This is a guest post by Sukie Baxter.
Growing older is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you were born when rocks were soft and dirt was newly discovered. Have you ever heard the saying that age is simply a mindset? Well, this is half true. Certainly, if you focus on being happy and leading an active life, you’ll be less likely to notice the years passing. But what about when age related conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure set in? It’s difficult to defy your chronological age when physical dis-ease is holding you back from doing the things you love.
But, believe it or not, there’s an underlying thread connecting not only these conditions but also depression, memory loss, fatigue, digestive disease, fibromyalgia, allergies, lupus, psoriasis, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Chronic, systemic inflammation
is the root cause of all diseases and also triggers early aging. In fact, elevated C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, is the strongest predictor of a future heart attack, much stronger than cholesterol levels!
So, what causes systemic inflammation? There are several factors, but fortunately, all of them can be controlled or eliminated. Below are seven keys to reducing systemic inflammation, which will leave you with fewer aches and pains, younger looking skin, a stronger immune system and more energy for life!
1 . Consume foods that are raw or cooked at low temperatures.
Cooking food on high heat chemically alters the sugars and fats, creating glycotoxins, the same residual matter produced in your skin and joint tissues as a result of normal aging. Consuming foods high in glycotoxins – i.e. cooked at high temperatures – promotes the formation of glycotoxins in our tissues, accelerating the aging process and contributing to increased levels of systemic inflammation, according a National Academy of Sciences study.
A Mt. Sinai Medical Center study compared levels of glycotoxins in two groups of participants. One group followed a normal western diet while the other group avoided grilling, frying or baking their food in favor of poaching, stewing, or steaming their meals. The latter group showed a 60% reduction in blood levels of inflammatory markers after four months, so it stands to reason that a healthy dose of raw veggies each day will help keep the doctor away!
2 . Eliminate food sensitivities.
Allergies first happen on the cellular level with the production of white blood cells to fend off the ‘foreign invader.’ As we age, foods that didn’t used to bother us, like dairy or wheat, can become problematic. Constant consumption of foods that create cell-level inflammation can lead to systemic issues down the road. If you suspect that you have a food allergy, consult a qualified naturopath who can assist you with an elimination diet to determine which foods are the culprits, and then avoid those like the plague.
3 . Eliminate sugar, starch and refined carbohydrates.
Anything white or foods that can be bleached white like bread, flour, rice, corn, sugar, cereals, baked goods, etc, will cause inflammation. Carbohydrates create an insulin spike that puts your body on red alert, causing the production of arachidonic acid, a pro-inflammatory agent. Look for foods with a low glycemic index that will not cause insulin spikes to keep your inflammation levels in check.
4 . Take magnesium!
A 2005 article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that as magnesium levels fall, C-reactive protein levels rise. Even worse, the study found that most adults consume less than the daily recommended amount of magnesium (between 310 and 420 mg).
There are no foods that contain large amounts of magnesium, and this might be responsible for our nationwide deficiency. We are constantly reminded by the dairy industry to get enough calcium and by the orange juice companies to drink up for vitamin C, but no one is pushing magnesium, so we don’t really think about it. Also, most of us now drink bottled or softened water instead of well or spring water that is rich in magnesium.
Since dietary magnesium can be difficult to absorb, I recommend using transdermal magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals for direct delivery into the blood stream.
5 . Reduce stress and get more sleep.
There’s good stress, like that of entering a sports competition or going on a first date, and there’s bad stress. Bad stress tends to be chronic, like a cranky boss, a job you hate, financial worries or even a poor
diet. Chronic physical and psychological pressure results in elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are linked to increased systemic inflammation. In addition, a study conducted by the Emory University School of Medicine in partnership with the Morehouse School of Medicine found that acute sleep deprivation resulted in elevated inflammatory hormones.
So, it stands to reason that taking time to alleviate stress will result in increased levels of health. Taking magnesium, as I mentioned in #4, will help you to sleep more soundly, but there are other strategies you can use to reduce stress such as getting regular massages and diffusing stress relieving essential oils into your home or office (I recommend a blend of lavender and peppermint…smells delicious!).
6 . Take systemic enzymes.
If you’re suffering from painful conditions like arthritis, back and neck pain or muscle stiffness, systemic enzymes will be your best friend. Whereas most people treat pain with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs) like ibuprofen and aspirin, these medications only cover up the pain without addressing the root cause. Systemic enzymes, on the other hand, work holistically throughout the body to clean up excessive fibrin. When fibrin is too thick, it restricts blood flow, which slows healing and makes it impossible for your circulatory system to remove metabolic waste that causes further pain and inflammation. Systemic enzymes are available at most health food and supplement stores.
7 . Soak up the sunshine!
Whenever somebody moves to my hometown of Seattle, the first thing I suggest is to start taking supplemental vitamin D right away! We have one of the highest incidences in multiple sclerosis in the entire nation, and it’s
all because cloudy skies cause vitamin D deficiency. But we’re not the only ones!
According to a recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, 75% of Americans aren’t getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. A nutrition science researcher at the University of Missouri discovered that a slight drop in vitamin D levels caused increased inflammation even in healthy women.
You can get more vitamin D by exposing 25% of your skin to sunlight for 10 minutes a day, three days per week. Consuming fatty fish is a good dietary source of vitamin D, or you can choose to take dietary supplements. The amount you need to take depends
on your geographical location. Those who live in cloudy cities (like Seattle) will need to take significantly more vitamin D.
Clearly, inflammation is on the rise, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. By taking simple steps to eliminate pro-inflammatory agents from your diet and environment and feeding your body the right nutrients, you can avoid a lot of the common age related symptoms. That means more life in your years, so get out there and play!