Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Essential Foods in My Anti-Inflammatory Toolbox

Got inflammation?

Sure you do! You don't need to have rheumatoid arthritis to have inflammation. While having RA has made me more aware of inflammation and steps I can take to curb it, if you move and breathe, you have inflammation.

Some inflammation is good. Runners and other athletes have inflammation. Soreness after a hard run or workout is a sign of inflammation and damage to muscles and tissues in the body. When the body repairs itself, we become stronger.

But other things in life, such as stress or certain foods, cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to health issues. Since my diagnosis with RA, I've made changes in my diet and supplements which I hope will help curb some of the inflammation associated with the disease. All of what I've learned can be helpful to anyone looking to improve their health.



When I was first diagnosed, I found diets that promised to cure RA "without meds". I'm certainly not naive enough to believe that, but I do believe that a healthy diet and certain supplements are a great adjunct to medications. I also hoped to decrease the number of flares associated with the disease. As I incorporated many of these changes into my diet, I started to notice that overall, I felt better. I started sleeping better and my energy level was good. I wished I had eaten like this all my life!

As with any type of diet, there are extremes. The Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP) is a very strict version of the paleo diet intended to reduce symptoms of inflammatory diseases. Anecdotes of success with the diet abound, but for most people (me included) the diet is too restrictive. It isn't science-based. When I looked at the list of foods to avoid, there were many foods that don't affect me. Chocolate was on the list! While a diet like this isn't for me, I reviewed the list of inflammatory foods to see if there was anything I was missing that might be triggering symptoms. As with everything, moderation is the key.

The best part of waking up is a smoothie in my cup....While I'm no expert, one thing became very clear to me: fruits and vegetables are my new BFFs.  All the usual suspects: tart cherries, pineapple, avocados, blueberries, beets, broccoli, kale, spinach, and papaya contain substances that are known to reduce inflammation. Every morning I make a smoothie that contains at least one of these--except broccoli--and it has turned into the best way to start my day!

credit: Sara Cervera
Seedy and nutty...Chia seeds, flaxseed, and hemp seeds are all major players in my morning smoothies. All of these seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation. Chia seeds also contain other essential fatty acids and vitamins. Flaxseeds are another nutritional powerhouse. Hemp seeds have been proven to be helpful in reducing pain in RA among its many other powers. I also snack on almonds and other nuts, which are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.


Getting to the root of the problem...Tumeric and ginger roots are immune modulators, meaning they have the power to shut down inflammation. Besides taking a daily turmeric/curcumin supplement, I buy turmeric root and grate it into some of my morning smoothies. Ginger adds a really nice taste to my smoothies and I use the root, grating it into the mix.

Salmon isn't the only fish in the sea...but it's the one for me...As a "fatty" fish, salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids (the good ones) which are anti-inflammatory. Wild fish is better than farm raised. I've given up beef because it seems to trigger my symptoms, so when my men are eating steak, I have salmon. Almost as good...



Plugging the leaks with collagen...In addition to having RA, I've dealt with irritable bowel syndrome for years. There's a growing interest in the connection between leaky gut (it's not what you think) and its relationship to inflammation, including autoimmune diseases. A few years ago, I started using a collagen supplement from Great Lakes Gelatin, and my GI symptoms improved. GLG contains proline and glycine which can help with gut inflammation. Two tablespoons in my morning coffee and I'm all set.




What to avoid...What is interesting to me is that I never realized any of these foods caused problems for me until I stopped eating them. When I would occasionally indulge, I noticed an uptick in GI symptoms and joint pain. I already mentioned red meat, which really triggers symptoms for me. Lean red meat can be a great source of protein, so if it doesn't bother you, go ahead and eat it! Dairy is a trigger for a lot of people--I try to avoid most dairy but I do eat cheese in moderation. Same with sugar. Sugar is proinflammatory and after indulging in some cookies over the holidays, I can attest to that. Same with simple carbs like white bread, pasta, and cereals. While gluten hasn't been proven to be proinflammatory, some RA sufferers swear that it bothers them. Fried foods aren't good for anyone but especially if you're trying to reduce inflammation.

sigh...
Do you see a pattern here? If you're looking to reduce inflammation and not sure where to start, keep it simple: fruits and veggies are king, colorful foods are the healthy choice, and avoid the drive-through. Your body will thank you!

Got inflammation? Get these foods to help fight it! /via @oldrunningmom @GreatLakesGel @curearthritis #runchat #rheumatoidarthritis

Do you avoid foods that cause inflammation? Leaky gut anyone? How's your fruit and veggie intake? Would you be interested in me sharing smoothie recipes?

Don't forget to check out my post on supplements that can help curb inflammation! 

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I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with Debbie and Marc for Running Coaches' Corner.



29 comments :

  1. My fruit consumption has plummeted. I have an orange every day, and 1/2 banana baked into my baked oatmeal, but that's about it. I need to get on that.

