Saturday, July 12, 2014

InflammationWhat Food Choices Fuel It and What Helps Quell it

Young woman buyinig produce in a marketOne autumn in a burst of nostalgia, I prepared a casserole of stuffed bell peppers.  It evoked my family of origin.  We had always grown the peppers in our gardens and had enjoyed the baked form as the weather cooled.  Then, when my 50+ year old shoulder joints shortly thereafter began to seriously ache as never before, I realized that I was indeed sensitive to this form of nightshade plant!  It was a powerful, if uninvited, lesson.

If you suffer from arthritis, a cardiovascular disorder, cancer, an autoimmune disorder or any other of the numerous diseases that result from inflammation, consider what you eatTake more control of your health.  You will feel better when you make informed food choices. 

In a nutshell, what many of us are accustomed to eating aggravates inflammation.   This includes fast and highly processed foods as well as “home-cooked” items that involve unhealthy fats and oils.  It also covers low-fat diets that can have large amounts of refined carbohydrates.

Here’s a table summary of general dietary influences on inflammation.

It is based upon the work of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD
in Anticancer:  A New Way of Life.

Aggravates Inflammation
Reduces Inflammation
Chemical food additives:  sulfites, benzoic acid, parabens, antioxidants (e.g., BHA or BHT), NutraSweet, Splenda, Sweet One, MSG, food coloring, and nitrites
Whole foods only—no preservatives or other chemicals
Refined sugars, including alcohol (especially hard liquor & more than 10 oz./day of red wine with a meal),  and white flour
Organic whole grains, for example, brown rice, quinoa or millet
Red meat from industrially raised animals
Legumes or high omega-3 fish as protein sources.  At most 3x/week:  organic red meat from animals fed grass or flax meal
Oils rich in omega-6 (corn, sunflower, safflower, & soy), margarines and trans fats.
Olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil
Dairy products from industrially raised livestock
Organic dairy products from animals fed grass or flax meal
Eggs from industrially raised hens fed corn & soybeans
Organic eggs from hens raised with extended time outdoors

Here are more details of an anti-inflammatory diet, taken from Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.’s suggestions:
  • Vegetablesminimum of 4-5/day, raw and cooked, of all colors. Artichokes, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, parsley and zucchini are especially good anti-inflammatory vegetables.
  • Fruits3-4/day, fresh in season or frozen.Eat brightly colored fruits like cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
  • Beans and other Legumes1-2/day
  • Healthy FatsThis includes extra virgin olive oil, nuts (especially walnuts), avocados, and seeds (including hemp and freshly ground flax). The amount of fat varies according to preference and health needs.
  • Fish and Seafood that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids2-6/week, for example, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines
  • Soy foodsno more than 1/day. This includes tofu, tempeh and soymilk.  Tempeh has the advantage of being fermented.
  • Cooked Asian Mushroomsno more than 1 serving/day
  • Healthy Herbs and Spicesraw ginger, garlic, turmeric, and cinnamon in unlimited amounts.
  • Tea1-4 cups per day of green, white or oolong
  • Plain dark chocolatesparingly and without dairy, which cancels cocoa’s benefits. Rather than add sugar, an inflammatory substance, to some organic cocoa, try stevia as a sweetener.
  • Red Wineoptional and no more than 1-2 glasses/day
Some people can also handle:
  • Grains1-2/day, only ungroundConsider wheat- and gluten-free, such as whole grain brown rice, quinoa and millet.
  • Pasta (al dente)2-3/weekConsider wheat- and gluten-free.
Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist and author of the best-selling book, Wheat Belly, talks about these drawbacks of modern wheat:
  • It includes a protein that stimulates appetite and thereby contributes to obesity. 
  • Modern wheat germ is very different from ancient strains.  It is largely responsible for many of the pervasive, and difficult-to-diagnose, ill effects of wheat.  It is most highly concentrated in whole wheat, including sprouted wheat.
Whenever possible, eat organic foods and not genetically modified food, for example, any soy or corn that is not organic.  You want to avoid herbicides and insecticides.
These days, many people are sensitive to the following foods and benefit from avoiding them:

Try avoiding all of these for at least two weeks and observe how your body reacts.  If you like, gradually re-introduce one of them at a time.  Wait at least one week between each re-introduction to you see how you feel with each specific change.

If you have rheumatoid symptoms, also try eliminating nightshade vegetables.  These are white potatoes, tomatoes, peppers except black pepper, and eggplant.  Tobacco is also a nightshade.  Commercial curry powders have hot pepper in them; make your own without hot peppers if you want curry.

Consider the vitamin D complex to reduce inflammation and enhance bone health. It has much more than an isolated vitamin D2 or D3, with hundreds of variations that work in a synergistic manner. 

The omega oils with odd numbers are a family of inflammation-cooling and heart-protecting oils.  They include:

  • DHA omega-3, found in fatty fish like salmon and ocean trout or in high quality cod liver oil (CLO).  One of the few sources of fermented CLO appears to be Green Pasture’s Blue Ice. 
  • ALA omega-3, found in walnuts, avocado, flaxseed, canola oil and chia seeds
  • Omega-5, found in pomegranate seeds
  • Omega-7, found in macadamia nuts
  • Omega-9, found in olive oil
Cook with stainless steel, glass or cast iron containers. Do not use aluminum pots and pans.  Flaking Teflon-covered pots and pans are suspect.

Do not consume foods or liquids that have been in contact with hot plastics, for example, microwave plastic bowls or plastic mugs. 

If we consider what we eat, how it is prepared, and how these two aspects affect our overall well-being, we can better appreciate and enjoy healthy food.  This is the real way to think about “Comfort Food” when making food choices.

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions