5 Foods and 5 Supplements to Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a blazing red flag in Functional Medicine. I find most conditions such as joint pain, IBS, autoimmune disorders, eczema and mood imbalances can all be tied back to inflammation. It must be traced, identified and eliminated in order to truly get to the root of these adverse conditions. Through diet experimentation with The Myers Way Comprehensive Elimination Diet and state of the art lab testing, I am able to locate the source of this inflammation and stop it from cascading into the uncomfortable ways it manifests in the body. As you get to the origin of your inflammation, these foods and supplements can help to cool off the inflammation in your body.

Foods to Reduce Inflammation

Turmeric: Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, obstructs the activity of enzymes that trigger inflammation. You can add turmeric to foods such as soups and curries, or take it in the form of a curcumin supplement.

Ginger: A relative of turmeric, ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. It is also a potent antioxidant, preventing the oxidation of a damaging free radical called peroxynitrite. Try adding ginger to a stir-fry, or drink ginger tea.

Blueberries: Blueberries are packed with phytonutrients that can help to reduce inflammation, pain and even tissue damage from free radicals. Eat fresh, or blend into a smoothie.

Avocados: Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated oleic fatty acids, phytosterols, and many more anti-inflammatory nutrients. They are particularly effective at lowering inflammation of the joints, by preventing the synthesis of prostaglandin E2 in the connective tissue.

Salmon: Salmon and other oily fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit the body’s inflammatory response process. If you do not eat fish or would like an extra boost in your diet, you can purchase Omega-3 supplements.
Check out my Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie with ginger and turmeric!

Supplements to Reduce Inflammation

Curcumin: Research has shown the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin to be as effective as some pharmaceuticals, but without the negative effect of toxicity. This powerful antioxidant also supports joint health and cardiovascular function.

Resveratrol: This extract found in red-wine helps to quell inflammation, regulate the malfunctioning immune response, and protect against cancer.

Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which triggers inflammation. Our fish oil is designed using emulsification technology that enhances absorption by the body.

Mend Vanilla Protein Powder: Ideal for patients with intestinal inflammation, this powder’s blend of nutrients and amino acids helps support a balanced inflammatory response in the body.

Evening Primrose: The unrefined evening primrose seed oil supplies a concentrated dose of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid that is commonly lacking in the diet. GLA is converted by the body into DGLA, an anti-inflammatory substance.

Dr. Amy Meyers M.D.Dr. Amy Myers, M.D.

How Opioids Are Like The School Bully

paiNDo you wish your chronic pain would go away?

Doctors now realize that we haven’t done a good job treating people with chronic pain. Many of the painkillers doctors prescribe – and that you’ve likely been treated with – are risky and not very effective. We wish we had better drugs but there are problems with all of them when used day after day.

Our bodies have their own strategies to fight pain. Instead of just taking pills, we need to help our bodies use these strategies. Many time-proven methods like massage, chiropractic treatment and yoga reduce our pain without the deadly risk of painkillers. Even our diet can be a useful tool to fight pain.

 

The problem with painkillers

When you talk to your doctor about chronic pain, the prescription will often be a painkiller. NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and many others) and acetaminophen are two common forms of pain killers.  Did you know that these drugs will send around 80,000 people to the emergency room each year? Did you know that NSAIDs kill about 16,500 people in the USA each year?

Opioids are very powerful pain killers that work well for acute pain like a broken bone or surgery. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. Some common opioids are Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin and Percocet (oxycodone), and Kadian and Avinza (morphine).

Doctors never used to prescribe opioids for chronic pain. We recognized that opioids were too dangerous to use over the long term. Patients who took opioids for long periods developed a tolerance to them and required higher and higher doses for the same pain relief. Higher doses meant higher risk. And in the long run, most patients were still in pain.

Just recently, doctors were told that opioids were safe for chronic pain patients and many more opioids were prescribed. The results were a disaster.

Over the last ten years, four times more women and two times more men have died from opioid painkillers prescribed by their doctors. Each year, 17,000 people will die from opioids. What makes this all worse is that there is little proof that opioids will relieve our pain in the long term. In fact, they may cause personality changes, interfere with sleep, disrupt your sex hormones, interfere with your breathing, and give you a new kind of nerve pain called hyperalgesia. Opioids are also dangerously addictive and are causing a painkiller epidemic in the US.

Make the pain go away – safely

You don’t have to just live with chronic pain. It is important to try to understand more about your pain, what makes it better and what makes it worse. Here’s how to make your pain more manageable.

Try a non-pill approach.

Don’t reach just for your painkillers. Try the following treatments instead.

