I have recently discovered Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog. He’s awesome. He is another MD who gets it! He treats the causes and NOT the symptoms. I sort of have a crush, I’m not going to lie (sorry Irfan 😉 ).
Anywho, my sister-in-law Jemila (shout out to J-Spot!!) asked me to do a post on what inflammation is and it’s possible signs. Dr. Hyman’s discusses this at link in his blog so I figured I’d reference the expert.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s immune response to injury or infection causing pain, redness, heat, and swelling in the affected area. Everyone who has had a sore throat, a rash, hives, or a sprained ankle knows about inflammation. Those are normal appropriate responses of our defense system to infection or trauma. We need inflammation to survive.
The trouble occurs when that defense system runs out of control, like a rebel army bent on destroying its own country. Most people are familiar with overactive immune responses and too much inflammation in common conditions like allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease or asthma. But few people know that hidden inflammation run amok is at the root of all chronic illness: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer and even austism.
The real concern is not our acute response to injury, infection or insult, but the chronic smoldering inflammation that slowly destroys our organs, our ability for optimal functioning and leads to rapid aging. We may feel healthy, but if this inflammation is raging inside of us, then we have a problem.
“As many people die from taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen as die every year from asthma or leukemia. Stopping the use of these drugs would be the equivalent to finding a cure for both.”
Common treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or aspirin), or steroids like prednisone, though often useful for acute problems, interfere with the body’s own immune response and lead inevitably to serious and deadly side effects. As many people die from taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen as die every year from asthma or leukemia. Stopping the use of these drugs would be the equivalent to finding a cure for both.
So what is the best way to control inflammation while we’re still upstream? First, identify the triggers and causes of inflammation, and then help the body’s natural immune balance reset by providing the right conditions for it to thrive.
What causes inflammation?
If inflammation and immune imbalances are at the root of most of modern disease, how do we find the causes and get the body back in balance? Thankfully the list of things that cause inflammation is relatively short:
- Poor diet: mostly sugar, refined flours, processed food and inflammatory fats such as trans and saturated fats
- Lack of exercise
- Hidden or chronic infections with viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites
- Hidden allergens from food or the environment
- Toxins such as mercury and pesticides
- Mold toxins and allergens
Inflammatory factors are unique to each person, various lifestyle, environment or infectious factors spin the immune system out of control leading to a host of chronic illnesses.
It is important to understand this concept of inflammation is not specific to any one organ or medical specialty. In fact, if you read a medical journal from any of the specialties you will find endless articles about how inflammation is at the root of the problem.
Dr. Hyman discusses the problem with mainstream medicine and the lack of communication between specialties. Everyone is treating the downstream effects of inflammation, instead of addressing the cause: multiple problems that are really linked together by inflammation. He gives an example of one of his patients.
“Take for example, a man who came to see me because he wanted to climb a mountain and asked for my help to get healthy. He was 57-years old and on about 15 medications for about five different inflammatory conditions including high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, colitis, reflux, asthma, and an autoimmune disease of his hair follicles called alopecia.
I asked him how he felt and he said great. I said, I am surprised because I see you are on so many medications. Yes, he said, but everything was very well controlled with the latest medication given by the top specialists he saw in every field: the lung doctor for his asthma, the gastroenterologist for his colitis and reflux, the cardiologist for his high blood pressure, the endocrinologist for his pre-diabetes, and the dermatologist for his hair loss.
I asked him with all these top specialists he saw, did anyone ask him why he had five different inflammatory diseases and why his immune system was so pissed off. Was it just bad luck that he “got” all these diseases or was there something connecting all these problems? He looked puzzled and said no.
I then searched for and found the cause of his problems: gluten. He had celiac disease, an autoimmune disease related to eating gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats.
Six months later he came back twenty-five pounds lighter. He had regular blood pressure, no asthma, no reflux and no more colitis. He said he was having normal bowel movements for the first time in his life. And even his hair was growing back. He was off of nearly all his medications.”
7 ways to avoiding inflammation
Dr. Hyman’s recommendations:
- Eat a whole foods, high fiber, plant-based diet which is inherently anti-inflammatory. That means unprocessed, unrefined, real food and high in powerful anti-inflammatory plant chemicals called phytonutrients. Nothing full of sugar or trans fats.
- Get an oil change. Eat healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, avocados and omega 3 fats from small fish like sardines, herring, sable, and wild salmon.
- Exercise. Do I need to say more?
- Learn to actively relax to engage your vagus nerve, the powerful nerve that relaxes your whole body and lowers inflammation, by doing yoga, meditation, deep breathing or even taking a hot bath.
- If you have food allergies, find out what they are and stop eating them.
- Take probiotics (“good bacteria”) daily to help your digestion to improve the healthy bacteria in your gut which reduces inflammation. (Look for those that contain 10 billion CFU of bifidobacteria species and lactobacillus species. Choose from reputable brands.)
- Take a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement which helps reduce inflammation.
