INFLAMMATION: Are You Fanning the Flames or Smothering the Spark?
By Coach Kat, October 18, 2020, copyright Bronwyn Katdaré 2020
Did you know that inflammation is a double-edged sword? Did you know we need enough inflammation to defend us against microbial invasion and to allow our physical injuries to heal? Did you know, that if we are unable to turn off inflammation, however, it begins to attack the body making us gain weight, develop chronic disease at an earlier age, and accelerate the aging process?
Imagine being able to lose weight and maintain your best weight. Imagine having a healthy immune system. Imagine aging at a slower pace. You don’t have to imagine these things. I can guide you right to all three.
Why do we gain weight? Why do we get sick? Why do we age faster? The answer to all three is increased levels of inflammation. Inflammation can keep us alive but we need to keep the inflammation within a balanced zone. However, if we have too little inflammation, we become a target for microbes and injuries will not heal. If we have too much inflammation, the body attacks itself.
The things that turn on inflammation are pretty simple: microbial invasion, physical injuries, and diet. Inflammation has to go through phases, commencing with the initiating event. It then moves into a pro-inflammatory initiation response in which there is cellular destruction. This stays on until the anti-inflammatory resolution response, in which there is cellular repair. When initiation is too long or too hard or the resolution is too weak, we cannot stay in the balanced zone where we only have inflammation when we need it (ie., after a physical injury) and have the ability to turn it off when we don’t need it.
Before we go any further, talk about the characteristics of inflammation. It is the mismatch between the processes of initiation and resolution of inflammation. Cellular inflammation is inflammation below the perception of pain so we can’t feel it but it’s still happening. At the molecular level, all chronic diseases are initially driven by low-level unresolved cellular inflammation that is below the perception of pain. This inflammation is a result of the blockage of the body’s natural healing response to inflammation caused by diet, physical injury, or microbial invasion. This causes chronic disease. The result is chronic activation of the primitive innate immune system. The primitive innate immune system is the “defensive” innate immune system we share with plants. Although I’ve simplified it here, this is a complex system that controls everything.
Chronic diseases associated with cellular inflammation include obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, allergies, and inflammatory conditions (“-itis”). Chronic disease is different than infectious disease. Unlike infectious disease, chronic disease takes years (or decades) to develop. This is because chronic disease is the consequence of long-term cumulative organ damage caused by a blocked resolution response. Why? Because most of the population batter their bodies with a diet that induces inflammation. You may have heard this called a pro-inflammatory diet or the SAD diet (Standard American Diet). Therefore, it is not inflammation per se that is the cause of chronic disease, but the blockage of the body’s internal healing response to tissue damage caused by chronic unresolved inflammation. When the levels of pro-inflammatory mediators increase, they disrupt hormone signaling patterns and reduce the efficiency of innate and adaptive immune systems. You must reduce, resolve, and repair the damage caused by the initial inflammation to remain well.
The best way to control inflammation is by eating an anti-inflammatory diet. What’s that? It’s a way of eating that decreases cellular inflammation by maximizing nutrient absorption, balancing insulin levels, and prioritizing the loss of inflammatory fat. How? We’ve all heard carbs are bad. Protein is bad. Fat is bad. Here’s a clue: you need all three to survive but to thrive, you must balance them in a way that decreases chronic inflammation in the body. I’m going to tell you how to do this.
Get a plate out of your cabinet. No, really. I’ll wait. Go get a plate so you can see this in action.
Divide the plate as follows: 1/3 plant-based protein; 2/3 colorful carbs which contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are what give fruits and vegetable their vibrant color. Fruits and vegetables are CARBOHYDRATES. Then add a touch of plant-based fat. How much? A dash. A smidgen. A little bit.
This fat should be in the form of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. This can be EPA and DHA in the form of algae, seaweed, or spirulina. It can also be ALA in the form of walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, or Brussels sprouts. Omega 3 Fatty Acids decrease inflammation, support heart health, decrease symptoms of depression, and decrease cancer risk. Think of this as a Whole-Food Plant-Based Mediterranean diet but with very few starches (white potatoes, pasta) and very few, if any, grains. (Gluten and grains cause inflammation. P.S. Corn is a grain, not a vegetable).
The keys to this way of eating are the Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Polyphenols. If you balance your plate and drink enough water, you can easily go 4-5 hours between meals without feeling hungry. Why? Because your blood sugar stabilizes. This takes us back to the beginning: your diet must be low-glycemic in order to balance insulin levels and promote the loss of inflammatory fat. (If you’re interested in quitting sugar for good, make sure to register for my next Sugar Blues: Crushing Monster Cravings workshop and my GLOW: Whole-Food Seasonal Detox. Both are run quarterly).
What’s going to fill YOUR plate?
(Bronwyn Katdaré is a certified Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Functional Medicine Health Coach who focuses on the prevention and reversal of chronic disease through the integrated lens of whole-food plant-based nutrition, physical activity, proper sleep, stress management, a sense of community, and the feeling of joy. She specializes in chronic conditions created by inflammation, sugar cravings and weight issues, toxic relationships, confidence creation and de-bunking limiting beliefs, and healing practices designed to compassionately balance the entire being).