Your body’s first line of defense against infection is your immune system. As the body attempts to rid itself of foreign substances, an immune response is triggered to help restore health. Inflammation is part of this normal healing process, but when the body doesn’t turn it off—or attacks healthy cells,which occurs with an autoimmune disease—the inflammation remains constant.
Long-term inflammation damages healthy cells and organs, leaving the body vulnerable to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Even lifestyle factors (lack of exercise, smoking, eating processed foods, consuming too much sugar for example) and our environment (allergens and air pollutants) can lead to chronic inflammation—whether we feel it or not. The American Cancer Society predicts that the lifetime risk for getting cancer is 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females. There is no doubt longer lifespans and improved detection methods have contributed to this, but there unfortunately has not been enough discussion on the preventive strategies that we can all take to decrease this risk.
WFP’s Take-Home Advice
To help sustain a strong, healthy immune system, we encourage you to explore these core bedrocks of disease prevention, whether you take medications or not.
- Incorporate an individual exercise plan into your daily routine.
- Aim for a diet that consists of whole foods that are plant based. At WFP we feel a great balance is 70% plant-based foods and 30% animal-based foods, which comes out to 1 of 3 meals a day that consists of animal products. All other meals are entirely plant based.
- Drink plenty of filtered water.
- Optimize vitamin D levels.
- Eat foods, herbs, and spices that naturally contain anti-inflammatory properties.
This 5th bedrock is important considering that many of the herbs and spices we use to flavor our foods actually have therapeutic properties that work to minimize inflammation in our bodies. Recent studies also show that large quantities of herbs and spices aren’t necessary; consuming a small amount daily (what you normally use to enhance your food) of one or more of the following top contenders can boost your body’s ability to fight inflammation.
Essential Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices:
- Cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric are shown to have the most significant impact on inflammation.
- Other beneficial herbs and spices include cinnamon, paprika, sage, cumin, oregano, thyme, and cayenne.
In addition to herbs and spices, there are numerous foods that provide key nutrients and antioxidants. These foods protect on the cellular level and can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Essential Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
- Fatty fish rich with omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild-caught salmon, play a vital role in an anti-inflammatory diet. An alternative to eating animal-sourced omega-3 foods is to take a high-quality fish oil supplement daily.
- Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds—remember, a small serving (1.5 ounces) goes a long way each day. One handful is roughly one ounce.
- Spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, and other dark green leafy vegetables—organic when possible
- Cherries, blueberries, watermelon, papaya, and other colorful fruits
- Shitake mushrooms
- Green tea (or the alternative—purified water)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
By avoiding foods that cause a pro-inflammatory response (e.g., processed foods—including factory farmed meat and dairy, fried foods and other foods made with trans fats, sugar and other processed fructose products, wheat/gluten products, and diets that are too high in animal products) you improve your body’s ability to function at optimal levels. The addition of anti-inflammatory foods, herbs, and spices to your diet gives your immune system a major boost in fighting and preventing chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases today. To learn more about other ways to improve your health by decreasing inflammation, read our Preventive 10 strategies. Small changes do add up!
Sources and References:
Preventive 10 with Wiseman Family Practice. Retrieved June 22, 2016 from https://wisemanfamilypractice.com/preventive-10/
Percival SS, et al. (2012, August 31) Bioavailability of herbs and spices in humans as determined by ex vivo inflammatory suppression and DNA strand breaks. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved June 22, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23378457
Chatterjee, Priyanka, et al. (2012) Evaluation of anti-inflammatory effects of green tea and black tea: A comparative in vitro study. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved June 23, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401676/
Greger, M. (2015, January 20) The Top Four Anti-Inflammatory Spices. nutritionfacts.org. Retrieved June 23, 2016 from http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/20/the-top-four-anti-inflammatory-spices/
Ellis, M. E. (2013, October 9) Cooking Up Relief: Turmeric and Other Anti-Inflammatory Spices. healthline.com. Retrieved June 23, 2016 from http://www.healthline.com/health/osteoarthritis/turmeric-and-anti-inflammatory-herbs#Overview1
Paturel, A. (2015, October) The Ultimate Arthritis Diet. arthritis.org. Retrieved June 23, 2016 from http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/the-arthritis-diet.php
Adams, C. (2015, May 06) A Delicious & Easy Way To Boost Your Immunity. greenmedinfo.com. Retrieved June 23, 2016 from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/delicious-easy-way-boost-your-immunity