There has been a LOT of information presented in this series, and there is so much more that was left out. I wish we had more time to discuss many of the topics more in depth. I tried to pick those that were the important basics. A place to start the processes of illuminating inflammation in the body.
My goal in this series was not only to educate you on how food can change your inflammatory pathways (good and bad), but to also give you the information to encourage you to make the change. Lastly, my goal is to give you the tools you need to take charge of your own health. The knowledge into HOW to make these changes, and make them last.
Today, I want to bring it all together with some tips to help you implement and make this a lifestyle, not a diet.
Healthy Food Choices Start at the Grocery Store
Trust me, I am well aware that healthy groceries are expensive. But so are the medications that are keeping your inflammation "under control." Why not take all the money that are or would spend on medical expenses and roll that into healthy food to PREVENT the need for expensive medical treatments. Sure, there are conditions that will inevitably need medical intervention (I am not naive of this), but there are so many that you can prevent with healthy diet.
I have often considered doing an article series called "Shopping with Sarah." A Series that would follow my weekly grocery trips and I would show you the product I buy and explain how I choose them…Would love feedback on this idea!!! For now, let me give you a couple of quick tips for how to navigate the grocery isles.
Stay Close to the Perimeter
Most of the whole foods are on the outer aisles of the store. Produce, Meats, Dairy, etc… I always start in the produce section. I look, not only for what I use on a normal basis (Lemons, Limes, Apples, Cabbages), but for what is on sale. Remember, typically items that are on sale are also in season. I do not meal plan in advance, I meal plan based on the produce I see. (and what is in my garden….more later).
My next stop is the meat department. Again, I have my go to's and brands that I like. I look for those first, and if they are on sale….bonus! I do not shop at Whole Foods, I shop at my local Kroger, most of the time. So, I know there is a pile of poor quality brands to wade through. Look for the best quality meats that are available in your store. You'll save the most money buying in bulk, or whole animals (like whole chickens) and learning to butcher and freeze.
My next perimeter stop is the dairy department. Eggs are not dairy…why this is a confusion, I do not know. Eggs are eggs, dairy is anything made from milk. Look for the best dairy available. If it is available, choose grass-fed and cream top. If this is not available, look for products that are hormone free. ALWAYS choose full-fat, seriously people, stop choosing skim and 2%, you are not doing yourself any favors. ALWAYS choose a grass-fed Butter! If you want the nutritional benefits of food, you have to pay for quality. KerryGold is a good brand, that is found in quite a few stores these days (Costco sells it, as does Kroger and Safeway…but it's not in the butter section, it's in the gourmet cheese sections) When I choose eggs, I look for pasture raised. I want my chickens eating bugs, vegetarian feed is not natural for chickens, and the quality shows it.
Frozen section is the next section in my store. I do stock up on organic frozen veggies when they are on sell. Like Broccoli. It is nice to have some on hand for a super quick add in for soups. Remember we talked about frozen being the next best thing to fresh, seasonal, local. It is picked at the peak and frozen quickly, giving the best nutrition. If your fresh produce is looking really underripe, or sad, go for frozen.
Into the Aisles, Pick Whole
I love bulk sections, where you can see the products and pick your own quantity. Caution with bulk nuts is that they go rancid quickly, and can mold easily. Be smart, and look closely. If you do not have a bulk section, bagged is just fine. Just look for raw and/or sprouted. Kroger now carries it's own brand of organic sprouted rice, quinoa and other grains.
Remember to read labels. Just because it says natural or organic doesn't mean it is the healthier option. I will often pick the cheaper option because it has less ingredients. I really dislike Carrageenan, so avoid it like the plague, and it is found in many different organic products.
Avoid the Junk
If it doesn't end up in your cart, you can't take it home. If it doesn't come home, you can't eat it. Things like chips, cookies, sodas, etc… just don't buy them. If I am going to have a cookie, I make them. This is a great way to limit the amount you have. When you are making them from scratch all the time, you are less likely to sit and eat a box every day. It take time, effort, and you have a sense of pride attached. You savor them a bit more. (Except when you are pregnant and eating a batch of brownies a week…hangs head in shame, again.)
I have a strict rule about anything that is trying to sell me with cartoons, shows, and celebrities. They are trying hard for a reason. Their product isn't that good.
Avoid "Fortified" Foods
Really this is means it had all the nutrition stripped out of it in processing, and now they need to add it back in with synthetic vitamins.
Find a Farmer's Market or CSA
Want to get the healthiest, freshest produce and meats in your area? Find a Farmer's Market. Make it a family fun event. (They are fun), and go see what grows in your area.
In Colorado, we have a number of different CSA options. In other states, you will need to look and see if this is an option. A CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture), is basically buying a share of the produce and products grown on a farm. We've joined some in the past, and you have a pickup location once a week. It's like a surprise basket. You get your share, and it is full of what was harvested that day. It is in season, it is picked fresh, and it is really never the same. This is fun, and a great way to be introduced to new produce. Like Kohlrabi! Looking for a CSA in your area? Visit this website and search. Many offer different products, some offer meats, fruits, mushrooms, eggs and dairy as well.
Start a Garden
Do you have a backyard? Then you have plenty of space for a couple of garden beds. I have a very small yard, borderline patio home, and I am quite capable of growing enough vegetables for my family for summer, and some to store for the winter. Each year I learn a bit more and grown a bit better.
If you want, start simple. Think of the vegetables that you eat the most of. Look at the price for organic. Look at the price for seeds. Are the vegetables you consume high producers? Grow them! In my garden I grew a huge variety. I have learned my spring/summer/fall crops and rotate in my gardens for the largest yield and most variety.
My 4/8 garden produces 2 rounds of radishes, 2 rounds of beets, 1 round of kohlrabi, 2+ rounds of lettuce and arugula, as well as vegetables that produce all season; chard, kale, zucchini, and okra.
My 2/3 garden is home to my corn and bush beans.
I have 4 pots with tomatoes and hot peppers.
More pots with herbs; rosemary, stevia
Another pot with Rapini (broccoli rabe)
In my landscaping I have perennial sage, thyme, oregano, mint, strawberries, and chives.
New this year: another 2x 2/3 gardens yet to be planted.
Growing your own vegetables not only cuts your grocery bill, but you cannot get fresher or healthier than homegrown organic vegetables! They honestly taste so much better as well. A homegrown tomato is so much sweeter than a store bought tomato that was picked green and ripened in a warehouse.
This is also really fun, rewarding and encouraging for children. A large portion of my vegetables never make it to the table. My kids love to eat them while they play outside. I have NO PROBLEM with that. They are learning to love fresh vegetables that taste like vegetables, not ranch covered cauliflower that only tastes like preservative filled ranch dressing. Get them involved, let them have their own garden space. My girls each have their own strawberry patch.
Making Healthy Diet Changes Should Include the Entire Family
Research shows that family support improves dietary change success. If only one person in your household is suffering from chronic inflammation or autoimmune disease (that you know of), use this as a stepping stone to helping the entire family.
Poor diet is not an immediate effects. Often times the repercussions arise years down the road. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and thus should include the entire family. Especially if you have children.
It is very sad to me, the number of children with hormone, inflammation, immune, and weight dysfunctions. This starts at home. This starts with parents. As parents you are shaping your child's diet, and future health. It is your responsibility to make sure your children are given healthy foods. Gatorade and Doritos are not healthy, and should not be in the regular diet of a child. Is you child a picky eater? Maybe a little tough love is in order. A child will not starve themselves. If they are only given healthy options, they will eventually eat those healthy options. For those of you who did not follow my Lunchbox Series, and you have children, I recommend looking through it. If you need you will remember that my story of my two children and how very different they are in their eating habits. When I look back, I am 100% sure it was because of our parenting, and our differences in feeding our children when they were young. Palate beings in the womb (my brownie child is my worse eater…she loves brownies!) A fetus has more tastebuds at 6 months gestation than they do when they are born, and then number is reduced as they wean. Why? So they can develop a palate for the foods the mother consumes.
As a family, you support one another. To make a lifestyle change, everyone needs to be willing to commit. There will be times that it is hard. Family will be support, encouragement, and accountability.
How to Make it a Family Affair
Cook and Prepare Your Own Meals to Control Ingredients
So, you've probably noticed that there is a lot of cooking involved. For some this is not problem. For most (what I find in my office) this is daunting, and enough to derail your efforts. Start small, and start simple. Cooking your own meals should not be scary or frustrating, it should be fun and rewarding.
Many of the meals that I made these past weeks are quick. I typically get home from my day of work and kids activities around 5:45/6:00, and want to have my family fed by 6:30. That is not enough time to cook big and elaborate. I need simple weekday meals.
Navigating the Healthiest Options at Restaurants
Let's all be honest with each other. We are going to eat out! You cannot eat every meal at home for the rest of your life. It's not realistic. I love eating out. It is nice to get a break, especially on busy weeknights. Eating out can be hard though. Often restaurant food is full of added sugars, MSG, and other contaminants.
Get outside Support
If you need extra support, guidance, or help, an outside support person may be what you need. There are many options.
A diet and lifestyle coach is a professional trained to offer nutritional and lifestyle education and advice. These coaches are your partner through the process. They help answer questions, develop realistic meal plans, help with shopping, and keep you accountable.
This is one the services that I offer. We can do in office, and phone coaching. This gives you access to all of the above in a more specific and individualized set up. I not only guide and coach you along the way, but offer access to quality supplements if needed, shipped directly to your home.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is another way of looking at the body. Acupuncture is a modality of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture involves the placement of hair thin needles into the body to stimulate biochemical reactions that promote homeostasis in the body.
Much research has been done to understand the reactions that occur during the placement of these needles into specific points. Many have anti inflammatory and pain reducing actions. Others help to regulate the immune system and hormone production.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine may be a good option to help you treat the underlying imbalance and speed the healing process beginning with dietary changes.
Functional Medicine is the application of natural healing and nutrition in cases of disease. This is another way of looking at the body. Applying what we know about biochemical connections and treating the entire body, not just the symptoms.
Functional Medicine practitioner combine the best of Western Medicine practices with alternative medicine and nutrition.
Breakfast #10: Coconut Banana Barley
I had some leftover cooked barley, so make this yummy breakfast porridge.
1 cup cooked barley
1/2 TBSP Grass-fed butter
1 cup Coconut Milk
1 VERY Ripe Banana
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
In a sauce pot, smash banana (my tip is to freeze and defrost. This makes them sweeter and juicier). Add in coconut milk and butter, milk butter. Add in cooked barley and cinnamon. Cook until thickened. Adding more coconut milk to desired consistency.
Lunch #10: Lunch Out - Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps; Jasmine Green Tea
Today was bring your daughter to work day, well at least for me. She is actually a big help. We snuck away for a mother - daughter lunch. Her pick was a Japanese place next to my office. She has shrimp rolls, and I had chicken lettuce wraps.
Dinner #10: Baked Oregano Chicken; Tabbouleh Inspired Green Salad
We've been picking salad greens and radishes from the garden for the last couple of weeks. Man they are good.
Preheat oven to 350
In a cast iron skillet, heat oil and add garlic. In a bowl season chicken generously with salt and pepper and roll in oregano. Add to skillet skin side down and cook on the stove over medium heat until skin is browned. Once browned, flip and move to oven. Cook 30 minutes, or until cooked through and skin is crisp.
Made 6 servings
Food Allergies and Environmental Toxins May Be Causing Your Autoimmune Inflammation + Day 9 Menu Plan
I did not add food allergies into my original set of principles. Mostly because I believe that before you address this, you need to clean up your existing diet. These changes are meant to be lifelong, not a fad. In order to do so, and remain committed, it is important to take baby steps.
For many of you, the principles I have listed are things that you have already started to do. It is time, then, for you to take the next steps.
Food Allergies are Real and May Be Causing Your Autoimmune Inflammation
There are many skeptics of food allergies. I do agree than many of them have been over dramatized. Not everyone who has a disease is Gluten and Dairy Sensitive! But food allergies are REAL! Even though you do not have food allergies in the sense of anaphylaxis, you can still have different immune reactions to the food we eat.
These immune reactions, if constant, produce in an increased or hyper immune inflammatory response. Food allergies are associated more so with autoimmune based inflammatory conditions because of this hyper stimulation of the immune system.
There are many theories as to why our bodies react to certain foods as foreign and stimulate immune functions to attack.
There a couple of different blood tests available to test for food immune responses. If you have an autoimmune disease: Hoshimoto's, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac's, Asthma, Psoriasis, Addison's Disease, Grave's Disease, etc... I recommend getting food allergy testing.
How Do Food Allergies Cause Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune Disease is, in short, a runaway immune system. The immune system has been stimulated to attack and is in a constant inflammatory cycle. The initial cause of the hyper immune stimulation can be a number of triggers: Allergens, Infections, Toxins, or Stress. In any case, the stimulation is constant. The immune system becomes hyper aware, and begins to response to particles that it would normal not response to, like our own tissues.
What are the Different Immune Responses with Food Allergies
A food allergy is a hyper immune response to the foods that we eat. Most of us think of the immediate anaphylactic reactions associated with peanut allergies. But, many with food allergies DON'T EVEN KNOW THEY HAVE THEM, or confuse them with environmental allergies, there are several different immune response pathways that can be activated in food allergies.
Autoimmune Diseases are now the 8th leading cause of death among women. Many of the medications used to treat autoimmune diseases have a laundry list of health problems associated with them. Rarely is diet discussed. Both IgE and IgG responses can be tested.
There are many other tests that you can and should do if you have an autoimmune disease (we will have to do an entire blog series on autoimmune disease I have a feeling).
Environmental Toxins; Another Cause of Inflammation
Our bodies are constantly bombarded with environmental toxins. From the pesticide used in growing our food. Hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Heavy metals and chemicals in our water system. Even preservatives and plastics in our packaged foods. All of these have an impact on our body.
Pesticides and Inflammation:
The studies on pesticide exposure and disease is limited, but there have been connection found.
Pesticides are foreign. Our body's are not accustom to these chemicals. Constant exposure could cause the body to react to these chemicals as an invader. If the exposure is constant, the immune reaction could become worse. Causing a hyper immune response that then become sensitive to other cells, attacking them and causing inflammation and damage.
Environmental Hormones and Inflammation:
Endocrine mimickers and disruptors are all around us, even in our foods. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that change our body's natural hormone production.
Any imbalance in the body's natural hormonal functions can lead to increases in inflammatory hormones, decreases in regulatory hormones, excessive weight gain, insulin resistance, hypothyroid disease, etc...
Constant Low-Grade Antibiotic Use is Destroying our Gut Flora and Increasing Autoimmune Inflammation:
We've talked about how important our digestive flora (bacteria) is for our overall immune and inflammatory reactions, as well as the availability of nutrients. The constant use of antibacterial soaps, cleaners, and antibiotics in the meat we eat are slowing killing our probiotics. Many studies link this constant barrage with an increase in autoimmune inflammation and allergies.
Chemicals in our Water Deplete our Bodies of Essential Nutrients and Increase Inflammation:
Fluoride and Chlorine are common additives in our water system. To some extent they serve a purpose. We are huge communities and our water is contaminated with bacteria and other foreign contaminants. But the use is high, and these chemicals can cause a depletion in vitamins and minerals. Specifically Vitamin E.
Fluoride is found in most water systems in the US, as well as toothpaste. It is added to prevent tooth decay. This is actually quite controversial, and more evidence points to it having NO effect on the prevention of dental cavities. Fluoride is toxic in high amounts.
Chlorine in the water system is used to clean out the bacteria, and other contaminents in the water system. It does serve a purpose, to keep us from getting life threatening reactions. But there are some risks.
Preservatives in our Packaged Goods Aggravate and Cause Inflammatory Reactions:
Many of the chemicals used in our food supply are essential plastics (BPA, Pthalates, etc…) These are all endocrine disruptors, and mess with our nature hormonal balance, regulation and production.
Other chemicals are used as preservatives, to keep our food fresher longer. You are paying for the longer shelf life. Some of these preservatives are endocrine disruptors too. Other still, directly increase inflammatory responses and disrupt our immune system.
Carrageenan is found in just about everything. From Almond milk, to granola bars, to salad dressings…seriously look for this. Even organic and so called healthy foods use Carrageenan.
Carrageenan is used as a thickener, and is a polysaccharide extracted from red seaweed. You would like to think that because it is extracted from a seaweed source, it should be safe. This is, again, why I feel that extracting things from their natural sources is a bad idea. Isolating compounds removes them from other compounds that can help to reduce and balance their effects, good and bad.
The list of preservatives go on and on. I though I should highlight Carrageenan because I see it in everything, and especially in natural and organic products. For a full list of preservatives and their reactions within the body, click here.
A short list of food additives to avoid:
Artificial and Natural Flavors
Partially and Fully Hydrogenated Oils
Sodium based preservatives (Benzoates, Nitrates, Nitrites)
Breakfast #9: Bananas with Coconut Milk, Cinnamon and Hemp Seeds; Hard Boiled Eggs
This is a perfect example of keeping it simple. Breakfast doesn't have to be elaborate, or fancy. Hard boiled eggs are great to have around and are easy to slice and eat. This banana bowl takes 2 minutes to make.
A couple of random nutritional facts on the popular banana.
Pick bananas that are midway ripened for the best of both worlds.
For Banana Bowl
1 Banana, sliced
1/4 cup Coconut Milk
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Hemp Seeds (or other seed/nut)
Lunch #9: Homemade Protein Box; Apple Cinnamon Vitamin Water
Many coffee shops and restaurants have protein boxes that you can get…my problem with these is that they are often still full of sugars and simple carbohydrates. Peanut butters with added sugar, high protein breads, pretzels, etc…not what you are really needing in a protein box. I like to make my own (using my kids lunch box..shhhhhhh…I should probably get my own bento box).
For Protein Box
Dinner #9: Mini Meatloaf; Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Strawberry, Walnut, Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Dressing
My family LOVES my meatloaf. It is packed with a bunch of veggies, and not bread crumbs (yes it can be done). During the week, I usually do not have time to cook an meatloaf in the oven for an hour or longer before we eat. My trick, make them mini! Make mini meatloaves in a muffin tin. They cook in no time, and are individually sized.
Mina's Favorite Meatloaf
In a bowl mix Ground Meat, Spinach, Carrots, Onion, Eggs, Garlic, and season with Salt and Pepper. In a loaf pan or cupcake pan, add meat mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix Tomato Paste, Dijon, Vinegar and Italian Seasoning. Evenly coat meatloaves.
Cook at 350 until bubbly, 20 minutes for minis, or 1 hour+ for loaf.
Super Simple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 pound Sweet Potatoes, diced
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBSP Grass-Fed Butter
In a pot add diced potatoes and salt, cover with water and boil until the potatoes are soft. Drain. In the same pot, add the butter, and with a masher or fork, mash the sweet potatoes and butter together. Done!
Sweet Potatoes are sweet on there own. If you do not find them sweet, you are addictive to and have a strong sugar tolerance. You should be able to eat a sweet potato without added sugar and think it is sweet enough.
I have talked about fat soluble vitamins many times in previous posts. Please take a look at these, as there is information in them that I will not repeat here.
Kids Lunchbox - Importance of Fat Soluble Vitamins
Fat Soluble Vitamins and the Epidemic of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Today we will take this and build, looking deeper into their specific role in pain and inflammatory conditions.
What are Fat Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins are divided into two categories; water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Water soluble vitamins are those that only need water to be absorbed into the body. Fat soluble vitamins need to be bound with a fat to be absorbed. These vitamins need to be consumed daily.
Water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and excess is secreted through the urine. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fats and tissues of the body. These vitamins do not need to be consumed daily, if there is adequate amounts consumed at other times. The body will store excess for times of deficiency.
The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.
These vitamins are important for many of our organ and endocrine functions
Vitamin A, a Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
There are really two dietary forms of Vitamin A. Carotenoids found in plants and Retinol found in animal products.
The Vitamin A found in animal products is already connected to a fat source. The quality of the fat source depends on the quality of the meat consumed (remember the differences we've talked about between conventional and grass-fed/pasture raised).
Carotenoids include Beta-Carotene. To be used in the body, it must be converted to Retinol Vitamin A. To be used in the body, beta-carotene must be converted into Retinol. Vitamin A is a strong antioxidant.
Retinol has many more functions in the body than Beta-carotene alone.
Vitamin A deficiency is again becoming a common diagnosis. This can only be due to poor dietary choices, especially in children. There is a genetic mutation that can limit the body's ability to convert beta-carotene into retinol vitamin A. If a fat soluble vitamin deficiency is suspected, get a genetic test done (like 23&me).
Vitamin D, a Hormone that Plays Many Role in the Body
Did you know that Vitamin D is technically not a vitamins, it's a hormone. In our body. Just like our reproductive hormones, Vitamin D is made from Cholesterol. Without enough good cholesterol in our diet, our reproductive hormones do not work right.
Vitamin D is converted in our body, as well as consumed in the diet. To make Vitamin D, we need to have Cholesterol in our skin. When the body comes into contact with UVB rays, the cholesterol is converted into Vitamin D. Without sunlight UVB rays, or Cholesterol (good cholesterol) we cannot make Vitamin D. This is controversial. Not that this is how Vitamin D is made, but that this process (when disturbed) is what causes Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancers.
There is a correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer. One theory is that it is not, necessarily, the UVB rays (why we wear sunscreen) that is causing cancer, but the last of dietary cholesterol to convert the UVB rays, or the wrong forms of cholesterol that do not convert UVB rays. These rays are not used and become damaging in the body. Or the wrong form of cholesterol is converted into a non natural compound. I find this to be an interesting theory.
Although the influences of Vitamin D on inflammation are being studies, we do know that Vitamin D plays a significant role in the regulation of the hormones of our body.
Vitamin D3 is the form that is made through natural sun exposure. Diary has been known for its "vitamin D Content." But here is another dirty little nutritional secret.
Most conventional dairy is low in Vitamin D, because many cow are not allowed exposure to sunlight. Much milk is "fortified" with Vitamin D because it is lacking due to how the cows are raised and treated. Also, if you are drinking skim milk, you will absorb non of this synthetically added Vitamin D, or even naturally occurring Vitamin D because you have not fat in the milk to absorb it. Another thing, is the that naturally occurring Vitamin D is a form called D3. Most synthetic D fortifications are done with D2 (made from mushrooms). Our body cannot use D2, and it can buildup in our cells (because it is a fat-soluble vitamin) can has been linked to increases in cancer. We need naturally occurring D3. If you are not getting enough GOOD cholesterol in your diet, and are wearing too much sunscreen (as recommend), you are going to be deficiency in Vitamin D3. You can get it in your diet, via quality pasture raise dairy products like Butter.
Vitamin E, a Powerful Antioxidant with Anti Inflammatory Properties
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It is found in many foods with oils that go rancid quickly, like Almonds. Vitamin E has a job, in these nuts, to stabilize the polyunsaturated oils in them. Polyunsaturated oils are very unstable and are quickly destroyed in cooking, or exposure to UV rays. (NOTE: Keep your oils in dark colored bottles, and in the fridge to keep them from going raced faster. Same goes for your raw nuts and seeds. If they smell funny, throw them out, they are rancid.)
Vitamin E's antioxidant properties have been well known in treating skin conditions. Newer research points to a deeper role for Vitamin E, in the regulating immune functions and hormones production, as well as in the inflammation pathways.
Vitamin E deficiency is becoming an all too common condition. There are many things in our environment that attribute to the loss of Vitamin E. here are certain common environmental toxins and lifestyle choices that deplete the body of Vitamin E, and as you'll see, it's not all that common in the diet. Consumption of excess unsaturated oils. Unsaturated fats have to use Vitamin E to prevent oxidation, therefore it pulls it from our tissues. Excessive Estrogen is also a factor in Vitamin E depletion….this would apply to those who are being exposed to high levels of environmental and dietary estrogens, as well as those who have an abnormal production of estrogen causes by hormonal disorders and obesity (our fat cells produce estrogen). Chlorine and Fluoride (found in our tap water) can deplete Vitamin E in our bodies as well. Those who fit into those categories need to consume more.
Vitamin K, the Allusive Vitamin X
Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist in the early 1900's, was an expert in comparative nutrition. He spent much of his life traveling in a time where ancient and primitive civilizations still existed in their natural state. His lives work, was to understand how nutrition affected dental health. What he found was so much bigger. He hypothesized that there was a vitamin, which he called vitamin x, that was missing from the "civilized" and industrialized diet, that was rich in carbohydrates, but was prevalent in the primitive diets. We know now that this Vitamin X is in fact Vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is a fat soluble vitamin that is produce through bacterial fermentation (either in the form of cultured food products, or by our digestive bacteria in our guts), or in cultured dairy products and bone marrow.
It's role in the body is only just starting to be understood, but it's main known function is that of blood clotting (actually done by K1, not K2). K2 on the other hand works throughout the body.
It used to be thought that your body was capable of making all the K2 you needed by converting K1, but this doesn't seem to be the case. K2 needs to be consumed in the diet as well. Just like some other vitamin absorption issues, the convert ion of K1 to K2 is dependent on enzymes and bacteria in the digestive system. (only about 10% of dietary Vitamin K1 will be absorbed into the bloodstream on a good day.) Many of us do not have healthy gut bacteria, and do not convert nutrients well. Others may have genetic mutations that limit their capacity to break down certain vitamins into their useable forms. It is best to consume K2 in the diet via fermented and cultured foods, as well as quality animal products.
Breakfast #8: Plain Grass-Fed Full Fat Yogurt with/CocoNutty Granola and Blueberries; Bulletproof Coffee
What is bulletproof coffee? Only the best coffee creamer you will ever have! Bulletproof coffee is black coffee (any type) and you add Grass-Fed Butter and Coconut Oil to it. I add mine into a tumbler and shake, then pour into my mug to make it creamier. It is a nice way to get some good and healthy fats into your body first thing in the morning. The saturated fat found in Coconut Oil converts to monounsaturated Oleic Acid in the body (same form found in Olive and Avocado). Grass Fed butter is rich in multiple fat soluble vitamins. The two work together to hydrate and nourish your body. Start slow with 1/4 tsp of each.
Lunch #8: Barley Broth Bowl
Two of my favorite kitchen appliances are my crockpot, and my rice cooker. My rice cooker has multiple settings for white rice, brown rice, multiple grains, porridge, etc...) I use it a lot. Last night I added the barley and water and let them soak overnight. Then drained and added the correct amount of water...pressed cook and that was it. When I came home for lunch, I had cooked barley, cooked broth, and a bunch of leftovers I could easy put together to make a broth bowl.
Leftover grilled chicken, leftover beets, leftover sauteed greens, diced avocado, and some parsley.
Dinner #8: Dinner Out - Nepalese; Eggplant Curry, Saag, Tandoori Chicken and Steamed Broccoli
Eating out on any diet can be difficult, especially when you are working towards a health goal. For reducing inflammation and sticking to the plan, remember the basic principles. We went to the Nepalese buffet, which has it's hurdles.
Here is the deal on adding in sweeteners. We use too much, as I have mentioned. These should not be eaten daily. "On occasion" occasion means 1-3 times per week, and in super small doses. Notice the granola I made had 1 TBSP for 5 cups of granola.
Part of the process of removing and reducing sugars in the diet, is having to change your palate for sweets. For many people who are consuming vast amounts of sugars at every meal, in high concentrations, your palate has weakened. Sweet isn't sweet anymore, you need high amounts of refined sugar to taste any presence of sugar. This needs to change.
When you can take a bite out of apple, and say to yourself, "Wow, that's sweet." You are there.
Refined Sugar is Addicting
Most sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets (which are white). From sugar cane there is a natural sap. This sap, or raw sugar cane juice, is actually nutritious, supplying 15% of your daily fiber (which are removed in processing), rich in antioxidant phenols (which are destroyed in the heating process), rich in vitamins and minerals (all removed), it is actually low glycemic in it's raw state. The sugar found in sugar cane is mostly Sucrose. Of the two (sugar cane and sugar beets), sugar cane actually has more nutritional value. Sugar Beets have no really nutrition to right home about. It does have some fiber (not as much as raw sugar cane), and some vitamin c, but is really in antioxidants (compared to it's colorful cousins).
Refined sugar is not the same as sugar found natural in food sources. It has been extracted through a multitude of processes, stripped of any enzyme and nutritional value and then often bleached to make it really white. Even "Raw" sugar is highly processes. They take refined sugar, before bleaching, and add back a percentage of molasses. Sigh! Refined sugar is concentrated, being make up of 99.99% pure sugar. When you take the sugar out of it's natural sources, you are missing out of a multitude of fibers, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants that help to balance the sugar intake, and provide health benefits. You have made a Drug!
Did you know that refined sugar excites the brain just like Cocaine? Except, Cocaine only excites one region of your brain, and sugar excites multiple regions of your brain. Sugar is addictive. Just like any other drug we see a pattern of addiction in those who consume excess refined sugars; cravings, binges, and withdrawals.
There have been many scientific breakthroughs on how refined sugar excites the brain.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is responsible for sending messages between nerve endings. In a certain part of the brain, called the rewards center, dopamine receptors become active when exposed to an excitability toxin, such as Cocaine and Refined Sugar. This area of the brain also lights up when we are happy, or something good happens to us. This is why it is called the reward center. When this section responds to stimuli, it is our body's way of saying, "that made us happy...do it again."
There is still some questions that need to be answered about the Reward Center of the brain. Not all the neurons in this region release dopamine. There are also other neurotransmitters that respond to negative stimuli, such as pain, located in this region. This region should really be labeled the Consequences and Rewards section of the brain, as it is used to remind our bodies of what made us feel good and what made us feel bad.
So how does play into sugar? Sugar or any drug, excites the dopamine receptors. This makes us happy. Every now and again, is not a big deal. Neurons can only produce a certain amount of neurotransmitters at a time. When large amounts of sugar are consumed, there is a huge rush of dopamine. Then a huge drop off because we have depleted the neurons of this neurotransmitter. This is the high and drop of sugar highs. We then feel tired and depressed, which causes us to crave more of the substance that made us so happy. This is the addiction cravings. When we are constantly consuming sugar, and are causing an almost constant stimulation of dopamine receptors, eventually produce less and less dopamine at a time (because there is not time to make much more), causing an increase in sugar cravings and harder swings from happy to depression.
When our levels of Dopamine are weakened, the effects of the negative neurotransmitters are more pronounced. Such as our pain responses.
The Affects of Refined Sugar on Natural Opioids
Opioids are the body's natural pain killers. They are produced in response to pain stimulation in neurons. When you cut yourself, and damage nerves, substance P (pain) is produced. This substance P travels to the brain to signal there is a problem. The brain then produces opioids to make the pain manageable.
Opioids also excite Dopamine. This is also a coping mechanism for times of acute pain.
If there is constant stimulation of the natural opioid pathways, just like dopamine, they being to run out. Causing an increase in pain perception.
Increased sugar intake stimulates the production of natural Opioids in the brain, just like Dopamine. You get a sugar high, literally, from it. Like dopamine, there is only so much natural opioid that can be produced at one time. If there is constant stimuli, then the body's natural ability to cope with pain is diminished, as there is not enough opioid produced to treat the body's pain.
Another effect, is that with constant stimulation of the opioid receptors on the nerves, they become desensitized to opioids. This means you need more opioids to decrease pain perception. We see this same thing in opioid medication and drug use. You need more to get your high. This is the same reaction when you are consuming large amounts of sugar, which stimulates Opioid production. This becomes even more important when you are taking pain medication that works on opioid receptors.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on Acetylcholine Production
Acetylcholine is found, not only in the brain, but also neurons in the muscles. It is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays an important role is motor function, attention and arousal. It is the cholinergic pathways that are affected in diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. In the muscles it works as a neurotransmitter to send signals between nerves and muscle cells. For example: your brain says to move your right finger. These signals travel to the neuromuscular junctions (where the nerve and muscle fiber come together), and acetylcholine transmits the signal.
Naturally Acetylcholine rises at the end of meal. Glucose in meal increases the production of Aceytlcholine in the brain, stimulating an increase in muscle energy and brain function, when consumed in normal amounts.
When excessive amounts of sugars, particularly glucose, are consumed in a meal there is a hyper excitability of acetylcholine production, just like the other neurotransmitters. Just like other neurotransmitters, over production depletes the amount of acetylcholine that can be produced.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on GABA Production in the Pancreas
GABA is a neurotransmitter protein that works to reduce excitability in the brain, and body. It's the downer of the neurotransmitter bunch. It's job is to keep the effects of Dopamine in check. It's a regulator.
In the Pancreas, GABA is produced in response to Glucose stimulation in the B cells (same cells that produce insulin). In normal sugar amounts, GABA is released to reduce the excitability effects mentioned above. In excess sugar amounts GABA production is decreased (by 40% in one study), allowing an increase in excitability effects. There is a direct correlation between insulin resistance and a decrease in GABA production, but more research needs to be done on this subject.
When GABA is decreased, we see a hyper effects of mental excitability. This can cause the symptoms of depression and fatigue (because the dopamine has by hyper produced and there are big periods of depression while the neurons rebuild their dopamine supplies), but with difficulty sleeping. GABA is responsible for regulating Melatonin activity.
Detoxing from a Sugar Addiction
If you have been on a long term high sugar diet, you are suffering from neurotransmitter imbalances. Symptoms of addiction are:
I am not going to lie. Removing excess sugars from your diet, when you are addicted, is not easy. You will go through withdrawal symptoms. For some of you, your symptoms will be worse for a little before you body begins to adjust to regulating it's own neurotransmitters again.
There is an inverse affect between Acetylcholine and Dopamine in the brain. During drug or sugar withdrawal, there is a hyper production of acetylcholine and a decrease in the production of Dopamine, causing withdrawal symptoms until neurotransmitters are balanced. Symptoms of withdrawal are:
The good news is that these symptoms usually do not last too long. The severity will depend on how much sugar you consume and how often. Once you have cleared your body of the negative neurotransmitter effect of sugar, you are clear to begin healing. But, in order to allow the other dietary guidelines to being healing your chronic inflammation, you must remove this barrier.
Breakfast #5: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes
Baked eggs are a nice way to incorporate fat, protein and nutrient dense vegetables first thing in the morning. You can use a variety of different vegetables, fresh or leftover.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a cast iron skillet, heat butter of medium heat. Add spinach and being to wilt, arrange tomatoes on skillet and add cracked eggs. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste. Move to oven and cook until eggs are cooked to medium (or more if desired).
Lunch #5: Tuna Salad Lettuce Wrap
Tuna is a reliable source of Omega 3 fatty acids. On the flip side, it can be high in Mercury, and unsustainably fished..boo! Look for sustainable harvested fish, and keep it to once a week at the most.
1/3 cup Prepared Tuna Salad
4 Lettuce Leaves (Romaine, Red or Green Leaf)
1/2 cup Arugula leaves
4 slices of tomato
Arrange Lettuce leaves to make a bed on butcher paper. Top with Arugula, Tomatoes and Tuna Salad. Roll butcher paper to hold wrap in place. Enjoy
Dinner #5: Cilantro Lime Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs; Simple Salad
In a bowl add lime juice, avocado oil, salt, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly. Add in shrimp and coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes. To assemble skewers, alternate shrimp, pineapple, onion and peppers until all are on skewers. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Cook skewers until shrimp are cooked through and fruits/veggies are slightly charred.
Understanding the Important Role Sugar Plays in Causing and Pertetuating Chronic Inflammatory Conditions + Day 4 Menu Plan
I love sugar just as much as the next person. In the evenings I crave something sweet after dinner, most nights. I have an addiction to Brownies (when I was pregnant, I ate a batch a week, no lie, and I don't recommend this. It was a nutritional low point, I admit it). There are biological, nutritional, emotional and primitive reasons that we crave and need sugar. The problem with the modern diet and sugar is that we are often consuming our sugars in extremely high amounts and from nutritionally poor sources. We consume much more than we need for it's necessary biological roles in the body, we are not active, and this excess sugar becomes a health problem.
More and more research is linking sugar as the the primary cause of degenerative diseases in the body. It promotes excessive weight gain and inflammation. It hyper stimulates the brain, and is more addictive than many illegal drugs.
It is extremely important to find a balance with the normal needs of sugar for cellular energy. This all starts with choosing clean and natural sugar choices, and limiting the amount we consume based on our realistic energy consumption.
In today's post, we are going to dive deep into sugar, the good the bad and the super ugly. My goal is to help you achieve balance, and understand the how sugar affects our bodies. I want you to leave this post with the knowledge to look at your sugar consumption realistically.
What is Sugar, really?
I am often surprise at how many people do not know basic nutrition...the educational system really needs to fix this. So, this is where we are starting, basic.
Sugars are the simplest forms of Carbohydrates. The term sugar is typically used to refer to table sugar (extracted from either sugar cane or beets), but encompasses two groups of carbohydrates called; mono-saccharides and di-saccharides. These saccharides are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and grains, and especially high in starchy fruits and vegetables (starch is several glucose molecules stuck together, which is why starchy foods are broken down into high amounts of blood sugar).
Monosaccharides are (Mono = one) single molecule sugars. These are simple sugars that are extremely easy to digest and absorb. They include Glucose, Fructose and Galactose.
GLUCOSE: (aka Dextrose) is found in many different plants, and is the building block of other sugars and starches.
FRUCTOSE: (aka Fruit Sugar) is converted to Glucose by the Liver. It is found mostly in fruits, but also some vegetables, as well as honey.
GALACTOSE: is a component of Lactose, and is found in dairy products
Disaccharides are (Di = two) multiple molecule sugars. These are more complex and require digestion to break them down into monosaccharides before absorption. These include Sucrose, Lactose, and Maltose.
SUCROSE: (Glucose + Fructose) is table sugar, and is naturally found in fruits and vegetables.
LACTOSE: (Glucose + Galactose) is milk sugar.
MALTOSE: (Glucose + Glucose) is starch, and is naturally found in grains.
The breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars starts in the mouth with enzymes in the saliva. These simple sugars are absorbed into the blood in the Small Intestines with the help of transport molecules called GLUT's. There are multiple types of GLUT transport molecules. Transport molecules are found in the cell membrane of every cell. They are the doors that opens to allow sugar molecules in and out.
Understanding the Natural Role of Glucose
Glucose is the building block of all complex sugars. It is the most commonly talked about because it is the sugar form that is directly measured in the blood, and is associated with Insulin. Glucose raises blood sugar, which to some extent is a good and normal event.
Here is how glucose is used in normal circumstances (small amounts consumed in a healthy individual).
Our brains need glucose to work properly, and our cells need glucose for energy production. In response to rising blood sugar levels our bodies producing insulin (a hormone) in the Pancreas. Insulin attaches to cells, like a key, to signal the GLUT 4 transport molecules to let Glucose into the cells. Some glucose is used as an energy source for the cells of the intestine and for the red blood cells. Any unused glucose is transported into the fat cells, by insulin, for storage as Glycogen. Doesn't sound too bad, right?
Understanding the Natural Role of Fructose
Fructose intake has been overlooked in previous years because it does not directly effect blood sugar levels. Many with diabetes and blood sugar issues have switched to using fructose based sugars as substitutes, because their blood sugar is less likely to spike. This is a very important sugar.
Like Glucose, Fructose is absorbed through the Small Intestines with the aid of transport molecules. Unlike Glucose, it does not need to be bound with a Sodium molecule to pass through the intestines and into the blood, and Fructose does not need a key (insulin) to be let into muscle and fat cells. Most of the Fructose consumed goes straight to the Liver to be processed. Fructose metabolism, is almost identical to Alcohol metabolism in the Liver.
Only a small amount of Fructose is ever free flowing in the blood and taken in by GLUT 5, but this Fructose is the immediate fuel sources (just like Glucose) for those cells of the Brain, Muscles and other Organ cells. The majority is processed in the Liver via GLUT 2 transport. Fructose is broken down in the Liver into Glucose (which is then transported to fat and muscle cells as energy if needed), Glycogen (which is stored for times when there is not enough dietary sugars), and Glycerols (which are the lipid, or fat, storage for longer energy needs).
This is the body's way of regulated times of high sugar content and times of low sugar content. The body's blood sugar levels need to remain within narrow parameters. The body natural does this with the use of all these different mechanisms. It is normal to use energy immediately and store the remainder for later. But in our society, there is really never a later....
Understanding the Effects of Excess Sugar Intake on Inflammation
The foods we eat and the amounts we eat contribute to stresses on the sugar processing cycles. Our body is quite capable of handling the sugars that are found naturally, and in small doses. In fact we need them...but let's all be honest with ourselves, we are consuming too much sugar, and we are consuming it at every meal.
The average american is consuming 82 grams of sugar daily....wow!!! Some studies show even higher amounts of consumption in children, very sad! Most of this coming from sweetened beverages; sodas, sweet teas, Gatorade, vitamin water, etc...
According to Dr. Mercola:
There are a multitude of effects this is having on our bodies:
Shall I continue....the list goes on and on...and each of these is an entirely different conversation. Today we are discussing the role of excess sugar in inflammation.
Normal amounts of sugar, as we discussed are necessary, we need them. We are consuming too much for our energy needs. Refined sugars, or large amounts of food in one sitting, can throw our bodies into a pro inflammatory spin.
We are aware of the connection between High Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes. Over time, as our body is bombarded with large amounts of glucose, our body's natural ability to regulate the amounts through use and fat storage wear out. If the body's natural glucose needs are met, then the cells store the glucose as fat, and eventually the amount of glucose that is utilized is left free floating in the blood. This free floating sugar is just as dangerous as the stored glucose that is making you fatter. This free floating sugar is irritating. It causing blood vessel damage as it's crystal like structure bounces around. Your body then responses to this blood vessel damage with inflammation.
The Effects Obesity on Inflammation:
We talked, already, about the effects that expanding fat cells have on inflammation responses a bit, but lets go over it again. Our fat cells, adipocytes, are not just storage cells, the are also an important part of our endocrine system, meaning they produce and regulate hormones. Normal fat cells sizes are homeostatic, meaning they produce hormones to help promote health and keep the body balanced. As our fat cells grow and expand to unnatural sizes, they create an imbalance in hormones and promote disease. Of the hormones produced by the adipocytes, Adiponectin, and Leptin have been the most studied thus far.
Adiponectin is part of the glucose metabolism cycle, as well as fatty acid breakdown. As our fat cells grow, there is a constant amount of chronic inflammation from the expanding cells. In response to this chronic inflammation, inflammatory compounds are produced signalling the body to help. These pro inflammatory compounds, which are trying to help heal the damage, decrease the cells ability to produce adiponectin, increasing diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Insulin resistance, and arterial fat build up. On the contrary, high levels of Adiponectin are associated with autoimmune based inflammatory conditions, not related to obesity. Why? Adiponectin is an anti-inflammatory in the body. In those with normal fat levels that are not affected by diabetes or insulin resistance. Adiponectin is produced in response to high levels of pro-inflammatory markers in the blood stream.
Leptin is produced by fat cells in response to sugar intake. It is well known for its role in regulating hunger. When the fat cells get enough sugar, they produce Leptin to signal a decrease in hunger. Because sugar is quickly metabolized in the cells, this is short lived and Grehlin in produced to signal an increase in hunger. This is the viscous cycle of high sugar diets and constant hunger. Fat is slower to metabolize in cells, giving long lasting fuel and a slower production of Grehlin (another story, for another day)....back on topic...Leptin also plays a role in immunity, and inflammation. When a meal, or diet is rich in sugars, the fat cells produce high amounts of Leptin.
Refined Sugars and Inflammation:
Several studies have shown a difference in how the body processes refined sugars (sugar extracted from its natural state and concentrated). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that high amounts of refined sugars causes a release of inflammatory cytokines. Anything in excess is dangerous, even water. When we eat sugar to a point of excess, it becomes toxic. The body then begins to treat the excess sugars as just that, a toxin that needs to be dealt with. This causes an increase in detox compounds, and cytokines. These compounds are doing there job, telling the body there is a threat to be dealt with. When we do not react to this signal, and continue to fill our body with toxic levels, our body is thrown into a chronic inflammatory state. For those already suffering from chronic inflammation, this excess sugar increases this inflammatory reaction.
The Link Between Low Fat High Carbohydrate Diets and Pain Perception:
Studies have shown a correlation between high carbohydrate and low fat diets with an increase in pain perception. As well as large portion sizes. Those who ate larger meals (to the point of stomach distention) had a higher pain perception. There is an even greater connection in those with spinal pain and fibromyalgia.
There is still more research being done on the effects of sugar on inflammation, pain, and degenerative diseases. It's clear that we are consuming WAY too much in our modern diets. I am sure there will be even more connections made in the near future.
Breakfast #4: Grass-Fed Plain Yogurt w/Homemade Granola; Blueberries; Hot Water with Lemon
Part of the process of limiting your caffeine intake is to switch out your regular drinks for other, more healthy options. Hot lemon water is a great way to start your morning. Warm lemon water helps to stimulate the Liver to produce enzymes and compounds that remove toxic buildup.
This is my take on Sarah Wilson's CocoNutty Granola Recipe. While she uses Brown Rice syrup (I am not a fan of it, and I'll talk about that tomorrow, I prefer a small amount of Raw, Unfiltered Honey. For this batch I combined:
Preheat oven to 250
In a bowl combine call ingredients, mix until fully coated. On a baking sheet, make a thin layer. Cook until golden, remove and cool. It will harden. I like to store mine in the fridge.
Lunch #4: Leftover Dijon Pistachio Salmon; Wild Rice; Broccoli
1 bunch Kale, blanched 1 minute
1/8 cup Toasted Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Cucumber, diced
1/2 cup Tomato, diced
1/4 cup Olives
1TBSP Red Onion, minced
To blanch Kale, bring a pot of water to a roaring boil. Drop in chopped Kale. Boil for 1 minute, remove promptly, drain, and cool.
Assemble salad and mix all ingredients together
Makes 3-4 servings
1/8 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Lemon, Juiced
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1 tsp Fresh Oregano, minced
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Dijon
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
In a mason jar, add all ingredients. Shake vigorously to combine.
Drizzle enough over salad to coat, but not soak.
How to Begin "Cleaning Up Your Diet"
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Simply put, EAT SIMPLE! Just like most things in life, if you stick to the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple and Stupid) guidelines you find it's not as hard as you imagine.
- Choose Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and Legumes
- Eat Grain in their Whole State
- Choose Meats raised naturally without synthetic hormones, or fed unnatural feed
- Properly Balance meals with Proteins, Fats and Carbs
- Eliminate Processed Meats
- Eliminate Refined Grains
- Eliminate Refined Sugars
- Learn to Cook
- Learn to Read Labels
Choosing Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and Legumes
FRUITS: Fruits are a source of natural sugars, which our body does need (more on sugars later). Our body can handle the sugars in fruits because they are balanced with fiber, enzymes, proteins, fats and other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. It is the refined and highly processed sugars that are the real issue (again, more later), and excessive amounts.
Have you noticed that fruit is seasonal? Many of us have forgotten that fruits (and vegetables for that matter) have seasons. They are typically available year round. But, let me tell you a secret…if you eat them when they are in season in your area, you are going to to get the best nutritional bang for your buck. Apples, for example, are a fall and winter storage fruit. They are harvested in the fall, and can be cold stored for winter use. How many of you have seen a fruit filled tree in early summer….not here anyways. Most of the apples you get in spring/summer come from other countries (typically Mexico, Central and South American Countries). These fruits are picked before reaching full potential and shipped long distances. These are also, typically, irradiated and processed before entering our country to kill foreign bacteria, viruses, protozoan, and chemicals. If you want to have fruit with not only the most flavor, but the most nutritional value, pick local and in season (they will also be cheaper then too…supply and demand).
When choosing fruits, stick to fresh or frozen. Don't buy the canned or jarred varieties. These are full of added sugars. Frozen is the next best to fresh. Fruit is picked ripe, and frozen quickly, retaining their nutritive value. If you can't get fresh, seasonal, buy frozen as the next best.
Dried fruit is often full of added sugar and preservatives. Read your labels closely, and find versions that are just fruit. Better yes, learn to dry or dehydrate fruit yourself!
Many fruits are high on the pesticide use list. (THE DIRTY DOZEN). Going organic is expensive, and in some areas there is little available. Start by avoiding conventional fruits in the Dirty Dozen list as a starting point. This will immediately minimize the amount of foreign and inflammatory chemicals in your body. The good thing is, that many studies show that once switching to mostly organic, chemical levels in the body decrease quickly.
VEGETABLES: Vegetables are a must! Vegetables are an essential way of getting vital vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, essential fatty acids, proteins, and phytochemicals necessary for body functions.
Like Fruit, fresh and in season is best. Some vegetables can be stored and used year round (think fall and winter vegetables: cabbage, beets, potatoes). Traditionally these foods were grown for winter meals. Some vegetables are only available during short periods during the year…Asparagus is an early spring, short lived treat. There are so many amazing vegetables out there, don't limit yourself, explore some new ones. You may be surprised what you like. Example: We joined a CSA when we moved to Colorado. (Love CSA's by the way, if you are looking for a way to get local, seasonal produce and support local farms, check out a CSA in your area). Our weekly box was full of vegetables I have never used, and some I had never even seen! One of these gems was Kohlrabi. A member of the cabbage family, it looks like a root vegetable that forgot to grow underground. It's flavor is a cross between a white potato and an artichoke. It can be cooked and mashed (into a mashed potato look-a-like) or used raw in salad. I fell in LOVE with this unique vegetable (I had to look it up online). I rarely find it in the regular markets, but grow it in my garden now.
When picking your vegetables go fresh and local when you can, leaving frozen as the next best, and canned as the last resort. Most canned vegetables are in BPA plastic lined cans, have added salts/sugars, and have lost much of the flavor they should have. Like Fruits, many common vegetables are highly treated with pesticides. Buying organic will help you avoid these environmental toxins. Start by buying only those on the Dirty Dozen list Organic.
Grow Your Own! Start a vegetable garden of your own. This way you have control over the chemicals used, access to the freshest vegetables, and can pick those that you eat frequently. You'd be surprised how much you can grow in a small space. I live in suburbia! With a small "patio-home" style yard. Every year, I grow a garden. It's taken me some time to figure out what works well with my space and family, but at this point I can grow: Lettuces, Red Radishes, Beets, Arugula (In the spring), Okra, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Daikon Radish, Kohlrabi, Rapini, Green Beans, Corn (in the summer) and Kale, Chard, Rosemary, Stevia, Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley Cilantro, Chives, Sage, Strawberries, Pumpkins (all season). This past season I was able to grow enough for us to eat, and to freeze (we froze 3 bags of Green Beans, 4 bags of Okra, 15 ear of Corn, 6 bags of Kale, 5 bags of Chopped Chard, made my own Crushed Red Pepper, and made some Stevia/Mint bombs (stevia and mint leaves chopped and frozen in TBSP amounts). Not too bad for 2 small garden beds and some pots. It's possible in any yard, rewarding and a great way to supplement the grocery bill with quality food. This year I was planning on adding Sweet Potatoes and Amaranth!
Eat a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. Some NEED to be cooked, even slightly, to unlock their nutrition availability.
LEGUMES: Legumes need to be soaked, or sprouted to break down inflammatory chemicals (saponins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors) than can make them rough on the digestive system and weaken the digestive functions of the intestines . It is best to buy them dry and soak them, cook them yourself. This is not feasible for many (even me sometimes). But, if you are trying to eliminate inflammation, please take this extra step and learn to can yourself. Make big batches of simple cooked beans, and store them in jars. All legumes need to be cooked! Raw legumes can be toxic, much like raw potatoes.
Saponins are plant "soaps." They bind to both carbohydrates and sterol fats. Most all plants have some level of saponins. Like Phytic Acid, there are pros and cons to Saponins in the diet. Legumes vary in the amount of Saponin they have between 0.5%-5% with Soybeans have the most. Saponins can have a negative affect on intestinal cell membrane integrity. They bind to sterols (cholesterols) which make up a portion of the lipid cell membranes, weakening the membrane over time. On the contrary, some Saponins have been shown to have ANTI-inflammatory properties. Saponins work in plants to protect them from microbe invasions. These Saponins can help treat protozoan and microbe overgrowth in the intestines. Cooking, and soaking does not remove all of the Saponins, much like soaking grains, but reduces the amount.
Cyanogenic Compounds are also found in legumes. These compound are found in many different root vegetables and legumes… These are toxins, and are found in high amounts in things like Cassava and Broad Beans…these must be soaked and cooked to destroy these compounds. Our body can remove small amounts of Cyanides (yes this is a form of Cyanide). In large amounts it is toxic.
Proteolytic Enzyme Inhibitors are another reason to properly process your legumes. Legumes are particularly high in Proteolytic Enzyme Inhibitors (PEI). For the plant, these are great! They are a defense mechanism agains bugs. In the diet, these PEI's have been linked to enlargement of the pancreas, a reduction in protein digestibility, and increase digestive inflammation. These are highest in soybeans. With most legumes, the soaking cooking methods reduce the PEI's to a safe level. With soybeans, the levels are so high that an extra step of actually fermentation must be taken to make theme safe for consumption. Soy should never be consumed raw, or in "milk" form, or even edamame. It should always be fermented into real cultured tofu, miso, or tempeh.
Eat Grains in Their Whole State
Eating your grains in their whole, and natural form (and processing them correctly) increases their nutrition value. Most refined grains have been stripped of all their nutrition (which is why the flour is "fortified" with synthetic vitamins…which we will talk about later and how synthetic vitamins can be extremely toxic). Whole grains in their whole state; Quinoa, Wheat berries, Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Millet, Spelt, all in berry form, are the preferred method. If you need to use ground flours, pick those that are whole grain and sprouted. This will ensure that you are getting the most nutrition that you can. BUT, when trying to eliminate inflammation, I highly recommend just doing away will ground flours, whole grain pastas, whole grain breads etc. These are so often full of preservatives and sugars,
Stick with whole berry grains, and soak/spout them before cooking.
When you can, stick to more primitive varieties of grains. Modern varieties, even organic, have been very much changed over years of modern agriculture, and are now commonly Genetically Modified. Primitive grains tend to have more nutritional value, being higher in proteins, fats, minerals, and B vitamins, than more modern grain species. Many primitive grains are gluten free, and technically seeds.
Primitive grains include: Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Chia, Farro, Oats, Millet, Quinoa, Red Rice, Sorghum, Teff, Thai Black Rice, Wild Rice
Like Legumes, there are compounds in grains that need to be broken down to increase their digestibility and increase their available nutrition.
Phytic Acid is the most talked about, and I have already mentioned this in yesterdays post (see my Scottish Oats notes.)
The next is the Proteolytic Enzyme Inhibitors, just like the Legumes. In grains, there is less, and grains need a simple soak/sprout to break them down.
With grains, we should probably bring up Gluten. Let me start by saying, I do not believe that everyone with an inflammatory condition is a Gluten Allergy or Sensitivity. YES it does exist, but like all other food allergies, it varies from person to person. Is it more common, yes, but that does not mean that everyone should be off Gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in some grains, most commonly wheat. Gluten can cause inflammation in those with allergens, sensitivities or autoimmune reactions.
Gluten/Wheat Allergy: This is an immune response to gluten. It can cause not only intestinal inflammation, in systemic inflammation, such as asthma, chronic congestions, watery eyes, and common "seasonal" allergy symptoms. Symptoms are usually quick a quick onset. Allergy reactions can be see in on an IgE blood test.
Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: This is an intolerance to gluten that has not caused intestinal damage, but there is systemic inflammation causing brain fog, joint pain, and fatigue. This is more difficult to diagnose. Blood tests are are often variable. You need to have consumed large amounts of gluten at a certain point prior to testing for accurate results.
Celiacs: This is becoming one of the most common auto-immune diseases in the modern culture. There are many theories as to why this is becoming an issue now. One such theory is that our modern wheat grains are so rich in gluten (much more than primitive varieties), and this gluten is actually a different form of gluten from primitive grains. This new gluten is harder for our body to recognize and we are bombarding our system with so much foreign gluten at home time, that it sees it as a threat and goes on the defensive. Celiacs is an autoimmune disease. Those with Celiacs have significant intestinal pain and inflammation, as well as systemic symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, weight changes, malnutrition, and other autoimmune diseases.
If you think you may have issues with Gluten, get tested.
Choose Quality Meats Raised Naturally
This does not mean organic meat. This means GRASS-FED and FINISHED, when we talk beef. PASTURE RAISED when we talk Poultry and Pork, and WILD CAUGHT for fish. What our meat eats will make a different in the nutritional profile.
- Look for meat that has been raised without added hormones, and without the use of un-necessary antibiotics.
- Choose Grass FINISHED Beef or bison when available. Grass-fed/Grain finished is second, but not ideal. Cattle finished on grass can up to 4x more Omega 3 fatty acids per 4 oz serving (up to 3500mg)
- Choose Pasture raised Chicken and Pork that have access to natural foraging, and natural feed. These animals are naturally omnivore and should not be fed vegetarian diets. Pastured raised Poultry and Pork have higher concentrations of good fats, and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Look for animals fed non-GMO corn. Corn in general is not a natural food source and is full of too much sugar for most ruminant animals. Increasing the risk of E.Coli infections.
- Learn to read the labels:
- "Natural" is an unregulated term, do not rely on this in choose quality.
- "Organic" does not mean that the animal was pasture raised, or even fed non-GMO feed. It just means the the feed was from "organic" sources.
- "Grass-Fed" too, may not mean what it says. This can be put on labeling of animals that were fed grass, even for a short period of time.
- "Grass-Finished" means the cattle were given grass until slaughter
- "Cage Free" means that the poultry was not kept in cages, but that does not mean they are not kept in cramp barns with no access to sunlight.
- Choose the best that is available to you. There are many more resources out there for quality meats. The food world is becoming more aware of the importance of feeding and raising animals in a way that is not only more humane, but more nutritious. Eating meat that is more nutrition means not needing to eat as much.
- Eat the Fat! Yep, and the Skin. When buying and eating meat, look for whole chunks with bones in and skin on. The skin and fat and rich in nutrients, some of which are heard to find in the diet, but necessary for certain inflammatory joint conditions to heal (Hyaluronic Acid).
- Eat the Organs. Don't throw out that bag of giblets! Add that to your meat broth…puree and add to soups…or learn to enjoy Liver, Heart, etc… They are not as bad as you think. If you start your children young, they won't know the difference.
- Buy sustainably wild caught fish. Most farmed fish are full of toxic buildup and fed unnatural diets. Farmed Salmon for example is not orange/red in color…it's a dull, ugly grey. They inject food coloring into the meat to make it look like "real" salmon…yummmmm! Think that's still the same?
- Learn to hunt. Some of the best, and most sustainable meat sources available are in the woods, and fields. These animals lead amazingly fulfilling lives, eating natural food sources, and are not tortured when harvested (like some conventional meat stock.) They are rich in Omega 3's and lower in the amounts of saturated fat. The saturated fat there is, is healthier as well.
- Use the whole animal. Waste is waste, and this is a life. We have a hunting rule at our house. All parts are used, nothing goes to waste. If you kill it, you eat it.
- Avoid processed meats, or learn to make your own!!! Most processed meats are LOADED with preservatives, sugars, and salts. There is much research linking processed meats with inflammatory and degenerative diseases. If you take the time to learn to make your own, you are in control of the ingredients, and the process. I have several friends that make their own venison link sausages. We make our own bulk Italian and Breakfast Sausage, and it tastes so much better!!!
Properly Balance Your Meals
Carbohydrates are the body's instant fuel, needed for short bursts of cellular energy, and neuro-processes. Meals that are rich in carbohydrates are quickly digested, absorbed, used and stored. Leaving you hungry sooner.
Proteins are the building blocks of most of the enzymes in our body. They are harder to digest, and take a longer time. They keep you fuller longer.
Fats are slower to digest, and are a fuel source for the body as well as building blocks for hormones, and cell membranes. They are a slower release fuel and give the body sustained energy. They also keep you fuller and energized longer.
When you combine Carbohydrates with Proteins and Fats, the meal is balanced. You feel energized sooner and longer, and stay full longer.
There is a digestive balance. Meals that combine healthy complex carbohydrates, fiber, proteins and fats, are balanced. Not only does this help give your body a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in one meal. Often, the nutrients from each food in your meal play off of each other.
Fat-soluble vitamins in many plants cannot be digested and absorbed with adequate amounts of fat, specifically saturated fats, for absorption. Vitamin A/D/E/K are all fat soluble vitamins that need a fat bound to it to get through the intestinal wall. Eating a raw carrot, on it's own, will give you little Vitamin A in the body, but combine it with a good fat (cooked in Butter), and you access much more of the available nutrition.
Learn to Cook
This doesn't mean that you need to spend hours cooking everyday. Many of the meals and recipes I make are quick. I juggle multiple lives (Mother, Acupuncturist, Child Chauffeur, Non-Profit Board Member, Author, Wife etc..) We've all got our multiple lives. Often, I am not home until 5:30/6:00 in the evenings and still make the priority of making and feeding my family healthy meals. That's what it has to be, a priority.
Cooking Tips for the Modern Busy Life
- Plan Ahead: Start doing meal planning. This doesn't have to be rigid, but come up with some ideas for the week, buy the ingredients, and be prepared to make them. Life can often get in the way, it's nice to have some ideas already on the calendar to fall back on. Or some good, healthy old reliables.
- Make Big Batches and Freeze: When you do cook, cook big! Make twice the amount needed, and freeze the rest in either individually portions containers for lunches later, or larger batches for a last minute dinner.
- Start Small: Don't overwhelm yourself with trying a new recipe every night, if you don't have the time. Try them on the weekends, or off days. If you like it, safe it. You've tested it, and now each time you make it, it will be easier and faster.
- Prep: Often, on Sundays, I'll pre-make portions of meals I plan on making that week. Or I will make a weeks worth of snacks, or breakfast casseroles, etc…so I can pull them out and cook them quickly. You can use this time to precut vegetables and fruits, so they are easy to grab in a snack pinch.
- Make Your Own Dressing: I have a go-to Balsamic Dressing recipe that literally makes in 3 minutes. It's a staple at our house. Find an easy to make, simple ingredient salad dressing that you can make on the fly.
- Keep Your Pantry Stocked: I personally, probably, take this to an unhealthy level. I am a food hoarder. I have a pantry, and a food storage room, as well as an additional freezer in the garage. When I find healthy foods, or quality dry foods at a good price, I stock up. When I find fresh produce on sale, I bulk up and freeze it. This way, I've always got some of our most used foods available in a pinch.
- Modify What you are Already Eating: Instead of trying to change your diet to something unfamiliar, start by changing what you are already eating. It's easier, and less stressful to look at your current food choices and see where you can make simple changes to make them healthier and incorporate the principles in these blogs.
If this is still something that is not your cup of tea, there are businesses, like Blue Apron, that will send you boxed meals with instructions on how to prepare them. I believe you can pick different nutritional philosophies on many (paleo, vegan), and they are all geared towards being organic, balanced and healthy. For some, this may help get you started.
Learn to Read Labels
I think we all know about carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugars, act…that written on there very clearly. If not, let me know and I'll elaborate. What I'm more concerned about in this post is the ingredients list. What's actually IN that food. This is where those hidden additives pop up.
Even things that seem healthy are not what they seem…lets take Coconut Milk (I use this a lot). Here are the ingredients lists for a couple different Coconut Milk Labels.
- Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk: Coconut, Water, Guar Gum
- A Taste of Thai Coconut Milk: Coconut, Water, Guar Gum
- Goya Coconut Milk: Coconut, Water, Potassium Metabisulfite
- Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk: Organic Coconut, Water, Organic Guar Gum
- So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk: Water, Coconut Cream, Guar Gum
- Let's Do Organic Creamed Coconut: Organic Coconut, Organic Cane Sugar
- 356 Coconut Milk: Coconut Milk, Water, Guar Gum
- Trader Joe's Coconut Milk: Coconut Milk, Water
- Aroy-D Coconut Milk: Coconut Extract (60%), Water
- Chaokah Coconut Milk: 100% Coconut Milk
Organic doesn't mean much when you are looking at labels. Many of these products have added ingredients for "stabilizing" and "preserving" and "flavor". The organic ones have a nice price tag, for the same ingredients, really.
There are great lists online of preservatives and inflammation. Anything with a -sulfate or a -sulfite at the end should be avoided. These have been shown to increase inflammatory markers in the Omega 6 pathways.
Breakfast #2 Banana Nut Chia Seed Pudding, Black Coffee
So, what's the deal on Chia Seeds? It's the new Acai, or Pomegranate. Cha-cha-cha chia, remember the chia pets, well, these are those same seeds…who knew! Chia seeds are an ancient seeds, used as food for the Mayans and Aztecs. Nutritionally, they are high in Omega 3's (5gr of ALA per ounce), fiber, and minerals Magnesium, Calcium, and Manganese. They are also high in antioxidants. High in fibers that feed digestive bacteria. They are still doing tons of research on these little guys, but some show great promise for diabetes, and insulin resistance.
1 Ripe Banana
1 Tbsp Sunflower Seed Butter
2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
1 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
In a mason jar, add banana and nut butter, use a fork to blend. Add other ingredients, put lid on and shake. Refrigerate overnight. Top with sliced banana and sprinkle with additional cinnamon.
Makes 2 servings
Lunch #2 Leftover Avocado-Lime Chicken Soup; Berries;Kombucha; Water
Dinner #2 Crockpot Venison and Sweet Potato Chili
1 pound Venison, ground (or Grass-Fed Beef/Bison)
1 Onion, diced
2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 cups Tomatoes, stewed and crushed
1 cup Beef Broth
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/3-1/2 cup Chili Powder (taste)
2 small Sweet Potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 cups Kidney Beans, soaked and cooked
(or 1 can)
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Cumin
In a cast iron skillet, add Olive Oil over medium heat. Add Ground Meat, Onion and Garlic. Cook until meat is brown and cooked. Transfer to crockpot along with juices.
Add in all other ingredients. Set timer for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.
Top with Avocado, or quality cultured sour cream.
What is Inflammation and the Basic Dietary Principles to Start Reducing Inflammation + Day 1 Menu Plan
What is Inflammation?
There are two different types of inflammation Acute and Chronic.
Acute inflammation is the body's immediate reaction to an injury, infection, or foreign body. This is what you see when you scrape your knee, sprain your ankle, have bronchitis, or a sore throat. The body does it's job during the inflammatory state, and then retreats after a couple of days, reducing the inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is long term. Chronic inflammation is a signal that there is an ongoing problem, or a problem that was not treated correctly. Chronic inflammation is progressive, and stimulates different defensive immune cells to react. Often there is not heat and swelling, but pain and other internal damage, with bouts of acute inflammatory symptoms. This is seen in rheumatic arthritis, spinal disc injuries, auto-immune disease, IBS, allergies, asthma, artery disease, migraines, etc…
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INFLAMMATORY RESPONSES
What Makes Inflammation Bad?
POOR DIET: Foods that are high in sugars, and inflammatory fats can increase the amount of inflammation in the body. Also, if diets are deficient in nutrients that heal the body such as healthy anti-inflammatory fats, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, the body cannot heal and thus the inflammation continues.
STRESS: There is a delicate balance between the hormones of the body, stress and inflammation. In the normal cycles, hormones from the adrenals work to reduce and regulate the inflammatory responses of the body. Stress weakens the adrenals, and reduces their ability to regulate inflammation. Often causing the body to have either an increased sensitivity to stimuli or not be able to shut off once stimulated.
ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS: In our world we are constantly bombarded with destructive chemicals. Many different fertilizers and pesticides used in our foods have been found to be toxic and cause inflammatory reactions in the body. Our body care products are often full of preservative known to disrupts our hormones and immune responses. Our tap water is often contaminated with synthetic hormones, and toxic minerals. The cleaners we use in our homes are another source of immune and hormone disruption, as well as being toxic.
PHYSICAL INJURY: Many physical injuries can lead to chronic inflammation as the body is constantly trying to heal the area. Spinal disc injuries are a common cause of chronic inflammation and pain. Sometimes there is a physical tear to the disc, other times it has become displaced. In each of these cases there is continued pressure on the muscles, nerves, and facial surrounding the injury that are constantly signaling the immune system's healing responses. Over time, as the body tries to heal the area, the body because stuck in a chronic pain-inflammaiton cycle. Sometimes to properly heal the area, we need to reset/reboot our inflammatory processes. Give the immune system a break. There are some cases in which these can be healed with proper diet, exercise, and regulation of the immune responses. In some cases it becomes a lifelong yo-yo, where proper diet is crucial to maintaining a balance and reducing excessive inflammation flareups.
Once you get into a state of chronic inflammation, you become stuck in a vicious cycle. The immune system, and increased inflammation are now causing damage, and thus increasing the stimulation of hormones which in turn increase the production of defensive cells, which cause damage, which increases the stimulation of hormones which…..you get the idea.
Basic Dietary Principles to Reduce Inflammation
Like I mentioned above, this is a starting point to healing. Depending on the type of Chronic Inflammation you have, you principles may vary, or become much more strict. You may have to take it farther, and we will discuss that as we go through this series.
- CLEAN UP YOUR DIET: This is the most crucial of all the principles, and you will find that just by doing this, you will have eliminated many foods that either create inflammation or perpetuate the cycle. It is actually a very simple concept. Eating foods in their natural whole state. Enjoying foods in their freshest and most nutritious forms, Sticking to basics like, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, eggs, and meats. This alone will remove processed, and chemically made "un-real" foods that have taken over our Modern diets.
- REDUCE EXCESSIVE AND ADDED SUGARS: There are multiple studies on the detrimental effects of excessive amounts of sugars in the diet. In a natural and balance diet, our body needs sugars. Fructose is a fuel for the brain, and Glucose is a fuel for every cell in our body. But in excess, or not properly balance, these fuels become toxins. In our society, we consume excessive amounts or processed and packaged foods that are full of refined flours and sugars, and lead very sedentary lives. These inactive lives and diets rich in unused fuels causes excessive weight gain, hormone disruptions, and internal damage. This is a hot topic, and one that we need to address further…and will. AVOID: Pre-packaged crackers, pastas, breads, cookies, cakes, sodas, vitamin waters, gatorades, most granola bars/power bars/protein bars, chips, and other foods that come packaged and loaded with preservatives.
- LEARN TO LOVE FAT: It's time to let go of the decades of poor nutritional guidelines that were shoved down our throats. It's time to say good-by to low-fat diets, and hello to Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds, Fish, Grass-Fed Butter, Avocados, and Coconuts. It's time to start increasing nutritionally dense fats and saying good-bye to sugar laden, low nutrient carbohydrates. Many nutritional fats work as anti-inflammatories in the body. Without a proper level of good fats in our bodies, our hormones cannot function (Our hormones are made from fats!), our brain slows down (over 60% fat), our nerves become hypersensitive to stimuli, and our cells become weak. One of the many theories on the scary increase in degenerative diseases such as Auto-immune, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, etc.. is because of the decades of poor nutrition, and the ideas that were shoved so deep into us that many are still finding it difficult to let go of the old low-fat ideals, and embrace the full-fat life. I promise this will not cause weight gain, if anything it will promote weight loss. More to come.
- TASTE THE RAINBOW: NO, I DO NOT MEAN SKITTLES!!! What I mean is embrace the rainbow of colors found in fruits and vegetables. Foods that are rich in color are also rich in nutrition. They are also higher in antioxidants. Colorful foods are also good for your mental state. Different colors are associated with different psychological affects in the body. Studies show a correlation in the colors of our foods we eat and our emotions. Vibrant color is happy, and makes us happy. Bland colors lead to depression, and low mood levels.
- SPICE IT UP: Use herbs to flavor your meals. There is such an amazing array of herbs out there that not only add vibrancy to our meals, but are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Parsley, Cilantro, Oregano, Lemongrass, Curry, Fennel, Dill, Mint, the possibilities are endless. Stimulate your body and your brain with these intense flavors, not added sugar.
- LIMIT CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL: Although the research on the inflammatory affects of caffeine are often contradictory, I recommend limiting or removing your caffeine intake. Caffeine is dehydrating, and drying. If you are not fully hydrating or your symptoms are very dry and hot in nature, the caffeine may make symptoms worse. On the contrary, some research shows that antioxidants in coffee and cocoa are anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation marker and reducing the risk of cancer, specifically in the intestines. Alcohol is another controversial drink. Like caffeine, alcohol is dehydrating and drying. It can increase hot natured inflammatory condition. If you plan on consuming alcohol, choose wisely and keep it in moderation. Red Wine, like Dark Chocolate, contains high functioning antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Moderation is not a bottle! Keep it in check, or you will swing the other way and CAUSE more inflammation.
- QUALITY NOT QUANTITY: We eat too much, and we eat too much crap. Sorry, but we as a society do. We need to eat less! This is another viscous cycle that must be addressed. How many of you are overweight? Raise your hands. How many of you are overweight and constantly feel hungry? Another raise of hands. I am sure there is a large number of you out there. Here's why? It all begins with poor food choices, and a lack of nutrients. Often those consuming poor diets, or nutrient deficient diets, find themselves craving more food, even though they are eating large amounts of calories (well over what they need). This is because the foods they are consuming are nutrient deplete but high in carbohydrates and sugars, and the cells are actually STARVING for nutrition. Excessive weight is also a trigger for inflammation. Fat cells produce hormones, these hormones can cause an imbalance in the immune systems responses. As fat cells expand and are pushed past their natural storage capacity, they produce more hormones, thus perpetuating the inflammation cycle. How do you fix this? Weight loss is an entire blog series on it's own, but it all starts with choosing QUALITY food sources over a of QUANTITY of food sources. Choosing nutrient dense foods and smaller amounts over large amounts of poor quality foods. You'll be surprised at how much your food cravings and excessive hunger go away when your cells are getting the correct amount of nutrients.
- EAT WITH CONSCIOUSNESS: This should actually be up at the top. With all clients, regardless of condition, when we are making dietary changes, I ask them to start with the basic concept of eating with consciousness. What does this mean? It means when you sit to eat, sit to eat. Turn off the TV, turn off the distractions, focus on your meal, the enjoyment, how it tastes, how it makes you feel, take it in with your senses (smell, taste, texture, temperature). Ask yourself, "How does it make me feel?", and when you get to the point that you are satisfied (not full) STOP! You have just had a meal that means something. By taking in your meal, you are allowing your body to talk to you. You are listening to how food affects you. You will learn to control food, not have food control you. You may also find correlation to foods that are healing and foods that are harming in your diet.
- LEARN TO PROPERLY PREPARE YOU FOOD: There are so many basic food preparation techniques that have been lost to current generations. Many foods NEED to be processed correctly to reduce their inflammatory chemicals. We all know we cannot eat potatoes raw...I hope we all know this. But, we have forgotten about the need to soak/sprout grains and legumes, and cooking greens. Traditional cultures developed these processes for a reason, and we have forgotten many of them. Leading to some of the issues we currently have in chronic dietary inflammation. This is an important step, but one that will take some time to re-learn.
- GET YOUR GUT HAPPY: Years of poor diet choices can reek havoc on the intestines, making intestinal walls inflamed and weak. When the intestines are weak, they poorly absorb nutrients. They easily absorb sugars, though. The bacteria of the digestive system are an important component to the immune system as well, and is often our first line of defense. Probiotics (the good bacteria of our digestive system), when balanced, happy, and fed, produce a number of anti-inflammatories, as well as energy sources for the intestinal cells. There have been huge leaps in research in the last couple of years in regards to the important role our gut bacteria play in our entire bodies health, including mental health. This plays off principle 7. Learning to Properly Prepare your Food. Natural fermentation, and culturing is a lost art. Not many people make and eat cultured foods anymore. If they do, it's most commonly poorly cultured, sugary low-fat yogurt. Please, throw this out! I love cultured dairy, but most of the store bought is junk. There are a few very well done brands out there, Nancy's, Bulgarian Yogurt, etc...all full-fat and all plain! Add your own flavor, and learn to love the tartness of true yogurt. Other sources would be natural pickles, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc… I love making my own cultured vegetables, and my children love eating them. Honestly their favorite is the cultured Cabbage/Beet/Kale "parfaits" that I make with Caraway and Juniper Seeds.
- STAY HYDRATED: Soda, Black Tea and Coffee do not count. Yes, they are often made with water, but other compounds in them are dehydrating. Stick with the good stuff, real water. If you need a good electrolyte substitute, make your own vitamin waters (don't drink "Vitamin Water" or Gatorade, unless you are a super athlete, even then it's questionable.) I love fruit infused waters. Water is as necessary, if not more, for controlling chronic pain and inflammation, as the food you eat. It is estimated that 70% of the population is dehydrated. Long term dehydration can start in childhood, with poor drink choices, and lead to chronic issues and inflammation years later. But, it's never too late to change. If you have children, now is the time to instill healthy drinking habits. Sodas should NEVER be drunk! PERIOD! Water makes up the majority of our body (80+%). It is a cooling, and lubricating mechanism. When we are deficient the body can heat up and dry out, causing friction and inflammation. Dehydration also causes an increase in pain perception, and reduction in blood flow to the brain. Over time, chronic dehydration can affect the neurotransmitters of the brain. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, causing mood swings and depression.
Because this is a LIFE CHANGE, I would be remiss if I did not talk about two life factors that those with inflammation must address
- GET ACTIVE: Walk, Dance, Bike, Jog, whatever, just get moving. There is a huge correlation between inflammation, and specifically inflammation with chronic pain, and physical activity. I don't like the word "exercise." It sounds so scary, and hard, especially when you are dealing with chronic pain, impossible. I like to say "Get Active." This can mean a number of things, and it can be as simple as walking the block for those who have debilitating pain, and moving up as it improves. This can mean turning on some music and dancing. This can mean parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking a bit farther. Riding your bike to places within a 5 mile radius of your home. Join a hiking or walking group. Learn to do muscle strengthening while cleaning house. This all adds up. How does this activity help. Research shows that physical activity as simple as increasing the number of steps you take per day, increases the number of anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Physical activity also helps to increases blood movement through the blood vessels, clearing out areas of inflammation and debris, and increasing the nutrient and oxygen rich blood delivery to those areas. This is especially important in those who are overweight, because the added fat cells makes it harder for the body to oxygenate, and move blood through the tissues. Here is a wonderful article on the subject.
- LEARN TO MANAGE AND REDUCE STRESS: Stress, as I mentioned, is associated with the perpetuation of inflammation and pain by disrupting the regulation of hormones in the body. Take a good look at your life. What are areas of you life that are high stress? Can you eliminate them? If so, do it! If not, learn to manage it. Take self help classes on how to manage stress. Start a yoga or meditation routine. Start subscribing to positive quote emails to keep your spirits and confidence up. Walk away. Let it go! If it's serious, get help! See a licensed therapist that can help you work through it in a positive way.
The Next Steps:
As I mentioned, the above is the starting point. Many of you may already be incorporating the above principles, and that is great! But for many, the above is where you need to be. You are changing not only what you eat, but how you view food. This is how you create a plan that works, not a short term diet. This is a lifestyle choice and a lifestyle change. This is the beginning. The next steps will take you deeper into your healing process. Digging deeper may need to involve professional help for testing and coaching.
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS
What are triggers? These can be anything, foods, environmental chemicals, allergens, etc... In any case of chronic inflammation, you must rule out anything that is either causing the inflammation, or is perpetuating the inflammation.
- FOOD ALLERGIES: Almost everyone has heard someone say, "I'm off Dairy." or "I'm Gluten Sensitive." at this point. This is not something I throw around lightly, or assume that because someone has an inflammatory disease, that they should automatically remove Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Eggs etc… I am not anti any food, other than processed junk. Everyone has a different trigger and a different level of reaction to foods. I'll use myself as an example: For years I suffered from Adult Onset Asthma. It was bad. I was using 3 different medications to keep my symptoms at bay (Which was really hard for someone like me.) I tried removing dairy...no change. I tried removing grains...no change. I tried every common allergen in the book...nothing. FINALLY, I did a food allergy blood test...PEARS!!!! My ONLY strong trigger was pears. Who would have thought, not me. This was a huge learning point for me. In clinic, I was constantly telling people to remove dairy first, and talking about the high rate of diary issues in those with inflammation, and in my case it was not even a sensitivity on my list. I highly recommend blood testing BEFORE removing any specific foods (Other than processed foods). These tests have become very good, and very accurate, and they can give you a good place to start, whether it is Gluten, Yeast, Dairy, or something else completely. For me, at the time, I rented a cottage on a PEAR ORCHARD. I removed pears (and it took almost 2 years for my symptoms to fully disappear) and am symptom free.
- ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGENS: This is another one that can be done with a simple blood test to rule out any environmental allergens that may need to be removed from the home environment. This can be dust mites, pet danders, grasses, trees, etc. I will say, often those who start down this journey and begin eating a more nutrient dense, and balanced diet have a reduction in environmental allergens. Some do not. Using myself as an example again...and back to my Asthma. I grew up with a cat. I worked in vet clinics for over 10 years, and never had an issue with cat dander UNTIL the pear orchard/asthma days. The only other thing to arise in my blood work was CAT allergies. I was hopeful that I would be able to just cut the pears and be done. Although my symptoms got better, and I no longer needed medication. I would still get choked up when I would cuddle with my kitty. It would be acute and not last for days, but it was there. When we moved, we made the decision for him to be an outdoor cat, and I would not handle him as much and make sure I washed my hands immediately. Having him out of the house was significant. I know now that I have serious cat allergies. Although they will, most likely, never improve, I know how to use this information to manage my life better.
- ENVIRONMENTAL HORMONES DISRUPTERS: Our homes are toxic. We use cleaners and disinfectants. Our tap water is full of chlorine and fluoride, as well as hormones from birth control and hormone replacement therapies that are excreted in urine and unable to be filtered out of our water supplies. Not to mention the estrogenic chemicals found in our plastics, shampoos, conditions, lotions, soaps, etc...that are associated with increased pain, inflammation and cancers. All of these affect the natural hormones in our body. Many of us can go on, relatively unaffected by these chemicals. Others, especially those in chronic inflammatory states, are more sensitive. If this is something you want to dive into deeper, I recommend contacting someone who specializes in detoxifying homes. They will come in and look at your products, cleaners, etc...and recommend replacements or removal to reduce your household exposure. Another important source of Environmental Hormone Disrupters and Inflammatories are the pesticides, hormones and GMO's in our food system. Many of these pesticides are known to effect the hormones of the body, especially in women, are carcinogenic, and are foreign bodies that the body deems a threat and a simulator of the inflammatory response. Sure, many of us again, can go about life consuming these with no noticeable reactions. But, over time, this stimulation can eventually cause a complete auto-immune response. Or, in the case of those in an inflammatory pattern, it can make symptoms worse and keep the cycle going.
Are you ready to make the changes to reduce your inflammation?
Over the course of the next couple of days, we will dive deeper into the above principles. My goal, as always, is to give you the tools to take charge of your own health.
This is a NEW LIFE, not a diet. There will be falls. But remember...
Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
Breakfast #1: Scottish Oats
Scottish Oats, are oats that have been milled into a finer (polenta like) meal. I like it's creamy, "cream of wheat" feeling. Oats are often hard on my system, and this form is much easier for me to digest.
Lunch #1: Asian Chicken Salad
4 cups Purple Cabbage, shredded
2 Carrots, julienne cut
6 Green Onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 head Romaine, shredded
1/2 cup packed, Cilantro, chopped
1 cup Sugar Snap Peas, chopped
In a bowl, mix all vegetables together.
2 pounds Quality Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
1/4 cup Coconut Aminos
1/8 cup Toasted Sesame seed Oil
1 tbsp Ginger, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Fresh Orange Juice
3 TBSP REAL Soy Sauce/Braggs Aminos, or Coconut Aminos
1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Toasted Sesame Seed Oil
1 TBSP Ginger, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 TBSP Toasted Sesame Seeds
In a mason jar, add all ingredients and shake vigorously to mix.
Dinner #1: Chicken Avocado Soup
1 1/2 pounds of Quality Chicken Thighs, diced
1 Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic
Salt/Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Cumin
3 TBSP Avocado Oil
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
2 Avocados, diced
2 cups Kale, chopped
3 TBSP Fresh Lime Juice
1 small can Green Chilies
8 cups Homemade Chicken Broth
1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped
In a large stock pot over medium heat, add Avocado Oil, Onions, and Garlic. Saute until fragrant, add chicken, season generously with salt and pepper, add cumin and cover. Stir frequently and cook until thoroughly cooked. Once chicken is thoroughly cooked, and a good amount of juice has formed, pour in Chicken Broth, and add in Green Chilies. Bring to a simmer. Add the Kale, and cook until wilted. Add in the Tomatoes, Avocados, and Lime Juice. Heat and serve, top with fresh Cilantro. Top with your favorite salsa, or quality, cultured sour cream.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
I recommend Omega 3 fatty acids for anyone dealing with chronic inflammation causing pain. This is a long term dietary supplement that is used to reduce inflammation over time.
For more information on dietary fats, please click here.
I recommend Curcumin for those who need Acute pain relief, as well as long term management for pain. For the most part, Curcumin has little to no side effects or drug interactions with the exception of the drugs used in chemotherapy.
For more information on Meriva, and it's effectiveness, please click here.
There are several different forms of Magnesium.
Magnesium oxide is often seen for very cheap, but is not easily absorbed. This form is the common form found in Milk of Magnesia. Because it is not effectively absorbed into the blood stream, it works well for digestive upset and constipation.
Magnesium Citrate is not as effective in reducing inflammation and pain, it is used primarily for constipation, and digestive upset. Magnesium Citramate is Magnesium Citrate bound Citrate-Malate to improve digestibility. It is useful for muscle aches, and muscle recovery.
Magnesium Sulfate (form found in Epsom salts), is easily absorbed through the skin directly into the muscles. You can now purchase this in a gel or spray, for those who cannot take Epsom salt baths. They are also beginning to add Magnesium sulfate to drugs such as Lidocane and steroid injections, or post-operative to make pain medication more effective. Some research connects Magnesium deficiency with Migraines.
Newer blood testing is linking Magnesium not Vitamin D to chronic pain sensory. Vitamin D should never to taken alone. Magnesium and Vitamin K are essential to the absorption and uptake of Vitamin D. Without proper levels of Magnesium, Vitamin D can cause musculoskeletal problems.
I recommend additional Magnesium to almost everyone. The majority of people I see have some level of Magnesium deficiency, but especially for those suffering from muscle contraction or twitching conditions that are causing pain. I prefer to give patients topical or enzyme bound forms of magnesium to help with absorption. It is estimated that 50% of the Magnesium we consume is lost in the digestive process, even more for less absorbable forms.
I recommend Hyaluronic Acid for those suffering from degenerative joint conditions such as Degenerative Disc Disease, Knee and Shoulder Cartilage Loss, and Hip Joint Pain, or those recovery from joint surgery. Like Omega 3 fatty acids, hyaluronic acid may interfere with blood thinners.
2. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosapentaenoic acid monoglycerides are more potent than docosahexaenoic acid monoglyceride to resolve inflammation in a rheumatoid arthritis model.
3. An Update on the Role of omega 3 fatty acids on inflammatory and degenerative diseases
4. Effect of Different Omega-6/Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Ratios on the Formation of Monohydroxylated Fatty Acids in THP-1 Derived Macrophages
5. Intrathecal curcumin attenuates pain hypersensitivity and decreases spinal neuroinflammation in rat model of monoarthritis.
6. Meriva®+Glucosamine versus Condroitin+Glucosamine in patients with knee osteoarthritis: an observational study.
7. Comparative evaluation of the pain-relieving properties of a lecithinized formulation of curcumin (Meriva(®)), nimesulide, and acetaminophen.
8. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients.
9. The antinociceptive effects of magnesium sulfate and MK-801 in visceral inflammatory pain model: The role of NO/cGMP/K+ATP pathway.
10. Effects of combining methylprednisolone with magnesium sulfate on neuropathic pain and functional recovery following spinal cord injury in male rats.
11. The effect of magnesium sulfate on motor and sensory axillary plexus blockade
12. Effects of acetaminophen and ibuprofen in children with migraine receiving preventive treatment with magnesium.
13. Blood Magnesium levels in migraineurs within and between the headache attacks: a case control study.
14. The association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 concentration and risk of disease death in men: modification by magnesium intake.
15. Synergistic Effects of SDF-1α and BMP-2 Delivery from Proteolytically Degradable Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogels for Bone Repair.
16. Hyaluronic acid in knee osteoarthritis: preliminary results using a four months administration schedule.
17. Efficacy and safety of cross-linked hyaluronic acid single injection on osteoarthritis of the knee: a post-marketing Phase IV study.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy
Underlying Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
- autoimmune factors that cause inflammation in nerves
- injury to nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- inherited traits that increase susceptibility to nerve disease
- lifestyle factors, such as smoking or alcohol use
- viral and bacterial infections
- other diseases can be attributed, such as hypothyroidism
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
More often, peripheral neuropathy starts in the longer nerves, affecting those of the fingers and toes first.
- Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes
- Sensations of burning in the extremities
- Electric, sharp stabbing pains
- Extreme sensitivity to heat, cold, sunlight, or touch
Chinese Medicine for Peripheral Neuropathy
Diet and Nutrition for Peripheral Neuropathy
Acupuncture for Peripheral Neuropathy
Those in the Western treatment group were MORE LIKELY TO HAVE AGGRAVATION OF SYMPTOMS, while those in the Acupuncture group were MORE LIKELY TO HAVE IMPROVEMENT OF SYMPTOMS.
Very often we will combine electro stimulation with the Acupuncture treatments.
- Electroacupuncture works to eliminate sensory and affective inflammatory pain
- Electroacupuncture decreases inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
- Electroacupuncture blocks pain by activating chemicals including Opioids, cytokines, serotonin, and nor epinephrin
Moxibustion for Peripheral Neuropathy
There is currently a study being conducted on the use of Warm Moxa Acupuncture for treating Sensory Peripheral Neuropathy
Resources and Research: Acupuncture and Peripheral Neuropathy
Mayo Clinic Peripheral Neuropathy Information
- Acupuncture Treatment Improves Nerve Conduction in Peripheral Neuropathy
- Therapeutic Strategies for Cancer Treatment Related Neuropathies
- Mechanisms of Acupuncture-Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain
- Role of Acupuncture in the Management of Diabetic Neuropathy: A Pilot RCT
- Clinical Observation on Mild-Warm Moxibustion for Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy
- Acupuncture for the Treatment of Chronic Painful Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy: a long term study
- Acupuncture Reduces Neuropathy Associated with Bortezomib
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
What causes AS?
Onset is usually in young adulthood between the ages of 17-45. It is more common in men, and those with a family history of the disease as there is a genetic link.
Is there a cure?
Diet: Eating a low inflammatory diet is very important. You can undergo a blood test that will help you identify any food allergies you may have. Food allergies can be unexpressed, or mild in symptoms and you may not have a anaphylactic reaction to them. So, testing is an important step. There are also certain foods that can create inflammation in the body and should be avoided.
Inflammatory Foods: NO
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: YES
Surgery: In extreme cases surgery may the last option in the form of joint replacements,, or correction of spinal curvature. Surgery is risky and should be used as a last resort.
So, where does Acupuncture fit into the picture?
A meta-analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that, "Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option."
When we are treating a client with Acupuncture for inflammatory arthritic conditions such as AS, we are treating the body as a whole. We are treating any imbalanced that may be attributing to bouts of inflammation and we are treating acute flare ups with Acupuncture Needles, Electro-Acupuncture and Moxibustion. All of these have different effects on the body.
Acupuncture: depending on the presentation points will be selected that balance the immune system response, reduce inflammation and easy pain. Acupuncture causes neuropeptide release from nerve endings which subsequently have vasodilative and anti-inflammatory effects through the calcitonin gene-related peptide. 
Electro-Acupuncture TENS: Electro-Acupuncture significantly increases the plasma levels of natural corticosterone, and suppresses inflammation by activating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the nervous system.5]
Moxibustion: With Arthritis moxibustion at BL 23 can lighten local inflammation, eliminate swelling, prevent and/or reduce polyarthritises. It can help with recovery and promote the effects of concanavalin, inducing splenic lymphocyte proliferation 
References and Studies
- National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
- Acupuncture Reduces Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain - New Study August 20, 2013
- Arthritis Foundation: Acupuncture Gets Respect
- Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture PDF
- Electroacupuncture attenuates inflammation in rat model
How does Moxibustion Work Scientifically
Allergies And Asthma
Follow My Diet
Labor And Delivery