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How are inflammation and digestion linked?

Inflammation and digestion are earning more mentions in scientific studies as well as personal stories. How are they linked and what can we do to manage them?

Inflammation and digestion – understand the basics

By digging into the details of our digestive systems without getting overly scientific, you can better visualize and appreciate how it works and its significance in our overall health.

  1. inflammation and digestionYour nutrient-absorbing small intestine contains digestive flora, which can become unbalanced due to use of antibiotics, birth control pills, hormones (including steroids) and alcohol. Stress and diet can also disrupt the balance.
  2. Mucous membranes are key to protecting you from harmful microbes and parasites that can cause infection. They are found throughout your body — in your nose, mouth, lungs and urinary digestive tract. Many infections and diseases can begin as, or can be related to, inflammation in your mucous membranes — allergies, asthma and sinusitis, angioedema, arthritis, bronchitis, influenza, lymphoma and the list goes on.
  3. Intestinal villi are projections in your digestive mucous membranes that allow the absorption of nutrients. For example, when a person with celiac disease, a digestive intolerance to gluten, eats gluten, her body will react allergically, possibly for several days. Her body may also damage the villi, hindering their ability to absorb nutrients properly.

So, eating even a little bit of a “culprit food,” one that causes a visible or invisible bodily reaction, can seem to cause only an annoying but tolerable reaction, like minor itching or stuffiness. In reality, each time you eat it, you can damage your body’s digestive system. Damage to your intestinal flora, mucous membranes or villi can serve as a root to other problems.

And the more damage that’s done, the harder it can be and longer it can take to repair it.

What can you do to control inflammation and digestion?

Fortunately, you can take steps to help minimize inflammation in your body with hopes of nurturing your digestive system. Get enough sleep — 7 to 9 hours for adults and more for kids, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Minimizing stress as well as consumption of alcohol, antibiotics, steroids and hormones is also helpful in controlling inflammation and digestion. Some people are also more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and should limit exposure to them.

And of course, one of the most important things you can do to manage inflammation and digestion is to eat foods that help your mucous membranes do their job.

So consider:

  • eating more nutritious foods (aim for 50% of your diet to be veggies).
  • eating fewer foods that cause inflammation. Some main instigators of inflammation are gluten, dairy, sugar and corn syrup, food additives, fried foods and processed foods. Even nuts and a group of foods called nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, more) can cause inflammation for some people.
  • paying more attention to how your body reacts to various foods, and then avoiding or minimizing the ones that bother you.
  • rotating the foods you eat, instead of eating the same thing every day.
  • keeping a food journal for a few weeks to help pinpoint foods that bother you, because symptoms like congestion or changes in your bowel movements may not show up for a day or two.

Feed your body mostly nourishing foods. Get plenty of sleep. Choose wisely what else goes into your body.

Take care of your body and it will be better equipped to take care of those things outside of your control!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

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Eating healthier: Is paleo the way to go?

Paleo power has activated. Many people are eating paleo diets these days. In fact, you can find people who earn a living by cooking and delivering paleo meals to your home. And though it’s about going back to caveman-like simplicity, eating paleo is no walk in the park. So is eating paleo really the way to go?

What does eating paleo mean?

Eating paleo is more than a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. You need to avoid many packaged goods, find new ways to eat on the go and spend more time shopping and cooking. You will inevitably have to give up some of your ol’ favorites. No more potato chips with cottage cheese or pizza as we once knew them.

When eating paleo, you need to avoid:

  • all grains, especially wheat and gluten but also rice and corn.
  • dairy.
  • legumes and starchy vegetables, including alfalfa, beans, carob, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, peas, potatoes and soybeans.
  • refined sugars.
  • processed foods.
  • additives and chemicals — if a food contains an ingredient you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it.
  • alcohol.

Shew. So what can you eat?

paleo fish with saladWhen going paleo, you may eat:

  • fresh caught wild fish, lean and clean organic meats and eggs, all in moderation.
  • organic vegetables.
  • organic fruits.
  • organic, raw nuts, nut butters and seeds.
  • certain oils, only at recommended temperatures to avoid making them rancid.
  • spices without additives, gluten or anything else non-paleo.

When is eating paleo right for you?

If you don’t digest lean meats easily, paleo is probably not for you! If you’re not willing to spend extra time looking at labels, grocery shopping and preparing foods, it may not be the right time for you to adopt a paleo eating style.

However, eating paleo makes sense in several instances:

  • You have lots of sensitivities to foods and need to find substitutes. I’ve been eating paleo-like (sans nuts) during my version of an elimination diet the past couple of months and it’s helped me find alternative recipes for many things I thought I had to totally give up, such as tortilla shells, tortilla chips, cookies and even a carrot cake. Hello tapioca, coconut and many other flours I never knew! What a great way to get more foods into my rotation, so I’m truly able to eat all things in moderation. Follow this adventure on Facebook — even join me with your own eating healthier challenge!
  • You want to lose weight. Duh. Look at all the foods and carbs you give up when eating paleo! When you want to lose weight, improving your lifestyle is always better than dieting, because results from diets are so temporary. Maybe you would find it easier to delve in full-blown paleo first and then add some foods back as you determine which ones really help you feel good?
  • You have chronic inflammation. This could include allergies or arthritis to heart disease, because many health issues begin with inflammation.

If you decide that eating paleo is for you, remember a few key notes.

  1. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, you may want to avoid the nuts, too, because they can cause inflammation for many. Peanuts are technically a legume, are not paleo and may be the least healthy of the nuts. If you eat them, choose organic. Coconut is a fruit, so that is an option if your body tolerates it and you like it. You may still tolerate seeds from sunflower, pumpkin or sesame — think as flour or as spreadables — not just by the handful.
  2. Make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients, especially vitamin D, calcium and healthy fats.
  3. Eat lean meats and fish in moderation. When I did this diet before as a 3-week cleanse, I was eating hamburgers for a snack. NOT ideal! But this time, my appetite has leveled out so I don’t need as much protein to feel full or satisfied.
  4. Every body is different and our bodies change with age (I am blaming my surge of food sensitivities on hormones in the 40s!). If you eat paleo and feel great, it may be your ideal lifestyle — for now. Listen to your body and review your blood work, especially as it relates to your vitamin D. You can always add foods back as you learn what works for you.

We definitely have a place for paleo in this world. Paleo or not, we all should avoid packaged foods with additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and refined sugars. Most of us could eat more vegetables and more organic foods.

Even if paleo is not perfect for you, try embracing some paleo beliefs!

For more ideas about eating paleo-like, including a shopping list and meal plan, read Digested – eating healthier made easy 3 ways.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.