I’ve included below a list of different treatment methods that have been proven over time to reduce pain without the risk of drugs. We know these methods work – humans have used them for thousands of years. What’s more is that on average, these treatment methodscosts less than taking only painkillers.

Strategies for self-care

Nutrition

  • Attention to diet: remember, you change your body chemistry every time you eat.
  • An anti-inflammatory diet reduces your body-wide inflammation and can reduce pain while improving healing.
  • For joint pain in the back, neck, hips, knees and feet, weight loss can sometimes reduce pain by reducing the stress on joints and improving your posture.
  • Identify food sensitivities that cause inflammation.
  • Learn to shop for and prepare healthy meals starting with real foods. In North America we rely on packaged foods for most of our calories (I can’t say most of our nutrition since there are more chemicals in these products than nutrients!)
  • Take Michael Polan’s advice: Eat food, mostly vegetables, no too much.

Mind-body

  • Recognize the emotional and social consequences of pain.
  • Participate in support groups and social support.
  • Learn to meditate, use guided imagery recordings for relaxation, Reiki, music therapy.
  • Psychological therapies like cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • Take up hobbies that occupy your attention: they distract you as well as give you pleasure.
  • Spend time in nature and engage in other pleasurable or personally meaningful activities.
  • Pets help us relax- we now have the science to prove that they balance our stress system for us.
  • Physical closeness, hugs, intimacy also reduce our stress response.
  • Self-massage and partner massage.

Physical therapies

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic and Osteopathic manipulation
  • Massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Occupational therapy

Movement-based therapies

  • Yoga, dance, exercise, aquatic therapy
  • Tai chi and qi gong
  • Movement education and postural awareness such as Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Egoscue Method, and Trager

Relaxation therapies

  • Meditation, guided imagery, Reiki, music therapy
  • Psychological therapies

Creative arts therapies

  • Art, drama, dance, music and poetry therapy

My bottom line

Congratulations on taking your first step to making your chronic pain more manageable.

We should realize that no pill will make our chronic pain disappear instantly or completely. Pain is intricately related to our lifestyle – the healthier we live and eat the less pain we’ll have. Live well and start your new year feeling better and stronger.

 

Read the complete Policy Brief: Never Only Opioids

Heather Tick

Heather Tick

Heather Tick, MD’s innovative approach to health through Functional Medicine allows her to focus on the root of the problem and manage or eliminate the pain by using integrative practices. She states chronic pain has become an epidemic in North America and wants to educate people on how nutrition, supplementation, movement and stress reduction are the tools to accomplish this. Dr. Tick is the author of Holistic Pain Relief and has been an integrative medical practitioner for over 20 years. She is the first holder of Gunn-Loke Endowed Professorship of Integrative Pain Medicine at the University of Washington and a clinical associate professor in both Departments of Family Medicine, and Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine.

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What To Eat When You’re Broke

What to Eat When You’re Broke

The lower your income is, the more difficult it is to be particular about what you feed your family.

This probably isn’t an earth-shattering revelation to anyone, but if you feel like experimenting, try to buy a week’s worth of healthy food for a family on a budget of, say, $50-75.  Food manufacturers that target lower income shoppers with more affordable products tend to include more GMOs and toxic ingredients in their offerings.

It just isn’t possible to stick to my usual food restrictions.  Generally speaking I avoid:

  • Non-organic dairy because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Non-organic meat because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Anything containing corn, soy, or canola in any form because it is almost certain to be GMO
  • Anything with chemical additives like artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Anything that is likely to have been doused in pesticides
  • Anything containing neurotoxins like MSG, fluoride, or aspartame (along with other artificial sweeteners)

It is a matter, then, of weighing the pros and cons, and figuring out what things, for you, are the most important, while also deciding which standards can be sacrificed.  These decisions will be different for everyone, based on their personal health concerns, their genetic propensity for certain diseases, and the members of the family for whom they are buying the food.

Sometimes, when you’re looking at someone else’s situation while you are comfortably backed by a loaded pantry, it’s easy to be judgemental and tell them what they “should” do. The thing that we  must all remember is that when times are tough, a person may be down to these two options with a two week grocery budget:

1.) Buy strictly healthy organic foods and feed your family for perhaps 8 out of the 14 days.

2.) Carefully select which standards you will relax to keep the tummies of your family full throughout the wait for the next paycheck.

Very few people are going to choose option one.

Usually, I have an enormous stockpile of non-GMO dried foods and a flourishing garden to serve as a back-up for whatever non-toxic items are being offered at a reasonable price that week.  Because I’ve recently moved and am rebuilding my pantry from the ground up, I have no such stockpile right now. I am at the mercy of the food manufacturers.