Taking a comprehensive approach to inflammation and balancing your immune system will help address one of the most important systems of the body.
One of the first books I read after being diagnosed with Crohn’s was “The Body Ecology Diet” by Donna Gates. I found it pretty helpful. It basically lays out a ‘how to build a happy gut plan’. I liked it because it referred to a number of other body healing diets (including the blood type diet, raw food diet, atkins diet, etc.). I adopted many of the books’s principles – I didn’t adhere to it completely as I was working with my naturopath on my anti-inflammatory diet.
I thought I would share some key points, take what you will. I would recommend reading the book, especially if you have just started healing your gut and are overwhelmed with all the information out there!
The 7 Healing Body Ecology Principals
- The Principle of Balance The Principle of Balance is based on the concept of yin and yang, the opposing energy forces from ancient Chinese and Japanese traditions. Everything in the world has some properties of yin and yang, but in varying proportions.Yin energy is light, expansive, wet, soft, cold and more vegetal. Yang energy is heavy, contracting, dry, hard, hot and more animal. Body Ecology uses the terms expansion and contraction to explain the yin and yang energy of the food you eat.Some foods, like sugar and alcohol, are examples of food that is way too expansive for your body. Your blood stream quickly absorbs sugar and produces energy, making you feel temporarily open and relaxed yet these foods are damaging because they are not balanced. Other foods, like excessive and poor-quality salt and animal products, are more contracting and cause your cells to contract and lose fluids, making you feel tight and constricted. Your body is always seeking balance. If you eat too much salt, your body becomes too contractive and you will quickly find yourself craving something sweet. Notice this the next time you go to see a movie. While they may not fully understand this concept, the movie theaters are well aware that both soda pop (sweet and expansive) and popcorn (salty and contracting) are ever-popular combinations for concession sales. Without understanding this principle, you may unknowingly create imbalance in a vicious cycle of cravings.
- The Principle of Acid and Alkaline To maintain health, your blood must be slightly alkaline. The foods we eat and the lifestyle choices we make impact our body’s ability to maintain that alkaline state.Foods can be alkaline, acidic or neutral in your body. Your goal would be to have a balance of alkaline and acidic foods so that you can maintain the alkaline state of your blood. If you get out of balance and your blood becomes too acidic, you become more susceptible to illness and disease.At the same time, lifestyle choices like stress, taking prescription drugs and not getting enough sleep can create acidic blood. Paying attention to a balanced lifestyle is also key to your health and longevity.
- The Principle of Uniqueness As humans, we share so many similarities with one another, but your body is unique. Each of us is an experiment of one and for that reason, you may need to modify certain elements of any diet or lifestyle to suit your own individuality.While the Body Ecology program recommends a specific protocol for restoring balance in your body, any time you try a new way of eating, it’s vital to observe your body’s reactions and assess whether this new path is bringing you back toward balance.
- The Principle of Cleansing Did you know that your body cleanses every day? Through elimination, urine, tears, and sweat, your body rids itself of toxins that would otherwise build up and could lead to sickness and disease. Fevers, colds and skin eruptions are actually a natural part of the cleansing process and shouldn’t be suppressed. Cleansing allows your body to restore balance and occurs when imbalance is too great and threatens life. As you start on the Body Ecology program, you’ll experience the symptoms of cleansing, and you might feel worse than you feel now. Hang in there — it’s your body’s way of getting rid of the bad and making room for the good. After all, you cannot heal your current condition without cleansing.
- The Principle of Food Combining The Body Ecology program teaches that combining certain foods when you eat can either help or hinder your digestion. If you combine the wrong foods, your body will actually secrete enzymes that cancel each other out! This leads to slowed or impaired digestion, causing food to ferment in your stomach or toxins to be released in your intestines. These conditions make your body more attractive to pathogens. This is a highly useful principle to improve your health and weight, and often one of the most misunderstood. For a more in-depth understanding on this principle and all the other principles, be sure to read The Body Ecology Diet.
- The Principle of 80/20 This principle has two concepts that aid your digestion:
Quantity – Overeating severely weakens your digestive system. Give your stomach room to digest your food by only filling your stomach to 80% of capacity and leaving 20% empty to help your body digest.
Balance of Nutrients – 80% of every meal should be land and ocean vegetables. The other 20% should be either a protein OR a grain.
- The Principle of Step-by-Step Just as it takes time to get out of balance, it also takes time to rebuild your health. You cannot expect instant healing, but making small, consistent changes gives your body the foundation it needs to support optimal, long-term health.
Starting any new program is about creating new habits. It takes time and effort, which can sometimes feel hard.
The key is to take everything step-by-step. Incorporate one healing principle (or even one element of a healing principle) at a time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Take care of yourself by going at the pace that feels right to you.
We all know that water is important. This is the truth. It is really very important. Please drink water.
Your system needs at least eight 8-ounce glasses each day. When you get up in the morning, drink two 12-ounce glasses of water to hydrate your body and try to drink half of your water intake by mid-morning. If you don’t like the taste of water or think it’s boring, add some lemon or stevia.
