People who live in Park City know inflammation. A twisted ankle swells after rolling on a rock during a trail run, pain in the lower back becomes persistent after a few crashes on the mountain bike or skis, and maybe your hips start speaking up after hours of XC skiing.
The reality is that our bodies naturally produce pro-inflammatory responses. For example, when you twist your ankle, cut your foot, or are fighting a sore throat, the body responds immediately by swelling, which delivers more blood and therefore nourishment to the affected area. While this pro-inflammatory phase can be painful, it is usually naturally followed and counteracted by an anti-inflammatory phase that is necessary for cellular repair and regeneration. This acute inflammation is normal, short lived, and usually beneficial. But sometimes the balance between pro and anti-inflammatory processes gets out of whack and inflammation continues for too long at a low, but persistent level.
Chronic, low-grade, internal inflammation is often called, “silent.” Even though you may not feel it, chronic inflammation makes itself known through the symptoms of illness and disease it causes.
We now know that internal, chronic inflammation is at the root of many different types of illness, from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s. This is the type of inflammation that is killing the majority of our US population.
High risk factors for inflammation are: bad habits (like smoking, drinking excessively), poor sleep, chronic stress, obesity, and poor diet.
A great place to start is with your diet. Well-known and highly acclaimed Dr. Andrew Weil suggests the following diet guidelines to ease chronic inflammation:
1- Eat more healthy fats especially those high in Omega 3s. Chia seeds, ground flax seeds, avocados, walnuts, sardines, and wild-caught salmon are just a few great options.
2- Eliminate the wrong fats such as polyunsaturated vegetable oils: safflower, sunflower, corn, and soy oil are a few.
3- Eat more fruits and vegetables!! Especially in a nice array of colors
4- Limit “white” carbohydrates. White flours and sugars cause drastic spikes in blood sugar which contributes to inflammation in the body.
5- Cut back on animal products
6- Season food with healing spices such as turmeric, ginger, and red pepper. Turmeric is perhaps the most potent anti-inflammatory herb studied so far. Studies have shown that turmeric may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. In animal studies, turmeric appears to help prevent cancer. Personally, I have been using turmeric daily, with great results, as a means to manage my lower back pain due to a bulging disk.
7- Drink pure water or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, or sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day.
Remember that our bodies are like well-oiled machines when given the correct tools. Our bodies have an innate ability to heal themselves. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management goes a long, long way.