Are You on Fire? Fight chronic inflammation with natural fire extinguishers

When you scrape your knee, it's easy to see and feel the inflammation. But how do we measure inflammation at the cellular level and why do we care? Chronic, low-level systemic inflammation, also called "silent inflammation" is now accepted as the root cause of aging and most degenerative diseases, ranging from cancer and congestive heart failure to diabetes and dementia.

What is Inflammation?

Normally, inflammation is a defending phenomenon of the immune system to protect us against bacterial and viral invaders and can be a good thing in small doses. Step on a nail and you want white blood cells and the body's inflammatory chemicals to rush in. But chronic systemic inflammation arises from two interacting systems: a play between nature and nurture:  1) In our immune system, normal pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines go awry; and 2) an imbalance in our omega-3 to omega-6 fat intake results in the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Together, these two factors result in chronic systemic inflammation. It's inflammation that doesn't know when to stop and that's obviously a problem.

Where There's Smoke…

If you're overweight, or have diabetes, you definitely have chronic inflammation. The same holds true if you're constantly in pain and popping OTC meds, like Tylenol and Advil, just to get through the day. Some other early signs include: gum disease; muscle loss; weight gain and resistant weight loss; arthritis; eczema; IBS/leaky gut syndrome; and depression to name just a few. The best way to measure inflammation is to have your physician run a high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test. The test isn't perfect because it tells if you have inflammation, but it doesn't tell you where the inflammation resides. Most doctors like to see a CRP score of 1 or less.

How to Fight the Fire

Fortunately, we have 4 natural fire extinguishers in our tool kit to put out this smoldering fire:

1)     Diet. What we eat has the power to either crank up the heat or dampen the fires of inflammation. Did you know that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed in as little as four weeks with an anti-inflammatory diet and the consistent use of food as medicine? Food is our trump card in the battle against silent inflammation, and we hold it, not Pfizer or any of the pharmaceutical giants. Studies have shown that CRP levels tend to be higher in people with high-glycemic diets. Conversely, a whole foods diet that's rich in fiber and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates is associated with lower CRP levels. So load up on foods that are rich in flavonoids and other natural anti-inflammatory agents,  including onions, leeks, garlic, leafy greens, bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, flaxseeds and green tea. Think rainbow colored meals. Divide your plate into 3 sections: 1/3 is lean protein; 2/3 is brightly colored vegetables; and a dash of good fats.

It's also important to balance your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. When omega-6 fats interact with insulin, it's like adding flame to kerosene and unfortunately our Western diets are loaded with omega-6s from cheap vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates. Nix the corn, canola, and generic refined "vegetable" oils and replace with coconut, ghee, olive or flaxseed oil. Also aim to eat 2 servings of wild fish a week.

Eschew sugar and refined carbohydrates as they spike your blood sugar and turbo-charge your inflammation production pathways. Also stay away from fried foods. Simmer or use a slow cooker because frying and grilling at high temperatures creates pro-inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that not only age you, but also damage nerve and brain cells as well as DNA.

Stock up on herb such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon and dill that are anti-inflammatory, as are the spices ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves.

2)     Supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids with EPA and DHA combined with GLA (gamma linolenic acid) from borage, evening primrose and black currant seeds can lower inflammatory activity by a whopping 65 percent within four short weeks. If you're healthy, aim for a maintenance dose of 1-2 grams per day, but if you have diabetes/obesity, ADHD or heart disease, you can go to 5 grams per day or higher (as recommended by your physician).

An inflamed gut and inflammatory bowel conditions, such as leaky gut syndrome and IBS, are another key source of chronic low level inflammation. Make sure you heal the gut with digestive enzymes, probiotics and whole leaf organic aloe vera juice. Aloe's legendary anti-inflammatory properties are soothing to mucous membranes and have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation in the digestive tract. 

Vitamins C, E, zinc, selenium and flavonoid-rich extracts—such as grape seed or pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) are the most important antioxidants for fighting inflammation.

3)     Sleep. Did you know that sleep deprivation markedly increases the production of inflammatory chemicals? In one sleep deprivation study, participants showed an increase of 40-60 percent of pro-inflammatory substances. So get your zzzz's as deep sleep gives the body the environment it needs to repair and recover from chronic inflammation.

4)     Exercise. We now know that Alzheimer's disease is related to inflammation and a 2001 study indicated that dedicated exercisers have half as much risk of Alzheimer's as couch potatoes. Exercise also improves insulin function which is a key factor in chronic inflammation, so get moving!

Reducing whole body inflammation requires a truly comprehensive approach. So, whether you're struggling with chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes, resistant weight loss, leaky gut, eczema or other inflammatory conditions, visit to book your initial free consultation and learn how a customized anti-inflammatory diet/lifestyle that's unique to your bio-individuality can help you put out the fire and regain your vitality.

Rupina Meer is a Board-Certified Health Coach who received her training from the acclaimed Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Rupina's mission is to help her clients get radically honest with the relationship between what they eat and how they feel so that they can look and feel great from the inside out without diets, deprivation or dogma. Visit to get instant access to a free eReport and discover the Top 5 Health Myths That Are Keeping You Fat, Fatigued & in a Funk.

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rupinameer, posted on April 18, 2012

Thanks Nicole. I'm glad you found it helpful.

NicoleUrdang, posted on April 17, 2012

Excellent article.
Thank you.

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