We all know the golden rule of real estate: location, location, location. In naturopathic medicine, the rule is inflammation, inflammation, inflammation. In its beginning stages, inflammation is the body's healing response to an injury, irritation, or microbial invasion. For instance, if you catch a cold, your body creates inflammation in the form of a runny nose, sore throat, and cough. As annoying as these symptoms are, they are signs of a healthy body healing itself.
However, when the inflammation we can't see -- inside our bodies -- becomes chronic, it ultimately causes degeneration of our tissues and leads to disease. Simply put, it ages us. Chronic inflammation is thought to be the root of many diseases, including heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer's and other dementias, Parkinson's, osteoarthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
You can see why naturopathic doctors focus so much attention on the treatment and prevention of chronic inflammation. There are some simple suggestions to help reduce inflammation in the body. Together, these suggestions build a true foundation of health. And if you're thinking, "I'm too old for all of these changes," perish the thought. You're never too old to improve the quality of your life. Try these ideas:
Pick and choose your foods.
Eat plenty of healthy, anti-inflammatory foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish (good for omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, and legumes. Anti-inflammation diet books are available and can be a great resource for grocery shopping and recipes. Jessica Black's The Anti-Inflammation Diet is one.
Avoid inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans- and hydrogenated fats, alcohol, and caffeine.
Cut out the foods that don't work for you.
Try an elimination diet to check for food allergies or sensitivities. This is a great step, because many people have this problem and don't even know it. Food allergies and sensitivities can lead to a host of physical problems. Start by avoiding the following foods for one month: wheat products, dairy products, soy, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peanuts, peanut butter, citrus fruits, pork, and shellfish.
What's left to eat? Plenty. Explore your grocery store. When the month is up, add these foods back into your diet one at a time. Wait three days between foods and see how you feel. If a food is aggravating your body, you should eat it in moderation or avoid it altogether.
Give your digestive tract a boost.
Enhance the health of your digestive tract by doing two things. First, supplement your diet with probiotics. These are the healthy bacteria that live in our digestive tract. The two most common are *Lactobacillus acidophilus* and *L. bifidus*. You can purchase these at your local health food store.
Second, stimulate more effective digestion with this old trick: Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 1/2 cup of water and drink it 20 minutes before meals. The better you digest your food, the less inflammation you will have. This trick can also be helpful for heartburn and reflux.
Use spices as good medicine.
Eat anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, garlic, and ginger. These herbs have been used as medicines for thousands of years -- and they taste good, too.
Check for inflammation.
Ask your doctor to do lab tests to check for chronic inflammation. Naturopathic doctors recommend C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). If these tests determine you have inflammation, the next step is for you and your doctor to figure out why, and stop it.
Making these changes can be challenging, but they're well worth the effort. The result is feeling healthier, younger, and more vibrant.