How to quiet that smoldering fire inside you
Inflammation is how the body responds to infection and injury. But too much of it can lead to chronic diseases.
Beth Stambaugh Published: 4/11/2018
It’s something you can’t live without, but too much can lead to a host of chronic diseases.
Inflammation is your body’s response to an infection or injury. It shows up as heat, pain, redness or swelling. It also can lead to a fever and swollen glands when you’re sick. Inflammation comes to the rescue with white blood cells and platelets to help us heal.
When you’re anxious or afraid, inflammation is also your body’s response to help you escape a life-threatening situation. After you experience an injury or illness, inflammation is supposed to go away, but sometimes it doesn’t.
“When it builds up, it leads to inflamed cells that cause blockage, rupture and damage to healthy cells and tissue,” said Mona Shah, MD, a Baptist Heart Specialists cardiologist certified in holistic medicine. Dr. Shah’s mission is to educate patients on the connection between a healthy lifestyle and heart health, but her advice can help with a multitude of illnesses.
“Chronic inflammation is at the root of almost every chronic disease,” Dr. Shah said. “And unfortunately, it goes unnoticed most of the time.
“It’s like a smoldering fire building up inside our bodies.”
The list of conditions that have inflammation as a common denominator goes on and on – from heart disease to cancer, stroke and arthritis to depression, fibromyalgia, migraines and neurological diseases.
“When you consider that half of all adults have one chronic condition and that seven out of 10 patients die due to chronic diseases, it’s clear that taking anti-inflammatory measures can save your life,” said Dr. Shah.
Dr. Shah’s No. 1 piece of advice is to eat healthy. “I don’t believe in going on ‘diets’ because those are usually short-lived. It’s more about adopting a healthy lifestyle you can live with.”
A good place to start, she said, is to follow the Mediterranean eating plan at least 80 percent of the time. “The most common cause of inflammation is what you eat,” she said.
The biggest culprits are – you guessed it – simple carbs and sugar. Dr. Shah recommends sticking to whole grains, like quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”), brown rice and sweet potatoes. Healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil are on the good list, too.
Avoid most saturated fats, such as cream, cheese and butter. Some saturated fats – like coconut oil, pure grass-fed butter, and even eggs – are OK in small amounts.
“You want to stay away from trans-fats, especially anything with hydrogenated oil, like vegetable, corn or soy bean oil,” said Dr. Shah. “Take a look at food labels and avoid anything containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which causes inflammation.”
Eat meats that are free-range and organic to steer clear of hormones and other chemicals. Wild fish rather than farmed is one of Dr. Shah’s recommendations, as is having some vegetarian days where you stay away from animal protein altogether.
Dr. Shah also encourages patients to take anti-inflammatory supplements, including magnesium, garlic, green tea and turmeric. Coenzyme Q10 (coq10), a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body’s cells, is also high on her list. You can get it from food, such as grass-fed beef or chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds, or take it as a supplement. Ask your doctor about the right supplement dosages for you.
Dr. Shah has witnessed many patients who’ve greatly improved their health by adopting a healthier eating lifestyle. “I’ve seen decreases in cholesterol and blood pressure, improvements in heart health, and weight loss. The best part is that patients report feeling much better.”
To learn more about eating a healthy diet to lower inflammation, read Dr. Shah’s blog at drmonashah.wordpress.com.