Let food be thy medicine - Hippocrates

 

The short answer? Just about everybody. The average person is wandering around with more inflammation going on than is healthy.1 There are certain conditions, though, that can really see improvement by following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. In fact, depending on the condition and severity, dietary changes have led to improvements greater or equal to those of medications. Here’s a list of conditions that are related to inflammation and can be improved by incorporating some anti-inflammatory changes to your diet and lifestyle:

  • Obesity – high levels of excess fat, especially fat around the waist, are associated with an increase in overall inflammation in the body, which can lead to insulin resistance (diabetes’ slightly less ugly cousin) and heart disease1
  • Diabetes – insulin resistance (mentioned above) is the precursor to diabetes, and is caused largely by inflammation1
  • Heart Disease – atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition in the arteries that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or clots2, 3
  • Arthritis, Gout, and Chronic Pain – these conditions obviously lead to painful joints, and it’s not always true, but in this case, pain = inflammation4,5
  • Frequent Headaches – again, usually (but not always), pain = inflammation6
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Celiac Disease – these conditions are all linked to inflammation in the gut, which then leads to, well…you don’t want to know
  • Dementia (prevention) – there are quite a few connections between chronic inflammation and the progression of dementia, unfortunately it seems we have to nip this one in the bud before it happens7
  • Endometriosis, PCOS, PMS/Cramps, and other Reproductive Health Issues – each of these has a different link to inflammation, but it typically boils down to either pain or, in the case of PCOS, insulin resistance.8 Not based on any research, I can say from personal experience that eating the anti-inflammatory diet made a significant decrease in my cramps (and I’ve seen this for several clients and friends as well).

If you have one of these conditions or just hope to be a happy, healthy human – click here to learn more about anti-inflammatory eating!

Disclaimer: To be clear, I do not recommend that you cease taking medications prescribed by your doctor without his or her approval. Dietary changes do not always replace medication, particularly in severe cases or with specific conditions. Discuss your goals with your doctor and find a Registered Dietitian to assist you in improving your overall health. If you live in Washington state, come see me!

  1. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis
  3. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/105/9/1135
  4. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammatory-diet.php
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432803004650
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395913003965
  7. Pawlak, L. The Hungry Brain. 2012. Biomed books.
  8. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028207002026

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Thanks for being patient with me as I navigate the land of the computer-less. I’m still on the hunt for a new Surface Pro.

Meanwhile, I finished my anti-inflammatory diet on Monday. I was telling my husband that this has to be in the top two for the most enjoyable eating style I’ve tried (tied with carb counting). You can still eat most anything, and it truly makes a difference for me to mentally focus on getting in good stuff rather than cutting out “forbidden” foods (like when I was on Paleo – miserable!).

I can’t say that I felt much different necessarily, with the exception of one noticeable thing. Plug your ears if it weirds you out guys, but when the natural disaster occurred this month, my normally 4-6 level cramps were easily only 1-3. I’ve noticed before that there is a connection between my hydration/diet and my cramps, but this was pretty dang sweet.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet was mildly restrictive, but largely enjoyable. I didn’t mind adding chia seeds and avocado to stuff and including lots of spices – they add tons of flavor and keep food interesting! Overall, anti-inflammatory is one of my favorite eating styles to date. I will blog more soon about the specific types of conditions/people that can benefit from eating this way. In the meantime, enjoy your Father’s Day weekend!


As I’ve continued with anti-inflammatory eating, I’ve frequently found myself at BBQs – summer is starting! Depending on the context, anti-inflammatory eating can be tricky at BBQs because there may not be very many options, other people are bringing the foods, and sometimes the sides are just junk food. Tough anti-inflammatory noogies for Becki93DDDAA0-3BAE-435D-A4A1-BA8404525C5F.

So, I’ve had to be creative: eat small at the BBQ and fill in the gaps with fruits or veggies at home after or bring a fruit or veggie to the BBQ.

Fruit has become my go-to anti-inflammatory snack, and that is fine with me. I’m sprinkling chia seeds on nearly any edible object that will allow it, and using lots and lots of spices, which is so fun! I’ve really enjoyed the food I’ve been eating and it’s anything but bland. The anti-inflammatory diet definitely makes for colorful, visually pleasing, and delicious healthful eating.

Tune in later this week to learn about who can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, and tips on eating out while on an anti-inflammatory diet.


