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Natural Alternatives to treating inflammation

Why is inflammation so important?

Think of inflammation as the body's natural response to protect itself against harm. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.

According to a Harvard medical school report inflammation plays a crucial role in some of the major chronic diseases of our times, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and even Alzheimer. Scientific research has shown a big correlation between inflammation and these major diseases. Conventional medicine has done an amazing job in the treatment of all acute inflammation (which happens for example when you bang your knee or cut your finger. Your immune system dispatches an army of white blood cells to surround and protect the area, creating visible redness and swelling. The process works similarly if you have an infection like the flu or pneumonia. So, in these settings, inflammation is essential—without it, injuries could be major and simple infections could be deadly).

But when we talk about chronic inflammation, which happens when the body’s response lingers, leaving your body in a constant state of alert, it’s a more serious conversation. Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact on your tissues and organs, leading to chronic disease.

So, when we talk about chronic inflammation, the instruments used for intervention are more for the treatment of the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. The focus is very little on the patient itself and the connection of mind-body-soul. This is why I love functional medicine. Functional medicine looks at the root cause of the issues before treating the symptoms. But before we even get to any doctors, let’s take a look how can we shift our perspective to prevention.

How can we help the body in a holistic way?

The first step is preventing chronic inflammation as best as we can. The more informed we are about how we can do this, the more likely it is that we will include some if not all practices in our day to day lives.

The good news is that even if there is an existing chronic inflammation in the body, including the bellow described elements into your life, will help reduce and eventually possibly eliminate long-term discomfort.

Whether you choose to apply the following methods alongside the medications that you use or you are convinced that the healing comes from within, I recommend the following key elements as something that will help you and your body stay healthier and help it heal naturally.

1. Anti-inflammatory diet

An anti-inflammatory diet refers to a way of eating that is nutrient rich, whole foods based diet. It contains plenty of fiber, antioxidants, omega 3s, minerals and protein. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet means not only eating fruits and vegetables that are in the season, animal products that are unprocessed, raw milk products, but it also means an easy way of cooking your meals at home while maintaining the nutrient value of the foods as much as possible.

Wise choices that help reduce inflammation are:

  • Vegetables: 3-5 servings daily that include anything from cruciferous vegetables ( broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), green leafy vegetables ( salad, kale, spinach), beans, onions, root vegetables, beets, green beans, etc.

  • Fruit: 3-4 servings per day of low glycemic fruits like apples, berries, citrus fruit, plums, peaches, cherries, coconut, pear, pineapple, pomegranate.

  • Water: drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. Infuse your water with lemon and/or berries, cucumber or herbs if you do not like plain water.

  • Tea: it is an excellent way to add a natural anti-inflammatory drink to your diet. Teas like green tea, oolong or white tea are great choices.

  • Fresh green juice made from celery, cucumber, ginger, pineapple, spinach and lemon.

  • Beans and legumes: these are full of fiber and protein. Include 1-2 servings per day in the form of cooked beans (soaked overnight), lentils (soaked overnight), hummus.

  • Healthy fats: avocado, extra virgin unrefined olive oil, nuts and seeds. Avoid vegetable oils and margarines.

  • Herbs that can be fresh or dried, like cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, curry powder, basil. Sprinkle them on salads, include them in cooked meals or use them in dressings and marinades.

  • Animal protein: if you choose to eat animal protein, make sure you buy organic, pasture raised eggs, pasture raised and minimally processed meat, without antibiotics, nitrates or nitrites and raw milk products.

2. Anti-inflammatory supplements

  • Turmeric: this miracle root that contains curcumin, which has been proven to have a huge anti-inflammatory property, it is also packed with macro and micronutrients, fatty acids and amino acids. You can get it in the form of supplement, powder or fresh root. Enjoy a glass of turmeric milk a couple of nights each week before bed (recipe below)

  • Fatty acid and omega-3: these components are best found in wild caught fish. You can choose to purchase capsules containing EPA and DHA or you can buy fresh wild caught fish or canned fish on a regular basis. Follow this easy to remember acronym to make sure you include a variety in your diet: SMASH (Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon, Herring – all wild caught)

  • Antioxidants: include all the colors from nature in your diet (red, purple, black, green, orange) in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables to increase the natural antioxidants your body needs to reduce the oxidative stress and to eliminate toxins from your body.

  • Bromelain, found naturally in pineapple, it is an enzyme with a strong capacity to reduce inflammation. Consume a few cubes of fresh pineapple with every meal that includes meat.

3. Healthy habits

  • Physical exercise: movement is mandatory for the human body in order to function properly. Sedentary lifestyle has been proven to be pro inflammatory and is a strong and independent risk factor for many chronic diseases. Choose exercises that work for YOU, but make sure you move your body daily.

  • ·Yoga is a gentler way of exercise which includes deep breathing, that has a huge anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

  • ·Meditation. More and more studies come out that talk about the effects that meditation has on the overall health, because it reduces stress, which is a strong stimuli for inflammation. Meditation is not a spiritual practice, at it has been once believed, for many scientific studies prove the positive mind-body benefits that come with this practice. By including a daily meditation in your life, you highly increase your overall health. A meditation can be done silently before you wake up, before you go to bed or even while you take a walk. You can find tons of meditation practices online or on the Appstore. One of my favorite apps is Headspace

  • Deep breathing: this is also a practice that reduces inflammation because it calms the nervous system, and it takes the body from the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight mode) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) giving your cells a chance to rejuvenate and heal. Just like meditation practices, you can find breathwork practices on YouTube or on the Appstore. Check out the Wim Hof Method or Breathwrk.

Turmeric Latte Recipe

1½ cups of favorite nut milk

1 tsp dried turmeric

½ tsp dried ginger

½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon

1 tsp coconut oil

Pinch of black pepper (it helps with the absorption of the turmeric)

Pinch of Sea salt

Sweetener to taste ( raw honey or stevia)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, pour and serve.

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