Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates
The human body is amazing. Its ability to break down food into macro and micronutrients to fuel, repair and help with the process of growth is in itself miraculous. Unfortunately, humans have come to see food more as a pleasure seeking event than as fuel for a well-designed engine. In doing so, we have subjected ourselves to over processed, vitamin and mineral deficient, less than adequate food choices. The result is less than adequate functioning bodies. Poor food choices, poor air quality, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption and excessive weight all play a role in the body’s natural response of inflammation.
What is Inflammation
Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Both are a response to an existing problem that the body’s immune system wants to handle. Acute inflammation is the type that happens in response to a cut or injury. It lasts for a short period of time and is the body’s natural way of protecting and healing the affected area. Chronic inflammation can last for weeks, months or years. This persistent response from the immune system can eventually lead to more serious diseases like heart disease, COPD, certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and even allergies. In a study by Dr. Emil Coccaro, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, a link was found between Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) and inflammation. Bone loss and decreased bone growth are also related to persistent inflammation. In a nutshell inflammation seems to be an underlying cause for almost all major health conditions.
The body reacts to what is put in it. Certain foods, therefore, can be more inflammatory than others leading to chronic inflammation. One big food source is sugar. Excess sugar actually increases the level of cytokines which are responsible for the body’s inflammatory response. Sugar also decreases the effectiveness of our immune fighting white blood cells making us more likely to fall victim to infectious diseases. Omega-6 is another big culprit found in vegetable oil, mayo, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, bread, potato chips and more. Omega-6 is an inflammatory fat. Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory fat. Ideally, one should have a 1:1 ratio of each. Most Americans take in way more Omega-6. Fried Foods cause inflammation because the high temperatures create what is known as AEG’s. These are also present in pasteurized, grilled, smoked and dried foods as well. White flour which is found in everything from bread, cakes, pastries, crackers and more increase inflammatory response because the refined flour is easily digested spiking insulin levels which is associated with an inflammatory response. There are many more inflammatory foods like artificial additives, saturated fats, and excessive alcohol. The link between them all is the unnatural state of the food.
The response to all this inflammation is usually to take a NSAID’s, corticosteroids, or other oral drugs. However, we are missing the point. We eat fake food that creates conditions that we follow up with man-made medicine! See the connection? Natural food is meant to heal not harm. Fruits and vegetables, in their natural state, have many healing properties. Most fruit, vegetables and herbs are anti-inflammatory but some are more potent than others. Pineapple is one fruit that has an abundance of vitamin C, manganese and bromelain, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals. Bromelain helps in reducing inflammation, as well as thinning of blood which makes it heart healthy and thins mucous, which is good for breathing. Blueberries are another fruit rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins which have anti- inflammatory properties as well as anti-cancer benefits. Cucumbers are a vegetable that contain flavonoids, lignans and cucurbitacins that provide antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. Spinach is a superfood. It is packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and more. The benefits include blood glucose control, lowering of blood pressure, helps fight cancer and improves bone health. Tumeric is a spice used in India for centuries. It contains curcumin which is a strong anti-inflammatory. According to research published in Alternative Medicine Review, cucrcumin’s therapeutic benefits have been shown to help IBS and other gastrointestinal issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and worked better than phenylbutazone (NSAID) in reducing tenderness at the operative sight post-surgery! Cinnamon is a common flavor filled spice enjoyed by children and adults alike. It also may reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and have antioxidant effects.
I was pleased to find two juice recipes that contain these ingredients and taste GREAT! Adrienne from Taste of Two Plates listed a delicious mix of Pineapple, Cinnamon, Cucumber, and Turmeric. A refreshing fruit drink with a kick.
Ingredients (serves 6)
• 1 pineapple
• 2 cucumbers
• 15 three-inch pieces of fresh turmeric root
• 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
The other great find was from Rachel at the Pescatarian and the pig. The combination of apples and blueberries makes for a delicious fruit juice with the power pack of spinach that you wouldn’t even know was an ingredient!
Ingredients (serves 1)
• 2 cups of fresh blueberries
• 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves
• 2 Fuji apples
There are many other great juice combinations out there. Research, experiment and most of all, learn to enjoy food in its natural state. It can keep you healthy and strong.
*If you are currently taking prescribed medication, please consult with your doctor, as some natural foods can interact, inhibit or even enhance current drugs.