Depending on who you ask, you might find anti-inflammatory recommendations that encourage complete elimination of sugar and carbohydrates to decrease inflammation. As is frequently the case, though, those recommendations are likely unnecessary extremes and everything is case-by-case. For one thing, you can probably achieve the anti-inflammatory benefits you’re looking for while still including well chosen, nutrient dense complex carbohydrates. Secondly, why over-restrict if we can still enjoy some tasty treats in moderation? That’s how we balance meeting health goals and living a life we love! So what does the research actually say about carbs and inflammation?

Multiple studies have linked consumption of concentrated sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption with increased levels of inflammation.1-2 A long time ago I talked in this post about what happens when we eat carbs and how we break them down into blood sugar to use as fuel. Those fuels are stuck in the blood until insulin comes around to let them in to our cells. High blood sugars, especially over the long term, correlate with inflammation in several types of tissue in the body, including fat cells.3

A strong link has been drawn between chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.4 This is a vicious cycle because (as you may remember from this post) insulin resistance means that blood sugars get stuck in the blood without a way out, causing fat storage and inflammation. Stored fat then produces inflammatory factors which make insulin resistance worse! Not fair.

So what can we do about it? Well, we can aim to cut inflammation off at the pass by changing parts of our lifestyle and the foods we eat to combat inflammation and give our cells a helping hand with that blood sugar. With regard to carbohydrates, we can do a couple of things specifically:

  1. Focus on eating more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates like sugar. What does that mean? Well, complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugars that take much longer to digest, break down, and enter our blood, thus making our blood sugar much more stable (and preventing inflammation from blood sugar spikes). Simple carbohydrates are individual sugars or tiny chains of sugars that break down very quickly and enter the blood rapidly, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar that is inflammatory. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and vegetables are connected with lower levels of inflammation.5 Same goes for high-fiber carbohydrates like fruit.

Photo from wearewhatweeat1.blogspot.com

 

2. Avoid eating too much carbohydrate at once. Just like with diabetes, the key to preventing carbohydrate-induced inflammation is keeping the blood sugar from going too high. Eating controlled amounts of carbohydrate throughout the day can help keep your energy up and your inflammation down.

  1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/2/479.short
  2. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/509502/abs/
  3. http://www.jbc.org/content/280/6/4617.short
  4. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17391554

Today marks the end of my first week following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I haven’t posted much this week because we were busy (or actually, quite un-busy) camping and relaxing with family this weekend! So far, anti-inflammatory is going pretty well and I’m enjoying the food I’m eating. It’s not really any more expensive than our food usually is.

What’s working well: Activity has been so easy with the beautiful weather! We spent the weekend (besides lounging and reading in hammocks and lawn chairs) kayaking and playing volleyball, badminton, and croquet. The other big key to easing anti-inflammatory eating is keeping my mindset focused on two things: 1) I focus on the importance of getting in anti-inflammatory foods – it’s not just about limitations and restrictions, and 2) thinking about the effect that all of the anti-inflammatory foods have on my body. It helped me to think about those consequences, then I still might decide the food was worth it to me to eat, but I had a balanced perspective and it was typically easier to avoid treats I really didn’t care about as much and limit my portions of those I did. Here are some photos of foods I ate throughout the week:

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Some struggles I’ve had: Choosing food this weekend was definitely tough! We assigned meals to different family members for camping so I didn’t have a ton of control over what was available at each meal. I chose as best I could by loading up on the veggie and fruit and limiting any entrees, sides, or desserts that were particularly high in sugar or saturated fat. Thankfully, my family is relatively health-conscious so there tended to be plenty of fruit or veggies available. My aunt made some lavender lemonade that was TO DIE FOR and we had a birthday party during the weekend as well, so I had tiny bits of treats spread out throughout the four days. I scraped the frosting off of a small piece of cake and chose only bites of the superb homemade ice cream my brother and sister-in-law made. The holiday weekend was definitely more “pro-inflammatory” than the rest of my week, but hey, that’s life! Check out the photos below to see some of the meals and snacks I ate this weekend.

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I started my anti-inflammatory diet last night! Dinner #1: Indian-style curry, loaded with anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and cinnamon. The anti-oxidants in these bright spices have been shown to reduce inflammation. Read on for an intro to understanding inflammation.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's natural response to a variety of things it does not like – being injured, being exposed to toxins, or stress. It can also happen in relation to our lifestyle or the foods we eat. When the body is inflamed, a myriad of inflammatory factors are released, which can lead to unpleasant consequences like pain, diabetes, or artery blockages.

