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Taming Inflammation

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
08/15/17  9:30 AM PST
Taming Inflammation

How I Control and Prevent Chronic Inflammation

One of the many secondary complications to spinal cord injury I live with is inflammation within my body. Because my system functions sub-optimally, I am prone to extended periods of swelling in my extremities and digestive tract.

I have of course experienced a swollen ankle or knee, or a painful cut or abrasion that has been the source of temporary inflammation. That’s no big deal; it’s just my body’s natural immune response to ward off bacteria and heal the injury.

What concerns to me is chronic inflammation within my joints, muscles and organs. This is triggered by the immune system’s response to irritants, free-radicals or foreign compounds, often in food or the environment.

Rather that medicate synthetically, I use food to organically balance my body. Below you will find the “must-haves” I get at my grocery store.

My Anti-Inflammatory Food List:

Cruciferous Vegetables – I know, you’re wondering, “what does that mean?” Well, I categorize them this way: any vegetable that looks like a flower. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc. As I have mentioned before, broccoli and cauliflower cause bloating for my body, so I stay away from those vegetables. However, a serving size of Brussels sprouts and kale work well, even aiding as a “broom” for my colon. I keep this in mind for the meals before my bowel program.

Spinach – Not only does it provide a healthy dose of iron, but its bland taste is easy to conceal in scrambled eggs, smoothies, or rice dishes.

Avocado – It’s rare to find a person who doesn’t love avocados! For a healthy-fat snack before I work out, I will scoop out half an avocado and top with low-fat Italian dressing.

Tomatoes – This juicy fruit is a staple in my Italian wife’s kitchen. When they’re in season, we always have Roma or cherry tomatoes on hand .During the winter months, we use the canned tomatoes. Quick tip – look for canned tomatoes that read “organic” and “no salt” — pesticides and salt are inflammatories that can cause more pain than taste!

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Another pantry staple for our household which adds a dose of omega-3s to our diet. We also like to try other oils, such as grape seed oil and avocado oil, when cooking at high temperatures.

Turmeric – We add this seasoning to our roasted vegetables when preparing our weekly meals. Curry powder, cumin and fresh ginger are a wonderful addition we look to incorporate a few times a week.

Strawberries – A summer favorite! Actually, all berries provide anti-inflammatory agents, and if the season isn’t right, go for the frozen bags to add to your smoothies, yogurt or cereal in the mornings!

It goes without saying, but the cleaner and closer our diets are to nature, healthier and happier guts are more likely.

These foods fan the flames of inflammation. I try to limit:

  • Alcohol
  • Trans and saturated fats
  • Fried foods
  • Refined and processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, etc…)
  • Added sugars and salt
  • Artificial sweeteners and preservatives
  • High-fat and processed meats

As I sit and type this blog, I am sipping a diluted cocktail of four to six ounces of cold water with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. This helps aid my digestion and reduce inflammation from my strenuous exercise session earlier today.  I can feel my body craving fresh, raw vegetables, lean protein and carbs. I will listen and oblige: Dinner time!

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