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Inflammaging: There’s a fire inside you and it’s making you sick!

Are you suffering with aches and pains that never go away? No energy to get out of bed in the morning? Digestive diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, and colitis? Are you battling heart disease, diabetes, brain fog, dementia, or unbalanced hormones? Does that dreaded muffin top never go away?

All of these diverse conditions have one thing in common; a hidden culprit that’s linked to everything from obesity to all of the chronic diseases of aging. Dealing with this underlying factor is one of the most important keys to unlocking amazing health. This problem is inflammation. We call it “inflammaging” because as we age, the fire can burn bigger and hotter and inflammation in and of itself ages us. It makes us feel older. It makes us look older. It ultimately is what kills us.

Chronic disease affects over 133 million Americans or nearly half of us*. Every major chronic disease has inflammation at its core. You probably think of inflammation as pain, swelling, redness and heat when you injure yourself. While this is accurate, inflammation goes much broader and deeper than that. It is important to recognize that not all inflammation is bad - normal amounts are a good thing, helping the body protect and heal itself. But when inflammation gets out of control, it causes a fire inside us that is harmful. The underlying causes for out of control inflammation are food and lifestyle driven: sugar and low quality oils, toxins in meat, poultry, processed foods, and dairy products, hidden food intolerances, chronic stress, lack of exercise, low grade infections and our toxic environment. All of these can trigger a raging inferno deep inside the body. If these issues are not addressed, guess what happens - the fire rages on and creates more and more illness.

With so many potential causes of inflammation, putting the lid on it can be challenging. But for many, one easy place to start is with one of the biggest culprits of the inflammation game - gluten. Gluten is the protein in wheat and some other grains that gives them that nice chewy, elastic quality. Celiac disease is a disorder where the body makes antibodies to gluten. These antibodies then cross react with the small intestine and destroy it. The result is not only digestive problems, but all sorts of other seemingly unrelated symptoms as far ranging as headaches to joint pains to skin problems. About 1 in 133 people have true celiac disease*, but you don’t have to have celiac to be gluten intolerant. The easiest way to find out if you have problems with gluten is to stop eating it for a few weeks. Try living without it for a month; see what happens. It may sound difficult, but with a little advance planning it’s just not that hard.

Gluten is just one possible source of inflammation. Are you ready to put out the fire and light up your health and your life? Here are some simple tips:

  • Get rid of the gluten in your life - wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut. Oats are gluten free but they are usually cross-contaminated with gluten due to the way they are processed. Look for a label that says gluten free.

  • Get rid of the sugars in your diet (and all things that turn into sugar) like pasta, bread, alcohol, candies, and pastries.

  • Change your oil. Eliminate unhealthy trans fats – anything that says, “partially hydrogenated”. Avoid corn, cottonseed, canola and soybean oils as they are higher in Omega-6 fatty acids which are more pro-inflammatory. Use olive oil and coconut oil instead.

  • Use Omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil. If you are vegetarian, try algae oil.

  • Eat organic.

  • Eat a “rainbow” every day: 9-11 servings of multi-colored vegetables. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? The AHA and ADA recommend that amount to prevent illness. The more the better.

  • Spice up your life! Herbs like rosemary, turmeric, and ginger are very anti-inflammatory. Use them to help you put out your fire.

  • Do some form of daily exercise. Like vegetables, the more the better, but even a little is better than nothing.

  • Meditate and express gratitude daily.

All of these things do a body good. Let’s put out the inflammation fire and let your inner light shine!

If you want to learn more, come to my lecture Pain and Arthritis, Cool Those Achy Joints! On Dec. 10 at Dominican Rehab Solarium from 6 PM to 8 PM.

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