You should also drink water alone, NOT with meals at it dilutes your digestive enzymes. Drink no closer than 10-15 minutes before meals and then wait about an hour or longer after meals. Drink water at room or body temperature as cold water is a shock to your gut.
You CAN have tea/soups with your meals as they are considered foods and aid in digestion. Even though they contain liquid, they are not as hydrating as water and should not be counted as one of your eight glasses of water each day.
For more information see “The Body Ecology Diet” by Donna Gates
Irfan (my partner) and I like to use the word kaka to describe things we don’t like 🙂 We use it to describe unhealthy food (“kaka food”), to describe how we feel when we don’t feel good (“I feel like kaka”), to describe an unpleasant situation (“this is kaka”) or any other thing we aren’t happy about.
So when people ask me for advice of things they can do to heal themselves, I say, “deal with your kaka and you will be healthy!”
I am completely convinced that your emotional/mental/spiritual state plays a huge, if not the most important, part in your healing journey.
If you had told me this a year and half a go, I would have thought that you were bananas. But I believe it now. When I got sick and learned how stress is a Crohn’s flare-up trigger, I decided to seriously deal with my stress, or “kaka”. I changed my diet, quit my job, went on a bunch of meditation retreats, and sought therapy. My god, the intensity of dealing with my kaka was no joke. Your physical state is a direct reflection of your mental state. Seriously….for real. I have experienced way too much body mind connection instances for me to NOT take it seriously. Whenever I am super stressed out I get diarrhea for Pete’s sake! If that is not proof of the body mind connection than I don’t know what is.
This connection is by no means revolutionary in the “alternative medicine” scene (e.g. naturopathy, aryuvedic, chinese medicine etc.) but definitely is not mainstream in the medical community. This is why it was so refreshing to see Dr. Lissa Rankin’s Ted Talk. She is an MD who, in my opinion, GETS IT and fully appreciates how a person’s mental/emotional/spiritual state affects their physical well being.
Check out her Ted Talk!
Fatima came over for linner (lunch/dinner of course!) 🙂 I wanted to make something quick and gave her the option of a veggie stir fry or a Pakistani style zucchini curry. Fatima likes her spices and opted for the zucchini. Turned out pretty good, check it out for yourself if you please!
3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small chilli pepper (cut in half if you like it spicy)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp turmeric
1.5 cumin powder
1.5 coriander powder
1.5 garam masala
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
optional: 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli flakes
1. Saute onions over medium heat in skillet
2. Add ginger and garlic when onions START to brown and saute for 1-2 minutes
3. Add all spices, chilli pepper, chilli flakes (if using) and mix
4. Add a LITTLE bit of water if needed so that it doesn’t burn (the zucchini will release a lot of water so make sure not to put too much water or will become soupy)
5. Add zucchini, cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes (over low-medium heat) or until desired tenderness, stirring every 5 minutes
6. Remove from heat, mix in lemon juice
7. Serve with your favourite type of grain or my rice roti. I like to include grilled tofu for some protein.
I like to eat relatively simple meals. Things that are made with whole foods, are quick, tasty and happygut friendly 🙂 This meal fulfills all of these criteria.
1 cup dry black-eyed beans soaked overnight (or any other bean e.g. pinto, adzuki, black beans, etc.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp minced ginger
1 small onion chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumuric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 green chilli whole
2-3 tbsp Braggs
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water
optional: bay leaf
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in pot
2. Saute onions with garlic and ginger until onions just START to brown
3. Add all spices, whole green chilli (you can cut the green chilli in half if you are a fan of spice!) and bay leaf (if using) and mix, add a little water if needed so it doesn’t burn. Let cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add soaked beans and 1 cup of water
5. Bring to a boil, cover and then let simmer on low-medium for about 35 minutes or until beans are soft stirring every 10 minutes, adding more water if needed (if you are using a pressure cooker it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes)
6. Remove from eat, stir in Braggs and lemon juice
7. Adjust spices to taste
8. Serve with your favourite grain/bread, greens and, my personal favourite: avocado (I love avocado with beans!)
I served mine with some gluten free bread (I drizzled some olive oil and dill on it), half an avo and some kale. So incredibly satisfying, try it for yourself! 🙂
I love LOVE okra! I love the texture, I love the colour and I especially like the way it tastes in a Pakistani curry – so tangy and savory!
Our apartment has some water problems and so we have been staying with my Mom for a few days. That means getting Mom’s home-cooked meals 🙂
Today she made bhindi and it was awesome!
3 cups chopped bhindi
3 tbsp oil (I use grapeseed)
1 medium onion sliced
1 small green chilli whole
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tumuric
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chat masala
1/4 chilli flakes
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1. Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat
2. Add bhindi (okra) and fry until it just STARTS to brown
3. Mix in all the spices and onions
4. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes
5. Adjust spices to taste if desired
6. Remove from heat and serve with rice roti with a side of your favourite greens (I like to throw in some tofu for my protein)
Courtesy of my Mom 🙂