The Inflammation Factor: Lifestyle Choices and Chronic Inflammation

Episode 99 is all about inflammation and how lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, can make chronic inflammation better or worse. First though, our worth it or waste of the week is kombuchu.

Mindy's favorite kombucha brand, Scoby Masters Tea-Biotics

What is kombuchu? It is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. It is a source of probiotics, made in a similar way as other probiotic sources like sauerkraut and yogurt. The taste varies depending on flavors added but it’s base is a fizzy vinegar tasting drink. Mayo clinic warns there have been reports of adverse effects, such as stomach upset, infections and allergic reactions in kombucha tea drinkers. Kombucha tea is often brewed in homes under nonsterile conditions, making contamination likely. Advocates say it helps your digestion, rids your body of toxins, and boosts your energy. Worth a try if you are willing to spend $3 to $5 a bottle and you don’t get probiotics from other foods like yogurt. If you are drinking it and not seeing any benefits though, don’t waste your money.

Inflammation is a factor in many chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obesity. It's the body's immune system response to healing injuries, but treating chronic inflammation in conditions like these can be challenging. Starting with exercise and inflammation, a small 2017 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicineshowed that 20 minutes of walking on a treadmill had anti-inflammatory effects. If you’re not exercising at all, work up to thirty minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, four to five days per week. On days you do not feel well enough to exercise, focus on eating well and drinking water. For those who do not have chronic inflammation, be sure to be exercise as well. It is one of the best medicines for prevention.

Sleep is the next factor in chronic inflammation. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Research shows shorter or longer durations are linked to higher levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, or CRP. This marker has been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Your doctor might order a CRP test to check for inflammation, which can indicate infection or a chronic inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, as well as risk of heart disease.

Of course food choices are a major factor in chronic inflammation. It’s what cools or fuels the fire. Inflammation is the body's healing response so it is actually a good thing until it becomes persistent and chronic. Some foods provide nutrients to heal and other make us feel worse. Try incorporating these anti-inflammotory foods into your diet on a regular basis.

  • Whole fruits and vegetables: eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (mostly veggies) each day.

  • Protein Sources: Potential anti-inflammatory protein sources include fish and seafood. Organic Tofu, tempeh, legumes, walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts are also good anti-inflammatory choices.

  • Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish (salmon, tuna), flax seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Research shows that having at least 250 mg of EPA and DHA, types of omega 3 fat, can be particularly beneficial for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Beverages: water, green tea and herbal unsweetened teas

A key to an anti-inflammatory diet is to replace processed foods with fresh foods and here are six ways to do it:

  1. For breakfast, try oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts.

  2. Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables

  3. Eat fish 2-3 times a week to replace fatty red meat or processed meat like hot dogs

  4. Dress salads with olive oil and vinegar

  5. Have a salad with lots of fresh vegetables as your meal.

  6. Choose dark green or brightly colored vegetables as side dishes or blend dark greens into a smoothie

There are many foods in the grocery store that you’ll want to avoid to reduce chronic inflammation. In general, avoid high fat/processed meats, sugary foods, refined white flours like white bread and club crackers, and cut back on dairy products.

To incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, try adding recipes from the Mediterranean diet, which is high in omega-3 fat sources and fruits and vegetables.

For more information on arthritis and diet, read Food Cures by Joy Bauer, MS, RDN. She includes foods to eat often, recipes and a meal plan for people with arthritis.

Listen to the full episode on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify!

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