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    1. For the first time in my life, I'm getting all my fruits and veggies. Too bad it took all this time to figure it out!

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  2. I have to admit that I don't drink smoothies as much in the winter vs the summer, so that will be changing soon. I really love plain greek yogurt and eat it almost every morning during the work week. Luckily (knock on wood) it doesn't give me any GI issues.

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    1. I used to love Greek yogurt but it didn't love me. I use Ripple milk in my smoothies, which is made from pea protein.

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  3. You already know I preach this all the time!

    The discovery phase I’m doing (still) has been fascinating. I haven’t really discovered sensitivities to anything, but I am definitely still discovering a lot of info (a post for another day). I think the fact that i’ve been working on my nutrition a long, long time is only beneficial.

    I have friends who can pretty much eat anything, and sometimes that’s actually more of a curse than a benefit — it can really be effecting you & you never know until something bad happens bOTOH, there are still people who eat junk forever & are annoyingly healthy.

    My biggest thing is sugar (I know that’s not your thing & you’re lucky). I’m careful about it but it always has a way of creeping in.

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    1. My original limiting factor with food was my GI issues. But with RA, I've really noticed how certain foods make me feel bad. Sugar might be your thing--mine is wine! We all have our breaking points.

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  4. Oh, I've never tried grating actual turmeric root. That's a great idea. I just use a supplement and put turmeric powder in some of my food, but I could definitely use more. I've found recently that I feel better when I'm not eating dairy. And coffee sadly seems to be disagreeing with me so I've switched to tea.

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    1. I like using the actual turmeric root but it does stain my fingers. I've been questioned about it a few times by my patients, lol!

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  5. Well, I feel very unhealthy when I read other bloggers' posts.

    But as I age, food that I used to eat do hot agree with me...Hamburgers!!

    I do eat a banana every day...but also coffee and red wine.

    When I had trouble sleeping, I gave up caffeine and alcohol. I didn't sleep better and I was not happy so they're back.

    I have to admit, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what I eat but I would if I had to.

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    1. I drink coffee every morning and I have wine almost every day. Like I said, everything in moderation.

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  6. This is a super helpful post. My sister has auto-immune issue so I will have to share this with her!

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  7. I knew turmeric helped fight inflammation but I didn't know it was a root. Ours is a powder in a jar. Lol. I need to get in the habit of making smoothies in the morning. Great post!

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    1. My son talked me into the morning smoothies a few years ago and I haven't stopped!

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  8. Most of your foods are also staples in my diet. I am trying to find ways to add more flax and beets into my life. Glad to hear that certain foods can help with your symptoms and I think lots of people overlook the power of a healthier diet

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    1. I was all about beets until I had a bad reaction to them. I think I OD'd. Moderation!

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  9. I don't eat fruit and vegetables like I should. What I do like to eat in the morning (and just started eating again) is greek yogurt, fruit, and oatmeal. Sometimes I add walnuts, chia seeds, and/or hemp seeds. While I also enjoy salads, I get bored with them but know I should be eating them more often.

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    1. The good thing about salads is that you can throw anything you want in them. I'm learning how to make them interesting and filling.

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  10. I've been taking turmeric for years as a supplement, but didn't know it came from a root. I should give smoothies a try...I'm probably one of very few who aren't on the routine of making them.

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    1. Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of fruits and veggies!

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  11. I have found I spend half my life forcing my kids to eat fruits and veggies and in the process, I have somehow stopped eating them myself! A smoothie is such a good way to get them in! I LOVE ginger root too. Thanks for this post - such a good reminder of what we should be eating more of and why.

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    1. Even though I'm flaring, overall--if that makes sense--I do feel better with my healthier eating regimen.

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  12. I seem to get most of my fruit through my smoothies but I don't make them often enough. This was all very interesting and I'm glad to see so many of the anti-inflammatory foods fit with a vegan diet. As Michael Pollan once said, Eat whole foods, mostly plants. Good advice.

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    1. This journey has made me realize that I could easily be vegetarian. I couldn't be vegan, tho. I still like cheese and eggs. I'm enjoying the variety of foods that I've been eating.

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  13. You know I've got inflammation by the boat load over here, haha! Seeds tend to bother my belly a little but I LOVE ginger and salmon. I used to use collagen in my smoothies daily...I don't know why I stopped but I definitely need to add it back! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I totally thought of you when I wrote this post. Next week, I'm talking supplements.

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  14. This is really great information. I honestly had never given inflammation much thought. I definitely need to eat more fruits and veggies and I love ginger and flax/chia seeds in my smoothies!

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  15. I want a smoothie now. can't wait for fresh f&v to be more abundant. Team No Broccoli!

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  16. Interesting stuff and I've passed it on to my friend who has RA, as you are sharing things that have definitely worked for you, not just faddy stuff she gets bombarded with.

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