Friday, March 7, 2014

Staying On Track

"Words of the Buddha"
Easy to do are things
that are bad and harmful to oneself.
But exceedingly difficult to do
are things that are good and beneficial.

In Sanskrit:
Sukarāni asādhūni,
attano ahitāni ca.
Yaṃ ve hitañca sādhuñca,
taṃ ve paramadukkaraṃ. 


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Inflammation: Top 10 Best and Worst Foods to Eat

The more we study the influence of inflammation on the human body, the more we learn about its detrimental effects. With every day, with every meal, and every food choice, we make the decision between pro-inflammation or anti-inflammation. Our health in the future is determined by the decisions we make in the present moment. Whether its protein, carbohydrates, fats, flavors or the beverages, we will be either promoting inflammation or inhibiting it.

 "Keep in mind that unless we are eating grass fed, grass finished beef, we are eating meat from a very sick animal."

ProteinFeedlot beef
Farm-raised seafood
Grass-fed beef
Wild-caught salmon
and sardines
The first take home message with protein is that our immune systems can lose tolerance to a certain protein or proteins, which can trigger an inflammatory-immune response. We may not know it at the time of consumption, but if the immune system is sensitive to a particular food, every time we eat it there will be a release of inflammatory chemicals which can build up over time eventually triggering symptoms. 

Aside from food sensitivities, certain foods are known to be more inflammatory than others. Land animal meat like beef and pork are higher in certain kinds of fat that promote inflammation. Also, keep in mind that unless we are eating grasmal. The vast majority of beef on the market is produced in feedlots, where the cows subsist primarily on corn, which of course they are not at all designed to consume (and 90% of our corn is genetically modified). So, because they are forced to eat something that is foreign to their physiology, it wreaks havoc on their digestive system and liver, causing systemic illness, requiring the use of massive quantities of powerful antibiotics. Cows that graze on grass out in pastures, on the other hand, pack anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids into their meat. If you want to do even better, eat wild caught omega-3 rich oily fish like salmon and sardines.

 "Just because a product says ‘gluten-free’ does not make it health food – many gluten-free products are loaded with refined carbohydrates."

Refined or whole grains
Conventional produce
Beans and nuts
Organic produce
There is a common thread between all the fad diets out there, have you noticed it? They all recommend eliminating refined white flour products and sugar. Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are the effect of too much sugar having nowhere to go. So the sugar starts sticking to proteins causing a destructive cascade of events triggered by a flood of inflammatory cytokines. The overproduction of AGEs can cause damage to major organ systems and have been implicated in cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and complications with diabetes.
Even the diets that are considered high-carb diets recommend ditching sugar and flour, and instead going with carb sources like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Evidence is mounting that not only may it be the processed nature of the grains, but it’s the gluten that’s in all of the wheat-based grain products that can be especially inflammatory. On the flip side, just because a product says ‘gluten-free’ does not make it health food – many gluten-free products are loaded with refined carbohydrates. Best to stick with complex carbs from fruits, veggies, beans, and nuts.

Omega-6 fatty acids, although essential and healthy, are easily over consumed on an average diet which can cause them to become inflammatory in your body.

Pro-Inflammatory        Anti-Inflammatory
Trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils)
Polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils, including soy, canola, corn and safflower oils)
Coconut oil
Olive oil
One of the worst products to ever come out of human food manufacturing is hydrogenated trans fats. Trans fats are manufactured which is why they are so inflammatory and destructive in your body. This industrial process begins with highly refined liquid vegetable oil, void of nutritional value and then adding hydrogen causes the previously bent oil molecules to straighten, turning the oil from liquid (cis formation) to a solid (trans formation). Unfortunately your body does not really discriminate in its choice of fat for absorption and assimilation so it unknowingly deposits the trans fats into your cell membranes, wreaking havoc on cellular metabolism and dramatically increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Omega-6 fatty acids, although essential and healthy, are easily over consumed on an average diet which can cause them to become inflammatory in your body. Most breads and other packaged refined grain products contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from refined vegetable oils like safflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil. Coconut oil is somewhat of a paradox, in that it contains saturated fat but it’s the medium-chain variety – MCTs – which have been shown to have significant health benefits. Coconut oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids and no omega-3 but studies show that it improves cardiovascular health, supports your immune system, and increases your metabolism. Coconut oil has a fairly high smoke point, so it’s also great to cook with. Olive oil is also a good fat choice because although it does not contain omega-3 fatty acids, it has been shown to improve lipid levels, reduce oxidation, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

"Small amounts of alcohol have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but it’s easy to cross that benefit threshold into the inflammatory effects of alcohol consumption."

DrinksAlcoholGreen tea
If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start. If you do drink, don’t overdo it. Alcohol is irritating to our intestines and our liver, but a longer-lasting problem arises when too much alcohol causes breakdown of the intestinal barrier (AKA “leaky gut”) allowing bacterial components to pass through causing a host of immune and inflammatory reactions. Sure small amounts of red wine have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but it’s easy to cross that benefit threshold into the inflammatory effects of alcohol consumption.

Milk has a similar problem. A little bit of milk seems to be fine for some people (especially raw milk), but milk is high in saturated fat and too much of it can be inflammatory. Most people also have difficulty digesting dairy and some people actually have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy which can cause significant inflammation. Coconut milk is a good alternative because like the coconut oil mentioned above, it contains components that improve lipid levels (increase HDLs) and support heart health. Of course, anti-inflammatory beverages cannot be discussed without mentioning green tea. Green tea contains a broad array of nutrients that serve as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that have been shown to decrease risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.

Some researchers suggest that monosodium glutamate (MSG) should be withdrawn from the food chain. An animal study published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, found that MSG consumption led to obesity and severe inflammatory liver disease. Sugar and salt are also common flavor enhancers, but it takes very little to cross over the healthy threshold into levels that are inflammatory and disease-promoting.

Obesity and inflammatory disease are well established effects of excess sugar consumption, but what about salt? In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers concluded, “The mean sodium consumption of our adolescents is as high as that of adults and more than twice the daily intake recommended by the American Heart Association. High sodium intake is positively associated with adiposity [body fat] and inflammation … “
There are a plethora of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich flavor enhancers to choose from. How about, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil, onion and garlic. The amazing thing to recognize here is what nature has done for us. These spices and herbs, and hundreds more like them, not only provide a bounty of flavor, but nature has used the flavor as a Trojan Horse to get all the great anti-inflammatory supernutrients into your body.

                                 ~Thanks to Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC

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