Thursday, October 18, 2007

Turn Down the Heat

Whenever I meet someone who mentions one area of pain, then another, and another! And before you know it, they've described some "problem" with nearly every joint in their body--- I've got to go deeper and think systemically.

Pain, swelling, redness and heat typify the body's inflammatory process. We see these whenever we injure ourselves, with obvious outward signs. But imagine these occurring with every meal in a low-grade internal way, causing the same reaction, but in our joints...leaving them to feel stiff and achy for much of the day.

Certainly, each individual warrants their own investigation, but diet is a universal element that must be considered as a contributor to this state. Did you know that some of the most seemingly benign and healthy foods can cause an inflammatory response in your body? Like tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, and potatoes??

And the list goes on and on- I'll give you some of the top inflammatory offenders, but you're not gonna like it:

-citrus fruits

Oh yes, I know- these things are everywhere...but seriously, there are also tons of alternatives on the market thanks to other people learning how their chronic pain lives can be completely controlled by what they consume. Whether you have a diagnosed inflammatory condition (like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, fibromyalgia, MS, hayfever, tendonitis, bursitis, sinusitis) or just feel like you're walking around in a body that is twice your age, the food you eat may be your best strategy to manage pain and improve your body's function.

On the flipside, let me give you a delicious list of nutrients that reduce inflammation:

-Yummy fruits:
kiwi, cherries, ginger, peaches, pineapple, plums, strawberries
-Savory veggies:
avocados, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, squash, beets, onions
-Alternative grains:
brown rice, buckwheat, oats, lentils
chicken, tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tofu, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
fish oils, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B, zinc (or just a good quality multi to get all those vitamins)

If you sense that your body's comfort and function could be improved through diet, there are a few ways to experiment with this:

1. Keep a daily journal that details your diet alongside your sense of well-being and see if you can identify connections.
2. Eliminate the top offenders for 3 weeks and see how you feel. This is best done after #1, so you have a recorded baseline.
3. Do a fast to remove all food interactions for a few days, followed by a scheduled re-introduction of the most common offenders, to best identify your body's friends and foes. This tactic is best done with support from a trained nutrition-savvy professional.
4. There are a couple ways to use blood tests to determine your body's response to foods. Ask your chiropractor, naturopath or primary care doc about an ELIZA test.
5. Just start minimizing the bad guys and adding a bunch of the good guys and see how your body likes it. Give this a couple months before anticipating changes.

Diet change, or any change for that matter, is often the hardest thing to ask of someone. It helps to give yourself a timeline and remember that this is by far the safest, cheapest, and most natural approach to being in control of your health.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

There's something fishy going on...

All my life I have been encouraged to take vitamins...

Calcium ("just take 2 tums, it's for your bones"), vitamin C ("so you don't get sick"), A ("for your eyes"), E ("for your skin"), multi-vitamins ("for everything!!!")- and, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, you end up taking 9 pills each day, forgetting what most of them are for and eventually forgetting to take them at all. Then five or six years later the battalion of expired bottles has taken over your cabinet creating their own little shaker band.

I will not argue the value of any of these vitamins, nor will I try to suggest a regimen that is right for everyone- but I'd like to take a moment to salute one (just one right now) that you should really know about.

So let's step back, get a good running start, high step rapidly down the sandy bank and go tumbling into the ocean waves. Oh yes, here it comes...the talk of fish. Specifically their oils. Here's a handful of the benefits (that I swiped from of regularly taking fish oils:

1. Less Pain and Inflammation. For anything ending in "itis".
2. Cardiovascular Health. Lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL), while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
3. Protection from Stroke and Heart Attack.
4. Better Brain Function and Higher Intelligence. Pregnant and nursing mothers can have a great impact on the intelligence and happiness of their babies by supplementing with fish oil. For adults, omega 3 improves memory, recall, reasoning and focus.
5. Less Depression and Psychosis.
6. Lower Incidence of Childhood Disorders.
Studies show that children (and adults) with ADD and ADHD experience a greatly improved quality of life. And those with dyslexia, dyspraxia and compulsive disorders have gotten a new lease on life thanks to omega 3 oils.
7. Reduction of Breast, Colon and Prostate Cancer.

There's loads and loads of info out there- don't get bogged down in it...just start taking it! And don't worry, it comes in tasteless capsules, or even strawberry flavored oils for the kids.