Introduction to Inflammation
A brief introduction…
When most practitioners talk about “anti-inflammatory” they are generally referring to prescriptions that mask swelling such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. When functional medicine practitioners talk about anti-inflammatory we are referring to the foods and supplements that prevent the cause of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the beginning of all disease states whether acute or chronic. Obviously acute inflammation is necessary for the body to start repairing damage from some harm inflicted recently such as a sprained ankle or a cut finger. Chronic inflammation is what you never want your body to experience.
First, how do I know if I have chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation manifests itself in many different ways. The most common are:
- Joint swelling & tenderness
- Muscle aches (not muscle soreness from exercise)
- Abdominal pain & bloating
- Chronic headaches
- Constant fatigue
- Any autoimmune disorder
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you are experiencing chronic inflammation.
So I have chronic inflammation, what do I do now?
Step number one when working to combat chronic inflammation is to look at your diet. I firmly believe that “you are what you eat.” However, making healthy choices can be confusing. The media and the internet are filled with conflicting information on “eat this food…but don’t eat this food…no, it’s ok to eat this food in moderation.” So what’s a person to do? I’m going to make this relatively simple.
A simple summary of what to eat:
- Eat organic, grass-fed/free-range meats or wild-caught seafood/fish
- Eat organic produce (this includes all fruits and veggies)
What not to eat:
Avoid as much of these as possible:
- Grains of any type (yes, that means no bread)
- Sugar in any form (use Stevia instead)
- Artificial sweeteners (yes, pink ones, yellow ones & blue ones)
- Caffeinated beverages (substitute herbal teas or better yet, just drink water)
- Alcohol in excess
- All dairy (yes, cheese too)
- Eggs (food allergy testing can confirm if you must avoid these long-term)
If you have already progressed to an autoimmune disorder, then you need to be especially diligent in your eating habits and avoid everything on this list.
If you would like to get a firm answer on what exactly your food allergies & sensitivities are that are causing your chronic inflammation, see a practitioner that does testing. In my office, we use Alletess Food Allergy/Sensitivity testing. We welcome current patients to come in and request the test.
Focus on Curcumin
Once patients have begun to work on their diet to eliminate the foods that are perpetuating chronic inflammation, I look to one of my favorite supplements that can help reduce any remaining swelling & discomfort…Curcumin.
Curcumin is the active compound in Turmeric. It is yellowish in color and has been a part of Indian and Asian diets for centuries. Interestingly enough researchers began to notice that those countries had a much lower incidence of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Additional research has found that Curcumin plays a role in decreasing inflammation and protecting the body from inflammation.
I never recommend starting any supplement without speaking with your physician first. As with all medications your healthcare provider will make sure it will not interfere with any of your other medications. I also recommend that you consult a physician on what dosage of curcumin would be best for you.