Time magazine has called “inflammation” the secret killer.
From personal experience, I can say the magazine article is probably dead-on correct. While I had heard that chronic inflammation had been linked to everything from heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s – I’ll admit that it didn’t register right away. But when I started to develop my own chronic symptoms that couldn’t be explained, and didn’t go away – I started to pay closer attention to the subject.
It’s hard to believe that only three or four years ago, I was plagued by pain in my joints and leg muscles. I was in a stage of my life where I couldn’t get past a single day without taking Advil or another pain-relieving drug. It’s almost embarrassing to admit now, but less than four summers ago I was eating Advil almost like it was candy, because every four to five hours the pain would return. Multiple trips to various physicians didn’t shed much light on the problem, tests came up negative and all they could do was to continue to monitor my situation.
Frustrated, I took my case to functional nutritionist and homeopathic doctor Bryce Wylde. I wasn’t so much interested in homeopathy, but I knew that Dr. Bryce approached problems from a holistic perspective and, based on his reputation and successes in treating people, I was intrigued to see what he could do with my case.
After a thorough consultation, booked in several sessions where we covered my individual issues, history, habits, lifestyle, etc., an evaluation was completed and a plan for treatment was given to me. While chronic inflammation wasn’t the singular culprit that was nagging me at the time, it was certainly thought to be paramount. Given the link between diet, nutrition, and inflammation, Dr. Bryce wasted no time in sorting out my ‘gut’.
Digestive support was the first thing to tackle. We started with a pharmaceutical-grade probiotic to restore the healthy bacteria in my stomach. I was given a list of nutritional supplements to take, and instructed to take two teaspoons of fish oil per day. Marine oils are the kings of well being! Finally, I was given some general guidelines for an ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet, which restricted certain grains, dairy products, nightshades and certain ‘trigger’ foods that may have contributed to a reaction of some sort.
What a difference a few months made! All joint pain, leg pain, creaky knees, stiffness in the joints disappeared completely. I was able to stop taking pain relievers within a month of starting the treatment – and haven’t taken a single dose since – almost three years later. When I started adding regular exercise into my regime, things improved even more (I’d been ‘going to the gym’ for years, but was sidelined for a long time due to pain). Squats, deadlifts, presses, kettlebell workouts, general physical preparedness (GPP) training, metabolic conditioning, muscular endurance routines, cardio workouts, tabata intervals, yoga – I hit it all now. And my joints and muscles have never been stronger or healthier.
As I learned more about performance nutrition and optimal health, I started exploring the Paleo Diet as a long-term solution for optimal health. This model is based on eating whole foods that mimic the dietary intake of Hunter-Gatherer populations — traditionally raised meats, poultry, fish, eggs, lots of vegetables, along with some fruit, nuts and seeds. Paleo seems to work the best for me in terms of long-term compliance (I’m well over 90% compliant with Paleo guidelines) and results.
What can you do to keep inflammation at bay?
Proper nutrition plays a key role, as many foods are inflammation protagonists.
Here are some pointers:
i) Take a good fish oil supplement twice a day. I use liquid Nutra-Sea fish oil from Ascenta Health.
ii) Get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids from natural sources, including fresh wild salmon or canned sockeye salmon, sardines, herring, omega-3 eggs, avocados, hemp seeds and/or ground flaxseeds.
iii) Include nuts and other seeds in your diet, including walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Peanuts don’t make the grade — they are a legume, not a nut.
iv) Avoid trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, margarine and vegetable oils and shortenings like the plague. Use a good olive oil for salads and low-temperature cooking.
v) Avoid processed or manufactured foods at all costs. Jack LaLanne used to say “If man made it, don’t eat it!”
vi) Reduce intake of foods high in saturated fat. Not all saturated fat is necessarily bad (in fact, your body requires it), but saturated fat should be eaten in moderation. Better sources of saturated fat are coconut milk and virgin coconut oils, and traditionally-rasied meats (non-steroid, non-hormonal, grass fed sources).
vii) Eat carbohydrates with a low glycemic load. This will mean the majority of your carbohydrates will come from vegetables, and to a lesser extent, fruits. Eliminate or severely restrict your consumption of grains.
viii) With every meal, choose a lean protein, a vegetable, and a good source of fat (preferably a source of omega-3s). Load up on the fresh vegetables, and include plenty of greens, as well as the other colour groups. Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Limit consumption of the nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) until the inflammation is under control.
ix) Eliminate all sugary drinks, including juices. Drink water and green tea instead. Avoid diet drinks and beverages that are filled with chemicals and additives.
x) Regularly eat ginger and turmeric, and include these spices in your recipes. They have been shown to lower inflammation.
xi) Supplement your rich diet with a good anti-oxidant vitamin formula. There are some specific immune support formulas that are excellent too; consult your natural doctor.
xii) Choose organic, and local produce, where possible. Eat clean and stay well!
Following these guidelines helped me, and I hope they help you as well.