By Dr. Colin Huska, ND
From a naturopathic medical perspective, inflammation is a bit of a double edged sword. In an acute situation, inflammation is quite beneficial in supporting the healing of damaged tissues. However, if the situation is chronic, inflammation becomes more of an ominous issue. As such, advice usually revolves around controlling or limiting chronic inflammation. In doing this our intention is to halt the onset of chronic disease (many of which have inflammation as a contributing factor) and/or limit any current inflammatory processes. As with any good plan it is important to start with a solid dietary foundation:
There are many different perspectives on what constitutes a good anti-inflammatory diet. Of the many pieces of advice that could be offered, I will highlight only three here. First is to avoid sugar. This is not likely to be much of a surprise, but it is very important to remember. Many individuals who suffer from chronic inflammation notice a positive change when they limit their sugar intake. Second, avoid red meats (beef in particular) and pork. While meat in general can increase inflammation, these two in particular are significant culprits. As we metabolize meats, the molecular products feed directly into the inflammatory pathways of the body. Finally, emphasize foods that will alkalinize the system. The easiest way to do this is to ensure plenty of fruits and vegetables, but in particular the latter. Dark green leafy vegetables (like kale, collards, beet greens, dandelion, chard, etc.) help to move the body chemistry toward a more alkaline (basic) state, thereby combating inflammatory processes.
Herbs are also invaluable in helping to cope with inflammation. There are two, among many, that I will mention here as they are more culinary. Turmeric (Curcumin) is a wonderful herb and works directly on the inflammatory pathways of the body. It is difficult to consume adequate amounts in the diet, so it is often offered as a supplement. That said, every little bit helps! The other culinary herb is ginger. Ginger, while not quite as potent as turmeric, is also a great anti-inflammatory food. Incorporate it into stir-fries, sauces, salads or have a nice fresh ginger tea
Our final note is on the importance of omega three fatty acids. There is good reason for their exploding popularity. The list of benefits gained from consuming fish oil is very long, but for our purposes here we are highlighting its anti-inflammatory properties. The component of fish oil that we are particularly interested in is the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which promotes the formation of anti-inflammatory molecules in the body. This can be gained through the consumption of deep, cold water fish, but to get into a therapeutic dose range, a good quality supplement is often recommended.
The inflammatory pathways of the body are particularly complicated, as are the interactions with our dietary consumption of different foods. There are a litany of different products, substances and ideas around decreasing inflammatory pathways in the body. The challenge is determining the best type and strategy for coping with chronic inflammation, thereby preventing disease and promoting optimal health.
Dr. Colin Huska is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine at Sage Elements. Check out his website at www.sageelements.ca for more information.
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