Fighting Inflammation with Your DietDr. Miranda Wiley, ND
July 10, 2017
Inflammation as a process is part Dr. Jeckyl (good) and part Mr. Hyde (bad). When there is acute trauma or infection then inflammation is a good thing as it calls white blood cells (the tiny doctors and healers in our bodies) to the site of injury so that they can fix the damage. A sprained ankle is bothersome for a day or two, but thanks to inflammation it heals, we no longer need to hobble around once the damage has been repaired, and can walk freely without a limp (until the next injury).
But when inflammation becomes a chronic, ongoing condition then it can lead to ongoing changes to tissues that can make them less strong, or behave differently in the body. Arthritis (“-itis” always means inflammation) is a condition in which long-term inflammation in a joint causes the area to become painful, stiff, and over time, less functional. This can make a limp gradually more permanent, or interfere with usual activities of daily living such as being able to cook for oneself, play with children or grandchildren, exercise, or engage in activities for pleasure like playing an instrument or knitting. This is the type of debilitating inflammation that most people are trying to fight.
Hippocrates is considered the “Father of medicine”, and his most famous quote is likely “Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food.” It all starts with diet, it really does. The paradigm of the day is to eat a diet loaded with pro-inflammatory compounds: white sugar in convenience foods and drinks, refined flour (which essentially becomes white sugar during digestion), trans fats, refined fats, omega-6 dominant fats in vegetable oil, margarine, shortening, and the processed goods in which refined sugar and fats appear, and mass-produced, factory-farmed meats. Then when inflammation strikes we turn to pharmaceuticals such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or their stronger prescribed counterparts to helps us navigate life.
But our bodies evolved on a much simpler dietary heritage. Complex carbohydrates, wholesome fats, and clean proteins come packaged together with natural vitamins and digestible minerals when in the form of whole foods. Herbs and spices used to flavour whole foods and transform them into meals have the added benefit of providing medicinal compounds to the body.
Our bodies are a sophisticated network of communication and balance between various tissues and organs. Inflammation is strongly influenced by the food we eat and the components that it provides to the body, but the regulation of inflammation is predominantly the domain of the immune system. Think of the immune system as the knights and soldiers that protect the fortress of our being. They are most effective when guarding the areas of weakness, and since we are most vulnerable to attack from bacteria along our digestive tract (which needs to be quite thin and permeable to allow nutrients in and toxins out) the majority of our immune system, 70-80% of it , resides along areas of the GI tract.
Choosing wholesome foods is the first step to a healthy, balanced body, but nutritional efforts to balance inflammation are strengthened by focusing on a strong and efficient digestive tract. It is far easier for our bodies to regulate inflammation when digestion is healthy – nutrients are absorbed more effectively, and immune cells lining the intestines are able to respond to threats more efficiently.
Turmeric and ginger are cousins – members of the same plant family that look quite similar, but where turmeric is small with rhizomes of a deep orange colour, ginger is both larger and more pale. Both pack a punch when it comes to delivering medicinal compounds that work with the body to lower inflammation.
Fermented foods are powerhouses of absorbable nutrition and friendly microflora (good yeasts and supportive bacteria) that help to maintain a strong digestive tract and flexible immune system.
Botanica’s Daily Anti-Inflammatory Shot brings the best of food and fermentation into our systems to support the regulation of inflammation within our bodies. Organic turmeric and ginger are steeped into a strong tea to which organic sugar and a natural SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) are added. The sugar gives the microbes some immediate energy to live off of while they generate enzymes that modify and modulate the medicinal compounds in the turmeric and ginger. After several months all of the sugar is consumed and the final product has the sourness of vinegar, but with all of the medicinal benefits of turmeric, ginger, and fermented foods. It can be used in a variety of hot and cold drink recipes as a delicious way to incorporate these foods into your diet.