Diet and lifestyle changes can help prevent chronic inflammation
Today I’m sharing 3 tips to prevent and deal with inflammation. Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Most of our common ailments are caused by our bodies’ inflammatory response.
A. Diet Rich in Plant Foods
Several years ago I began having problems with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. After reading articles and books on various approaches to a healthy diet, my diet began to evolve. Originally, it was suggested that I try a Paleo diet, but I had been on a high protein diet much of my adult life, and I wanted to see how changing that would affect me. I searched for more information – online and in the library. I read a book by Dr. Weil and read about an anti-inflammatory diet on his website. I started following Forks Over Knives on Facebook and explored their website. ForksOverKnives.com has over 400 tasty recipes, expert tips, and tools to help you transition to the life-saving, whole-foods, plant-based diet.
From Forks Over Knives:
“A diet high in animal-based and highly processed foods makes people sick and overweight. But many of these sicknesses can be prevented, halted, and often reversed by eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. There is medical proof. There is living proof. We have experienced it ourselves. We have seen the smiles to prove it.”
On television, I watched Dr. Oz, heard many experts describing a healthy diet with low fat, low salt and fresh vegetables and fruits, and read articles and recipes on his web site. “Heart disease, diabetes, skin irritation, aches and pains – all of these things may be caused by out-of-control inflammation. While stress, lack of exercise and genetics can all cause chronic inflammation, a steady diet of sugars and processed food can do the same.”
I have always loved vegetables and salads, but I began to consciously add more fresh produce to my diet. Many of the common health issues in modern life are caused by a fast and easy food mentality. We are all busy and look for short cuts and hacks to simplify life. Buying processed and cooked food may save time but our diets become filled with chemicals, bad fats, and too much salt. I began to buy organic and to increase my vegetable meals. I discovered the weekly local farmers’ market, Tasty Tuesday, and became a once a week regular. I searched for organic bargains and developed a weekly plan of shopping stops to make my money go farther. Trying to limit my chemical exposure, I try to only eat out about once a week – you have no control over ingredients or preparation when you dine out. If possible, I try to limit my intake of meat to once a day with a goal of having at least two days a week meat free, but have not been successful in the last few months. Lately, I’ve been eating more meat especially with the holidays, but I am renewing my goal to eat less red meat for 2020.
- olive oil.
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards.
- nuts like almonds and walnuts.
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.
My diet was changed several years ago to increase my intake of leafy greens. I drank a green smoothie for breakfast most mornings, but I realized in December, that I haven’t had one for a while. 2020 I am going back to a green smoothie for breakfast. Salads are a great lunch and I’m always experimenting to avoid boredom with simple lettuce salads. Garlicky Greens and Beans Fast, Healthy & Simple Meal is the result of search for a fast, hot meal. I hope to eat more varied salads to help reach my goal of decreasing my inflammation.
For more information:
The long-term health benefits of physical exercise are numerous; they include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving metabolism and weight control, as well as generally strengthening the heart, muscles, and bones. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, it helps to lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and prevent some forms of cancer. New research also indicates that 20 minutes of regular exercise can reduce inflammation. Exercise strengthens the immune system.
Most of us like some activities more than others. Do not be intimidated at the idea of “exercising”. According to researcher, Suzi Hong: “Our study shows a workout session does not actually have to be intense to have anti-inflammatory effects. Twenty minutes to half an hour of moderate exercise, including fast walking, appears to be sufficient.”
If you have access to a pool during the winter, swimming is a great exercise that is also fun. Research shows that moderate swimming can reduce inflammation and joint pain of arthritis. A water workout is a great, low-impact activity that keeps the body moving.
Another exercise that is easy on joints is bicycling. When the weather warms up, get out the bike and go for a ride. The health benefits of regular cycling include: increased cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, improved joint mobility, and decreased stress levels.
Yoga involves lots of stretching, balance, increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, and improved respiration, energy and vitality.
Find activities that you enjoy that get you moving. Join a walking or biking group, add a yoga or water aerobics class, and take the family for a walk in the park. You’ll be happier and your body will thank you. I’m going back to my walking regimen and hope to report progress in a few months.
C. Manage Stress
If you feel stressed out much of the time, the physical result is an inflammatory response from your body. Chronic stress contributes to inflammation. If you can’t relax at night to get a good night’s sleep, this continues the cycle with increased stress. Check out my Self Care: Tips To Help You Sleep Better for suggestions to help you relax and sleep.
What can you do to manage stress? Use meditation, yoga, biofeedback, guided imagery or some other method to help you manage stress throughout the day. Change your lifestyle:
- Exercise on a regular basis.
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Be sure to get enough sleep; seven to eight hours a night is optimal for most people.
- Minimize your alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Spend time relaxing with friends and family.
- Express your thoughts and emotions by writing in a journal.
- Consider meditation and deep breathing exercises.
Develop an evening ritual that assists you to unwind and relax. I enjoy a warm bath and find that gratitude journaling helps me to process and let go of the day. I try to remember even when life is horrible that I still have gifts of family, friends, and love that I cherish. You can’t stop bad things from happening. You can only try to work on your response and your perception of the crisis. Check out Want To Stress Less? for more information.
With all this in mind, you may ask “has there been a difference in my life”? Yes. I still have arthritis – there is no cure, but when I get off my diet or eat out too much, feel stressed, and don’t exercise, I feel a negative difference. I am still learning, often from my own mistakes, but I am continuing on my journey of discovery. I’m hoping this information proves helpful in your life too.
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