Inflammation: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
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Today I wanted to share one of my favorite recipe books out there, Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk. Not only are the recipes in absolutely delicious, it incorporates all these various foods in one big meal that can combat inflammation. Clinically, inflammation can be an underlying factor to many illnesses.
There are 2 types of inflammation, one being acute and the other chronic. Acute inflammation is the adaptive, protective response to an injury or infection, which is actually beneficial when it is well controlled and self-limited, the GOOD inflammation. It is a means to restore homeostasis and functionality to the tissues, warding off infectious agents and restores tissue integrity. Then there is the BAD inflammation. Chronic inflammation is an ongoing inflammatory response linked to a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, infertility, acne, pelvic inflammatory disease, stress, anxiety, PCOS, Celiac disease, allergies, arthritis, and I can go on and on. This is where things can get UGLY, when chronic inflammation has been ongoing for a number of years, it is linked to more treatment resilient diseases such as, autoimmune disorders, asthma, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative disease and cancer.
Acute inflammation has been very well understood in research, leaving chronic inflammation a bit of a mystery as how it becomes pathological. Appropriate therapeutic goals don’t revolve around “turning off” inflammation, rather supporting healthy inflammation and the resolution of acute inflammatory processes, and reducing the factors that lead to a more chronic state. Therefore figuring out the root cause of your inflammation before it shifts into a chronic state can be beneficial in the long run.
Acute inflammation is resolved by a slew of mediators that I won’t bore you with, but to make a point that inflammation becomes chronic or pathological when these mediators are low in the body, due to lifestyle and nutritional factors, therefore complete resolution does not occur. After a period of time, the inflammatory response can be switched on without the presence of an infection or injury, but turns on if there is tissue malfunction in the body. Some of these malfunctions can occur due to environmental factors, such as a high calorie and nutrient-poor diet, a low level of physical activity, stress, exposure to toxic compounds, or advanced age.
I will mention an example of the consequence when chronic low-level inflammation can change your set point for physiological homeostasis: insulin sensitivity or blood pressure, resulting in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There is also growing evidence for a link between inflammation and depression. It is well known that depression is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response, what is not known necessarily is the source. Although there has been a correlation seen between specific factors that increase the risk of depression and seem to be associated with systemic inflammation. These include psychosocial stressors, poor diet, physical activity, obesity, smoking, altered gut permeability, dental caries, sleep and Vitamin D deficiency.
Some contributors to inflammation:
• Diet: pro-inflammatory Western diet is a significant contributor. Excess of sugars and arachidonic acid, and the lack of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
• Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio: It’s the Omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory and highest in most diets. Omega-6 has its benefits, it is the ratio between them that may be the most important aspect in each case. Studies of patients with many diseases show a higher omega-6/omega-3 ratio. For example, children with ADHD have a 36% higher ratio than children without.
• Other dietary factors: high glycemic foods, high calorie diets, lack of vegetable and fruits that provide nutrients to reduce inflammation (magnesium, betaine, choline), and food additives (MSG, sulphites, etc.). Food sensitivities are big contributor to inflammation and detrimental since many people are unaware of them.
• Physical activity: obesity can be a big contributing factor to chronic inflammation on a multitude scale as it targets our adipocytes (fat cells), immune cells, brain cells and increases our local cytokine (inflammatory cells) concentrations. This can lead to type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
• Gastrointestinal permeability: compromised barrier integrity caused by excessive antibiotic use, inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis, food sensitivities, and celiac disease, can all represent the first steps towards chronic inflammation.
I have just listed a few contributors to inflammation, but there are many other factors that play a role. Typically, naturopathic treatments revolve around figuring out the root cause of the inflammation by doing a clinical assessment of any illnesses, inflammatory markers in the blood, nutritional status, antioxidant status, and gastrointestinal integrity (food allergies and gut micro-flora). From there, a variety of interventions are given to combat that inflammation and support the “healthy inflammation.” Some interventions include an anti-inflammatory diet to figure out food sensitivities, stress reduction through botanical herbs and coping mechanisms, optimal nutrition with antioxidants to reduce inflammatory markers, liver support to help excrete toxins, and many more depending on the individual case.
Now that I have finished my rant about inflammation, I’ll get back to that recipe book. All the recipes in this book follow a typical anti-inflammatory diet, although there may be some discrepancies based on what your naturopathic doctor choses for you! It’s a great way to get a kick-start to an inflammatory free state!
I’m all about the stews and soups during winter months to help nourish and warm those cold bodies! This stew is bursting with nutrients and its creamy consistency leaves you feeling incredibly full. You can freeze leftovers for later when you are in need of a nutrient dense meal and short on time.
African Nut Butter Stew
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups (1L) vegetable stock, divided
2 cups diced sweet potato or yam
1 ½ cups white beans (canned or cooked)
½ cup brown rice (optional)
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup smooth almond butter
2 cups chopped, trimmed kale
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tamari (wheat free)
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1) In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic in 2 tbsp of vegetable stock over medium heat for 3-5 minutes to soften.
2) Add in the remaining stock, sweet potato or yam, white beans, brown rice (optional). Raise the heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 45 minutes.
3) When the rice is completely cooked or the sweet potato/yam, scoop ½ cup liquid from the stew into a small bowl and whisk together with the almond butter to make a paste.
4) Add the almond butter paste to the pot along with the kale. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
5) Add the lemon juice, tamari, honey, and ginger root, and stir again. Serve hot.
Makes 8 servings.
Recipe by Julie Daniluk:
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!