August 5, 2008 [Volume 2, Issue 18]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Foods to Fight Inflammation
8 Easy Stress Reducers
Make No Bones About It

Foods to Fight Inflammation

The new view of inflammation, developed over the past 10 years, is that it is a generalized state within the circulatory and immune system perpetuated by poor diet. The outcome of this is the dietary promotion of arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and most other chronic diseases. We should call this "dietary trauma," as it leads to the development of biochemical changes similar to physical injury. The difference is that, for most people, dietary trauma occurs every time they eat, three or more times each day, every day.

In most cases the outcome of dietary trauma is not noticed for years. It takes years to develop arthritis and other chronic diseases, so we don't usually associate a poor diet with disease expression. This allows us to easily deny such an association between diet, inflammation and disease. Thus, developing an awareness or mindfulness about eating is very important to help influence a behavioral change in our eating habits.

Foods That Promote Inflammation

Refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar, sweeteners and flour produce inflammatory responses, as do refined oils, and obese (fatty) meat. A surprise to many is that even whole grains and legumes (beans) can promote inflammation.

With the above in mind, consider that the average American consumes about 10 percent of calories from dairy products, 20 percent from refined sugar, 20 percent from refined grains, 20 percent from refined oils and 2 percent from alcohol. The biggest problems clearly are the sugar, grains and oils. Approximately another 20 percent of calories come from obese meat, which is the fatty meat from domestic animals that live a sedentary life in feedlots where they are fed a tonnage of grains/corn instead of grass/pasture. The remaining 10 percent of calories might be fruits and vegetables.

Foods That Prevent Inflammation

A reasonable recommendation is for 80 percent to 100 percent of our calories to come from vegetables, fruit, raw nuts, potatoes, and either lean or omega-3 protein sources including fish, lean meat, skinless chicken, wild game, grass-fed animals and omega-3 eggs. Spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, oregano, and the other popular spices are all anti-inflammatory. The best oils/fats to use in moderation are extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and butter.

Our focus should be on correcting the 80 percent of calories that come from sugar, refined grains, oils and obese meat. Worrying about yogurt, the occasional bran muffin, a cup of coffee, etc., has little influence compared to the tsunami of inflammation created by the 80 percent of calories derived from inflammatory foods. Another key to reducing dietary trauma and inflammation is to eat appropriate amounts for your body. In general, overeating leads to an inflammatory response.

If you currently snack on bags of inflammation and regularly do "drive-through self-shootings" at fast-food restaurants, you likely will view a life of eating anti-inflammatory foods as somewhat extreme. In actuality, the anti-inflammatory foods described above are not extreme at all and are completely consistent with our biochemical and physiological needs.

Assuming 85 percent to 90 percent of your calories are anti-inflammatory, have fun with the remaining 10 percent to 15 percent of calories borne of foods from the dark side. Don't become an anti-inflammatory diet extremist and make eating healthy a stressful event.

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8 Easy Stress Reducers

If you're running around all day trying to fulfill a seemingly endless list of responsibilities, you could be on the verge of a stress-induced breakdown. Before that happens, take five minutes out of your busy schedule for one (or more) of these quick de-stressors, courtesy of

1. Laugh a little. Studies suggest laughter lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Of course, it doesn't take an understanding of biochemistry to appreciate that when you're laughing, stress has to take a back seat, at least temporarily.
2. Lighten up. When the body absorbs sunlight, it enhances the effect of mood-stabilizing chemicals such as serotonin. So enjoy lunch out in the sunshine, or walk a few blocks during your afternoon break.
3. Go on a (virtual) vacation. Picture yourself on a tropical island or a serene, majestic mountaintop – wherever you'd rather be instead of here, stressing out. It will give you a few minutes to unwind and relax instead of focusing on work.
4. Get moving. Exercise, even something as simple as jumping rope for a few minutes, triggers your body to release mood-lifting endorphins. The repetitive motion required of most simple exercises also makes you relaxed and focused.
5. Turn up the volume. Go ahead and rock out to the music from your teens. You might even be inspired to dance around the living room.
6. Take a breath. Sometimes, just breathing deeply can help center and relax you. Try it the next time you're stuck in traffic or your boss needs that report done "right away."
7. Find a friend. Even if it's only for a few minutes, call or e-mail a friend and blow off a bit of steam. Isn't that what friends are for?
8. Stay cool. Find a nice, light scent (lavender is always a good choice) to lightly spritz on your face when the heat is on. It will not only cool you down, but also calm your nerves.

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Make No Bones About It

Vitamin D, otherwise known as the "sunshine vitamin," serves many functions including helping boost the immune system, fight certain kinds of cancer and build healthy, strong bones. Bone strength and density are important considerations as people age, particularly those at risk for or suffering from osteoporosis, a condition that causes abnormally thin, brittle bones.

What about the estimated 10 million-plus people already suffering from osteoporosis? Can they derive any benefit from increasing their vitamin D intake? Yes, suggests research presented at the recent American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 17th Annual Meeting and Clinical Congress.

Researchers evaluated charts of 328 patients with osteoporosis to determine their vitamin D levels. They found those levels to be woefully inadequate – almost 41 percent of patients had either deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels. Even more alarming was that patients were taking 800 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 IU calcium per day (well above the recommended daily allowance).

Despite vitamin D and calcium intake, these patients still were at extreme risk of fractures associated with osteoporosis. The researchers said: "Many patients with osteoporosis who were on vitamin D and calcium had low vitamin D levels, which in turn contributes to increased risk of fractures. Therefore, all patients with osteoporosis should have vitamin D levels measured, and replaced adequately."

So make no bones about it – vitamin D is an important part of your daily health regimen, whether or not you have osteoporosis. Ask your doctor for more information about how a balanced diet and proper supplementation can deliver the nutrition your body needs.

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