How to Prevent and Reverse Inflammation and Autoimmune Illness

In my last newsletter/blog, I wrote about  autoimmune illness and noted that one of the best ways to prevent and heal an autoimmune condition is to keep the digestive tract healthy and functioning well.

If you missed all that, click here

In a nutshell, the best way to not have an autoimmune disorder is to prevent inflammation of the intestine. Inflammation, of course, exists with us all and is an extremely powerful, necessary function for our survival.  It ensures that appropriate nourishment and adequate immune activity is delivered to an area, inside or outside that is injured or under attack.

The darker side to this inflammation phenomenon is that because it is so powerfully responsive, it also can be destructive to our health, especially when it over functions or goes beyond the boundaries of a localized area or continues for too long a period of time.

The idea that inflammation is an underlying cause of aging and many chronic illnesses has been studied in depth since the 1800s. However, persistent inflammation lingering in bodies is becoming increasingly common, and serves no good purpose. In fact, researchers have discovered that complex chemical reactions occur throughout the body in response to inflammation which lead to an overactive immune system and then to one or more autoimmune diseases.

It stands to reason, then, that if we can control the inflammation in our body, we can prevent or reduce the incidents and severity of autoimmune illness.

One of the simplest cause of underlying inflammation, and that we have some control over is the rather typically American “inflammatory lifestyle,” which includes some environmental toxin exposure, stress, and poor diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine doctor has suggested that what we put at the end of our fork is extremely powerful and can be extremely protective and healing. The foods that we choose to eat and those we choose to avoid can go a long way keeping us from getting autoimmune diseases and/or lessening their destruction to our bodies.

Foods to Avoid -they contribute to inflammation in the body

Saturated fats from poorly fed animals and animals fed and finished on genetically modified corn and grains, antibiotics, and hormones contribute to inflammation in the body. That would be most of the beef, pork, chicken, and fish in this country.

Trans-fats from margarine, shortening and hydrogenated oils are also huge contributors.

Sugar is a major factor, as is any form of refined or processed food.

Processed grains in everyday breakfast cereals, bread, pastas, and most breakfast and energy bars are pro-inflammatory. The refining process depletes components which are needed to keep inflammation at bay.

Leave as many of these foods behind in favor of fresh whole foods. Clean and unprocessed foods supply your body with the vitamins, minerals and highly effective phytonutrients required to increase your body’s defense against chronic inflammation.

Foods to Increase, to Give Preference to –

Cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and include broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy, chard, collards, and spinach.

Omega 3 fatty acids are paramount in reducing the body’s inflammation, as well as preventing the risks and symptoms of a number of disorders influenced by inflammation. Among them are flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, navy beans, and kidney beans.

Herbs and spices can be added to your food plan to not only enhance the flavor of your favorite meals, but to provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits.  Turmeric is especially valuable in this regard.

Ginger, one of my favorites, is from the same family as turmeric and has been used as a remedy for centuries in Asian, Indian, and Arabic systems of medicine. It has potent anti-inflammatory components, and also helps reduce pain from osteoarthritis and other inflammatory illnesses.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants which reduce inflammation.

Add in Some Exercise.

It doesn’t matter as much as which exercise you do, as that you choose to exercise. To maximize its ability to prevent or reverse inflammation and/or autoimmune disorders, do it often.

Make it a Habit.  Aim for 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as walking, running, swimming, or even yard work. A little each day is more beneficial than squeezing in a week’s worth of exercise on the weekend.

Mix and Match Activities.  Get a mixture of both aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or riding  bike, and moderate strength training, with body-weight moves or weight lifting.

Don’t Overdo It.  An overzealous workout can leave muscles and joints sore, which may end up fueling the inflammation instead of quelling it.

Bring Your Mind Along.

Activities that calm the mind, such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qigong also help to quiet inflammatory activity in the body. I am a big fan of yoga, and consider it an important part of my plan for staying healthy for many years to come.

Diet an lifestyle make a huge difference in the way we feel on a day to day basis.  They are even more important when the prevention and reversal of so many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases are considered.

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