When your budget is extremely limited, the normal healthy eating suggestions of shopping only the perimeter of the store or visiting the farmer’s market will not suffice to feed a family.  As much as you may want to dine only on locally grown, fresh organic produce, a $50 farmer’s market spree will only get you through a few days if you are totally reliant on only this food.

 

 

The Lesser of the Nutritional Evils

So what is a broke, but health-conscious, shopper to eat?

After strongly considering the list above, I decided not to cut corners on the organic dairy, neurotoxins, or the GMOs.  I have a growing child and these things are at the top of the toxic pyramid for her development.  This isn’t to say that the pesticides aren’t harmful, or the preservatives are not a  chemical minefield.  In a perfect world, I’d avoid all of it, and you should too.

If you are in a situation where you have to feed your family and don’t have a lot of money to do it, you need to do your research well before looking at those brightly colored packages with the false promises of nutrition within.  While this list isn’t comprehensive, here are some things to consider about conventional grocery store offerings.

GMOs

Genetically modified foods have not been tested for long-term effects on humans.  There is a great deal of evidence to indicate the GMOs can cause a host of illness.  Peer reviewed studies implicate GMOs in the development of grotesque tumors, premature death, organ failure, gastric lesions, liver damage, kidney damage, severe allergic reactions, a viral gene that disrupts human functions…you can read more HERE.

Hormones and antibiotics: Livestock animals that provide meat or dairy products are tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO feed.  These items pass through the food chain to the consumer. Growth hormones can cause opposite sex characteristics in developing children, early puberty, the development of cancer, and infertility. Furthermore, the world is quickly becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics because of constant exposure through the food supply, which means that there is the potential for things that should be easily treated to become deadly due to antibiotic resistance.

Pesticides

The use of pesticides in conventional farming is rampant.  Even the hijacked the Environmental Protection Agency has to admit that the ingestion of pesticides can cause health problems.  They warn of the risk of “birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.”  (Keep in mind, however, that despite this warning, the EPA just RAISED the acceptable limit of glyphosate at the behest of Monsanto.) Especially at risk of harm from pesticides are prepubescent children and fetuses.

Neurotoxins

Our water supply is spiked with fluoride, a neurotoxin that  lowers IQs, causes infertility, has been linked to cancer and causes hardening of the arteries. Nearly every packaged food on the shelf is seasoned with MSG in one of its many names, and many lower calorie foods and diet drinks are sweetened with aspartame.  Both of these are excitotoxins that cause brain cell death instantly, causing decreased IQs, headaches, depression, and seizures.

Assorted chemical cocktails

The length of the ingredients list in your food is often a direct indicator of the unhealthiness of the item. When an item contains a host of additives, colors, flavors, and preservatives, you can safely bet that most of the nutrients are gone.  These highly processed foodlike substances are very difficult for the body to break down so that the few remaining nutrients can be used. If you can’t picture what an ingredient looked like in it’s natural state, it probably isn’t something you really want to eat.  When is the last time you saw a tertiary butyl hydroquinone grazing in a field, or a calcium propionate growing in the garden?

What should you eat when you’re broke?

Grains

If you can’t swing organic grains, look for whole grains with few or no additives.

  • Wheat flour
  • Brown rice
  • Pasta (with recognizable ingredients)
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Barley

Meats

If you can’t afford grass-fed organic meat, at the very least look for options that are guaranteed to be hormone and antibiotic free.  The USDA does not allow the use of growth hormones in pork, which makes it a slightly better option.

Here’s a little primer on those confusing meat labels:

  • Hormone-free: This means something with beef, but is nothing but a marketing ploy when you see it on poultry or pork, as the USDA does not allow the use of hormones with those animals.  Hormone-free does not mean antibiotic-free
  • Antibiotic-free: Because of poor and stressful living conditions, factory-farmed animals are very susceptible to illness.  Antibiotic-free means they were not prophylactically treated with antibiotics. This does not, however, mean that the animal is hormone-free.
  • Grass-fed: Grass-fed cows are allowed some access to the outdoors and are not fed grains or corn.  This does NOT mean they are organic, because the grass they are grazing on may have been chemically fertilized and sprayed.  Unless you have actually seen them roaming around the farm, keep in mind their access to the outdoors may not be the lovely rolling pastures that you have in your mind, but a crowded corral with hundreds of other cows.
  • Free-range: This label doesn’t mean diddly squat.  It means that the animal is allowed a minimum of an hour a day outside.  This could mean that they are crammed into an open area with a billion other chickens, still, without room to move, or that their cage is put outside, leaving them still tightly confined. Like the grass-fed cows above, unless you actually see the farm with the gallivanting chickens or pigs, take the label “free-range” with a grain of salt.