Our bodies are always moving along a spectrum of inflammation in response to all the things that we eat, do, and are exposed to throughout the day. Some inflammation can be healthy and is part of the body's immune response, but as a whole, Americans tend to have higher-than-helpful levels of inflammation due to the Standard American Diet (also known as SAD). Many of the foods that are easily available, inexpensive, and common in America tend to promote inflammation, while foods that can combat inflammation are less commonly eaten. Decreasing our overall level of inflammation can improve the quality of our lives as well as bode well for long-term health. Chronic inflammation is linked to dementia, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disease.

What does anti-inflammatory eating consist of?

Well, that partly depends on who you ask, as research is constantly developing in this area. Growing research suggests that the following things are linked with higher levels of inflammation:
  • Saturated fats: butter, meat fat, dairy fat
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil
  • Excessive carbohydrate and/or sugar intake
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Inactivity
  • Stress
  • Poor sleep
  • Overweight/obesity
The foods and habits listed below are linked with lower levels of inflammation:
  • Monounsaturated fats: avocado oil, olive oil, nuts
  • Herbs and spices including cinnamon and turmeric
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oil, walnut oil, flax oil, chia seeds, canola oil
  • Antioxidants found in brightly-colored plant-based foods
  • Regular exercise
  • Vitamin D
You might notice that several of the things that may promote inflammation begin with the word “excessive.” Moderation is key here. Saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and alcohol aren't “off-limits,” we only want to limit them and spread them out. Too much of any at one time can lead to a spike in inflammation that is hard on the body. You also might notice that “excessive” is rather vague, which is true. There are not many hard-and-fast recommendations for anti-inflammatory eating. I'll be addressing that more in the weeks to come.

For the next three weeks, I'll be researching more about anti-inflammatory eating as well as living it! Stay tuned for more info!

We have a winner! (1)

Your voices have been heard! The anti-inflammatory diet came out on top with more than double the votes of either of the other two options.

As a quick overview, there is not truly one well-defined and well-recognized “anti-inflammatory diet” per se, but rather we have a lot of research about how food affects inflammation in the body that we can leverage to decrease inflammation. In the coming weeks I will bring you information on what inflammation is, whether or not we really need to fight it with food, and what the research is telling us about lifestyle changes you can make to affect your levels of inflammation.

Sit back and relax because you’ll have plenty more info on anti-inflammatory eating coming your way soon!


Help meI’m gearing up for my next “diet” and I want to know what you want to know more about! Here are some suggestions:

Vegetarian Diets

There are many varieties of vegetarians, but in general, they don’t eat meat and/or animal products for either health or ethical reasons. Some vegetarians (called pescatarians) eat only fish and no other meats, while lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products. Vegans avoid eating any food that is or contains animal-based products. More recently, the term flexatarian was introduced as a name for people who are trying to eat fewer animal products, but are not quite ready to make the leap to cutting them out entirely.

Gluten-Free for Celiac Disease

Gluten-free eating has been very trendy as of late, but originally the only people who focused on cutting out gluten were those who have a serious condition called celiac disease, in which their body has an auto-immune response to the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye products.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

This is an eating style I recommend for people who are struggling with inflammatory conditions (anything from inflammatory bowel disease to arthritis to diabetes and more) to reduce the overall amount of inflammation in their bodies. In general, the principles of anti-inflammatory eating are beneficial for most Americans because our typical diets tend to be pretty pro-inflammatory.

Low-Purine for Gout

People who have an inflammatory condition called gout accumulate painful crystals in their joints in response to the amino acid purine. During a flare-up, they typically must follow a low-purine diet (and often times take medications) in order to help resolve the intense joint pain.

Low-FODMAP for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

This tricky-to-follow but yet-so-worth-it diet can provide seemingly miraculous relief for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For many years, the causes of the digestive symptoms of IBS were not understood, and these people suffered for a long time. Thanks to Monash University in Australia, so much more is understood about IBS and following this diet process can lead to HUGE improvements in symptoms.

Comment on this post (or on Facebook or on Instagram) with the eating style you would like me to feature next – these are just ideas, feel free to suggest anything you want! The top three suggestions will be put in my next poll for voting.



