Diet tips to help you say good night inflammation

It’s not such a nice day here in Toronto.  Dark, cold and rainy.  Perfect afternoon to perk up your energy with a green smoothie!

Let’s get right back to our discussion about improving sleep quality by minimizing inflammation.  As I said in my last post, the food we eat is too often a significant cause of systemic inflammation.  Most people don’t realize that 70-75% of our immune defenses reside in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Our modern diet, with its emphasis on processed foods, refined carbs and sugars can overburden our digestive tract and stress our immune system.  Your body has to work really hard to break down those foods and often doesn’t even realize any nutrients at the end of all that effort. Healthy bacteria does not flourish in such an environment and the “bad” bacteria is given free rein to flourish. Result: an inflamed digestive tract that can result in bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or acid reflux.  And quite possibly, a night of tossing and turning.

Our convenience foods also provide too much saturated fat and an inverse of the proper ratios of polyunsaturated fats.  Many of our modern foods contain higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can have an inflammatory response as opposed to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids.   Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats, which means we cannot synthesize them in our bodies yet they are necessary for vital functions such as building hormones, regulating body temperature and proper brain function.  Experts vary in their recommendations for the exact ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 but ideally it should be in the range of 1:1-4:1.  Most North Americans are well over 10:1 and sometimes as high as 25:1

A few suggestions to re-balancing your healthy fat intake:

  • aim for 2 servings of cold-water fish every week, preferably wild.  Salmon, halibut, mackerel, arctic char and sardines are all good choices.
  • add 1 tbsp of chia seeds or freshly ground flax seeds to your morning smoothie, oatmeal or granola
  • munch on walnuts as a mid-morning or afternoon snack
  • drizzle 1-2 tbsp flax oil on your salads
  • be generous in your servings of extra virgin olive oil and avocados for their omega-9′s

Added bonus to increasing these healthy fats:  you’ll enjoy the most velvety-smooth skin you’ve had in years!

Tips to decrease inflammation?

  • avoid trans-fats and fried foods (donuts, potato chips, french fries, commercially baked muffins)
  • reduce meat consumption and consider more plant-based meals (suggestions coming next time)
  • refined sugars are highly acidic and feed the unhealthy bacteria in your gut.  Minimize or avoid altogether your intake of sugary drinks and coffees, cookies, ice cream and other desserts.  Watch out for hidden sources of sugars in your boxed cereals, granola bars, bottled salad dressings and fruit-flavoured yogurt.
  • milk and dairy products are common allergenic foods that trigger an inflammatory response in the GI tract of many people….if you suspect you have a sensitivity, cut out ALL dairy for 2 weeks and just see what happens
  • final tip: eat lots of fruits and veggies, especially veggies and then have a few more veggies.  Highly alkalinizing, full of minerals and phytonutrients, there’s no such thing as too many veggies.  Try to eat 1-2 cups of raw every day.  Carrots and celery are great but expand your repertoire and add some snow peas, radishes, fennel or yellow pepper.  I’ll bet you eat twice as many if you dip them in hummus!

Inflammation is so dependent on lifestyle and choices. Introducing changes don’t have to happen all at once…..choose a couple from the lists above and gradually incorporate new habits that you feel you can stick with.  Wishing you health, vitality and sweet dreams!

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