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The Bitter Truth About Your Sweet Tooth

Sweets

In the body, carbohydrates function as fuel for the creation of cellular energy. This cellular energy is ultimately the catalyst for what allows life to function, so in a healthy individual and within moderation, carbohydrate intake is vital for optimal organ function. The problem becomes when there are high levels of inflammation in the body. Throwing gasoline onto a blazing fire can only result in an increased inferno. 

Would you throw gasoline on this?

Following a lower carbohydrate style diet with a focus on the lower glycemic index (generally high fiber) foods and high intake of essential omega 3 fatty acids may be the path to less pain and inflammation. 

Fuel on the fire

When there is a pain in the body, one of the things that often comes back elevated on lab work are markers of inflammation. Think of inflammation as a roaring fire that is just burning everything in its path. Those pain signals are generally a response to that fire and the microscopic injury to the surrounding area. Having a diet rich in carbohydrates only serves to increase inflammation by allowing the fire to burn bigger and brighter. Eliminate all processed foods and additive sugars (hidden sources of added sugars include fruit juices, protein bars, salad dressings, and pre-made sauces, yogurt (with fruit or flavoring), creamers). Rule of thumb: If it is prepacked do not eat it.

One of the things that I appreciate as a naturopathic physician is how hard it is to stay 100% away from the things that are bad for you. In fairness, you are human and to err is human. If you build in some self-forgiveness (i.e., any lifestyle change you plan to make do the best that you can but at least 80:20). 80:20 means you aim to follow any dietary and/or lifestyle recommendations eighty percent of the time and give yourself a twenty percent wiggle room to "cheat". I usually like to mention that if you know you are addicted to something or have an addictive personalty this rule may not apply to you as your brain is less likely to stop at twenty percent.    

Simple steps to calm inflammation

When you are trying to put out the fire of inflammation one of the first steps should be improving your water intake. On average, most individuals should be consuming about 50% of their body weight in ounces of water (i.e., if you weigh around 150 pounds, consume about 75 ounces of water daily). In a healthy person, this amount of water intake will keep the cardiovascular system working optimally which is the main highway your body uses to remove inflammatory factors and trash from the body.

Unless you are following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, another excellent dietary choice is to incorporate more oily fish (i.e., salmon, sardines, and mackerel) in your diet. Oily fish tend to be rich in omega 3 fatty acids which often contain the subfraction Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA). EPA essential fatty acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory and serves to bring balances to omega 6 fatty acids, which tend to be more inflammatory.

In general, here are some herbs and spices you may want to begin incorporating into your diet to help decrease inflammation, naturally with food. Turmeric, ginger, and garlic are amazing food items you could start eating today, and that may help to decrease inflammation and ultimately pain.

Eating a well-balanced diet that focuses on increased fruits and vegetables. Put a special focus on berries because they are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients but also low in sugar. Blueberries are high in anthocyanins and may help remove free radicals and stop oxidative damage. Focus on all the colors of the rainbow when it comes to vegetables. Aim to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables a day and 2 servings of low glycemic index fruit a day.   

Supportive tools to beat the pain

Acupuncture is a tool that we use in our office and it is extremely helpful at beating back the pain associated with high levels of inflammation. Acupuncture is one of the best options to consider for both acute and chronic pain. Acupuncture needles stimulate the release of chemical signals that the body uses to decrease pain. Therapy also improves blood flow bringing nutrient-rich blood and stimulates the healing process. 

Manual therapy has also been extremely successful at decreasing pain and increasing range of motion. When the range of motion decreases there is often accompanying an increase in pain and inflammation that follows. Breaking down the factors that contribute to reduced movement decreases pain signals (which tend to be inflammatory) and improves blood flow to the local area.   

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Important Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only; it is NOT meant to substitute professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should NOT use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem/disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.

Author
Dr. Giovanni A. Nelson Dr. Giovanni A. Nelson, ND Dr. Nelson is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Connecticut and specializes in a holistic, noninvasive approach to a wide range of chronic and acute conditions. He is the co-founder and medical director at Healing Duo Integrative Family Medical practice. Dr. Nelson is thrilled to be able to share his passion for natural/complementary and alternative health information with individuals to help them live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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