Image from i.huffpost.com

Since my husband and I have met our wellness goals, we are not ready to watch our bodies creep back to where they were, but rather to maintain the progress we’ve made and go even further. How do we avoid becoming another statistic for weight regain or resume our couch-potatoing, Christmas cookie-eating ways? The vital keys to long-term success lie before and after the hard work of reaching your goals.

Key #1: Before you change anything

Decide carefully how you will achieve your goals. For many years, scientists have been studying methods for weight loss to find the “best” way to get pounds off. The surprising result of a lot of this research is that so many methods work. A lot of nutritionists have taken to saying, “diets don’t work.” It might be semantics but in general, if the goal is to lose weight – most fad diets do work. Whether it’s low carb, low fat, low calorie, or portion control – weight typically comes off.1-5  If they didn’t work at all for losing weight, word would get around pretty quickly and they would never become popular.

Here’s the kicker (besides that many fad diets aren’t safe): the statistics for maintaining weight loss after a diet are horrendous. Long-term studies show that five years after short-term diets the result is an average regain to anywhere from a net loss of only 6 lbs to a gain of 10-21% of pre-diet weight.2,6 Yikes!

Many fad diets can be extreme, overly restrictive, or just plain miserable (or option d, all of the above). Most people beginning a diet program are willing to commit to short-term pain for long-term gain. Unfortunately, the reality is that long-term dieting is generally not sustainable, and weight loss from short-term dieting is temporary.

But fear not – all hope is not lost! The National Weight Control Registry is comprised of people who have successfully lost at least 30 lbs and kept it off for at least a year, though most participants have lost an average of 72.6 lbs and kept it off for more than 5 years.7 Their participants report that ongoing, long-term participation in sustainable habit changes has been key to their success, as opposed to radical, short-term dieting. You can read more about their habit changes at the National Weight Control Registry website.

All these studies show that a pivotal ingredient for long-term success with wellness, weight loss, muscle gain, or any habit change is sustainability. One of my favorite quotes sums up the wisdom behind this:

Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”

-Charles H. Spurgeon

Some may wonder what the last phrase has to do with wellness, and personally I believe it is vitally important (and apparently so did Spurgeon since he tacked it on there), so I included it. Regardless of how you feel about God, however, the sentiment is to not even begin a habit change that you can’t commit to long-term. Find changes that work with your lifestyle, not against it.

fighting, clawing, and scratching

Recognize that temporary habit changes create temporary results.  You can tweak them, change them, or adjust to the fluidity of life as needed, but if your habit changes disappear completely, so will the fruits of your labors.

Key #2: After you’ve met your goals

You’ve done it, congratulations! You’ve met your goal! You’ve placed a new brick in the healthy foundation upon which you can continue building the life you want. Guess what? You’re not done! If you want to continue to enjoy the benefits of your progress, you must grab hold of the second key to long-term success:

Always have a goal and a sustainable plan to achieve it.

Achieving a goal merits celebration, and also the exciting task of deciding what your next goal will be. It doesn’t have to be intense – your goal could be maintenance and your plan might be walking – but you need to have both or you’ll watch all your hard work and health benefits slip away. Living a healthy life is swimming upstream in our culture – you can not coast into good health.

So what’s next for Charlie and me?

My new goal: Maintain cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Gain strength and muscular endurance (I want to be able to do 10 pull-ups or rock climb for an hour without getting pooped).

My new plan: Mindful, intuitive eating along with 30-40 minutes of cardio twice weekly, strength training 4 times weekly, and 10-20 minutes of yoga 5 days per week.

Charlie’s new goal: Maintain cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Gain strength (he wants to be able to save people from burning buildings and stuff).

Charlie’s new plan: My Fitness Pal (with his calorie and macronutrient needs adjusted since he’s building muscle now), 30-40 minutes of cardio twice weekly, strength training 4 days per week, and 10-15 minutes of yoga before each workout as well as a longer practice twice weekly.

Have a goal of your own but need help finding a sustainable plan that fits your lifestyle? Contact me or schedule an appointment to start building a healthy foundation for the life you want!

  1. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2002-021480
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2001.134/full
  3. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/412650
  4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2004.61/full
  5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/53/5/1124.short
  6. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2613427, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/5/579.short
  7. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.short