As a Naturopathic Doctor, I work with my patients to formulate individualized treatment plans, because everybody is different, and no two patients can be treated with the same plan. However, the one thing I recommend for everyone is an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet. We live in a toxic world where we are exposed to harmful inhalants, cleaning products, skin products, and electromagnetic radiation. It’s impossible to completely avoid toxicity (and harmful to our health if we spend every minute worrying about it!) but it is possible to control the food and beverages we put in our bodies.
An anti-inflammatory diet consists of whole, non-processed foods, heavy in organic vegetables, fish, free-range/organically grown/hormone-free poultry, whole grains, spices, and fruits. This diet eliminates sugar and artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and grains with gluten; all of which are sources of inflammation. Depending on how the body responds and whether you are using the diet for preventative measures or to address an existing medical issue, the diet may need further adjustment. It may be necessary to additionally eliminate all alcohol, caffeine, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, peanuts, processed soy, citrus fruits, fried foods, and artificial preservatives.
It sounds like a lot, but adopting an anti-inflammatory diet should not cause emotional stress. Learning to embrace and respect the food you eat is part of the healing process, and even partially adopting this diet will promote numerous positive changes in your health. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, bowel disease, signs of aging, etc., etc., etc. By decreasing dietary sources of inflammation and avoiding processed foods, you may find your joints ache less, brain fog disappears, sleep improves, digestion regulates, skin clears, cholesterol levels normalize, blood pressure lowers, and you may even shed a few pounds.
- Nurture. Nurture your body by preparing your own food. Start by rating how you feel at the beginning of the month on a scale of 1-5. List and rate any concerns, including specific aches or pains, digestion, quality of sleep, anxiety level, energy, skin condition, etc. If you’re worried about being too busy during the week to cook, plan ahead! Prepare meals Sunday and package them up in grab-and-go containers. At the end of the month, return to your list of health concerns and rate them again to measure your improvement.
- Avoid. Walk right past those processed foods at the grocery store! What is processed food? Any food found in sealed boxes or bags at the grocery store is processed. If you find yourself questioning a food choice, take a look at the list of ingredients. Don’t put anything in your cart that has a long list of ingredients, and ingredients you can’t pronounce should be avoided as well.
- Adjust. Maintain a positive attitude about eating an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet. Rather than focus on the foods you “can’t eat,” focus on all the foods you can eat. Nature gives us a bounty of nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, and animals. It is a privilege to eat in accordance with the planet and feel healthier as a result!