Your best options, if you can’t afford organic meats, are to go for the hormone and antibiotic free options as a supplement to vegetarian protein sources like local eggs, beans, and organic dairy products.

Fruits and vegetables

If organic produce is not an option, look for the items with the lowest pesticide loads.  (This list by the Environmental Working Group is based ONLY on pesticide loads – some of the items they recommend could be GMOs).  Fruits and vegetables that can be peeled often subject you to less pesticides than thin-skinned items. If you must buy conventional, wash the produce carefully and peel it if possible.  Look to these stand-bys:

  • Apples (peeled)
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips

Dairy products

Conventional dairy products are absolutely loaded with hormones.  Dairy cattle are given high levels of female hormones to make them produce a greater quantity of milk. This makes little boys develop female characteristics and makes little girls hit puberty at a far younger age than normal, which is the reason you see 4th graders with large breasts and hips.  These hormones can also trigger obesity in both genders.  Because of the public outcry, some dairies have pledged not to use rBST, the most commonly used of the growth hormones.  Do your research to discover if there are any such brands available to you.  The Lucerne brand from Safeway is guaranteed to be hormone free. (It’s interesting to note that Monsanto, the company that pushes rBST, wants the FDA to disallow dairies to put this on their labels, and that the FDA forces those who label their products rBST-free to also put the following disclaimer on the containers: “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST treated cows.” (source) )

Organic dairy is still better, because the cattle are fed a healthier diet and are free from antibiotics.  If you can’t swing it, at the very least, search for rBST-free dairy products. For products, you can save loads of money by making your own from untainted milk.  Learn how to make yogurthow to make yogurt cheese, and how to make cottage cheese.  Plain yogurt can also be used as a healthy substitute for sour cream.

Water

If you are on city water, chances are, your water is loaded with chemicals, from fluoride to ammonia to chlorine.  I won’t drink this water, and I won’t let my children drink it either.  The large 5 gallon jugs provide the least expensive way to buy water.  Also look for sources of spring water to fill your own containers. (This interactive map can help.)

Other Tight Budget Tips

Build your pantry. It’s hard to think about building a pantry when you have barely enough food in the cupboard to make it between paychecks.  But if you can purchase one bulk item per shopping trip, in a few months you will have a pantry that will allow you to make higher quality grocery purchases on your weekly trips. At that point, you can start going to the farmer’s market, which in many locations is very reasonably priced, buying in enough bulk to preserve your foods, and have the occasional splurge.  Go HERE to learn more about building a whole foods kitchen on a half price budget.

Be scrupulous about food hygiene.  Wash your produce very thoroughly and soak it in a baking soda bath.  Also remember to careful wash your beans and rice. (Click HERE to see some photos of the dirt that comes off of a cup of rice!)

Get growing.  Even if it is the off season, you can sprout some seeds on your counter to add fresh nutrients. You can grow some salad greens and herbs in a sunny windowsill.  Invest a few dollars each week in some seeds and you will soon be able to supplement your diet with nutritious, organic, home-grown veggies.  Go HERE to get more ideas for growing your own food on any budget, in any location.

Visit outlet stores.  Sometimes places like Big Lots or grocery clearance centers have organic options at good prices. You might be able to pick up canned goods, cereals, and crackers at a fraction of the normal grocery store price.

Forage for freebies.  In many locations, even the city,  there are free delicious foods just waiting for you to pick them.  Dandelions, wild berries, nuts, and nutritious leaves abound. Just be very sure you know what you’re picking and then enjoy your wild foods.  Check out this excellent guide to the nutritious goodies that may be in your backyard masquerading as lowly weeds.

Plan on at least one extra frugal meal per day.  Have peanut butter and crackers, a bowl of oatmeal, or soup for one meal per day – not every meal has to be made up of protein, veggies, and grains.

Don’t give up.  If you are feeling financially defeated, it is sometimes easy to say, “*bleep* it!!!” and just get some Ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese and call it a meal.  Don’t do it!  Do the very best you can with the resources you have available. Remember, if you can’t afford good food, you definitely can’t afford bad health – it’s even more expensive.

The Simple Truth

There are a lot of things that readers may find to pick apart in this article – and that’s good!  By thinking critically and discussing these things, sometimes we can come up with solutions that may not have occurred to us previous to the conversation. I’m not some expert that shouldn’t be questioned – I am just a mom on a budget.  Some of the suggestions here were gleaned from the comments sections of previous articles.

Do your research and do the best that you can with what’s available given your resources.  Create a plan to provide better options in the future. Don’t go down that toxic trail laid out by Big Food without fighting, kicking, and screaming.