What do type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, cancer, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, and rheumatoid arthritis all have in common? Ground-breaking research indicates that they may all begin with an inflammatory process.

Inflammation is the body’s first line of defence against harmful invaders such as unwanted bacteria, viruses, and a multitude of other nasty critters. The inflammatory process has several soldiers in the form of white blood cells that act as protecting agents when the body is attacked.

Although this process is critical in maintaining the balance of health, researchers and scientists have now demonstrated that problems occur when the inflammatory process becomes chronic and no longer switches “off.” In fact, some studies now indicate that inflammation may be the platform on which several disease processes begin.

Not Always Obvious

Unfortunately, the North American diet and lifestyle (which includes hydrogenated fats, a lack of omega-3 essential fats, and fresh produce in the diet; smoking; and high levels of daily stress) all are thought to promote chronic inflammation. The stimulus that triggers the defence mechanism of inflammation is eaten, drunk, smoked, or otherwise experienced by millions of people who are unaware of the underlying damage they are causing.

Inflammation may not be detected by a blood test, x-ray, or other diagnostic measurement, but it is still occurring. On a microscopic level, inflammation can be silently and slowly wreaking havoc on your body’s weakest link. The good news is that the inflammatory process can be halted and reversed simply by changing your diet and lifestyle.

By following the steps outlined below, you will be providing your system with the best defence against future illness and disease. If you are currently suffering from an inflammatory condition, this is a powerful treatment approach.

Trans Fatty Acids

Eliminate all chemically-produced fats (partially hydrogenated fats) from your diet. These fats are found in some margarines, some commercially-packaged foods such as chips, crackers, and cookies (check labels), and in various deep-fried foods such as french fries.

Red Meat and Cheese

Minimize red meat and cheese consumption. When the saturated fat found in these two foods is eaten in excess, inflammation occurs. Substitute soy imitation products (veggie burgers, miso, tempeh, or tofu), egg whites, some fish, beans, free-range chicken, and high-quality protein powder.

Fish High in Mercury

Ensure fish you eat is low in mercury and other toxic residues such as dioxins. Purchase
wild salmon and refer to cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/seamehg2.html for a listing of mercury levels in fish and seafood as measured by the US Food and Drug Administration between 1990 and 2003.

Phytochemicals

Eat foods that are rich in phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that ward off and reverse inflammation. These foods include colourful fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes.

Omega-3s

Eat an abundant amount of omega-3 foods such as walnuts, omega-3 eggs, sesame seeds, and ground flaxseeds. In addition, supplement your diet with a minimum of 2 grams of distilled fish oils daily.

Ginger

Ginger offers potent anti-inflammatory effects and can readily be incorporated as a seasoning on food or brewed as tea.

Water

Drink six to eight glasses of fresh, clean water daily.Remember, though inflammation may not be seen or felt, changes may be occurring. Start taking preventive steps now by including anti-inflammatory foods in your daily diet to ensure your body’s inflammatory switch is turned “on” only when necessary.

About the Author

Dr. Joey Shulman, DC, RNCP, is the author of Winning the Food Fight: Every Parent's Guide to Raising a Healthy, Happy Child (John Wiley and Sons, 2003). www.drjoey.com.