THE FIRE WITHIN…this isn’t what you think…I’m not going to talk about “passion” … I’m talking about Inflammation. Inflammation in the body is a reaction to trauma or response to infection. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s telling us our body is hurt and needs to heal. The “fire” (inflammation) is the body’s instinctive way of self-defense, by which your body rids itself of harmful foreign invaders that manage to “infiltrate” the blood stream, such as viruses and bacteria. When there is such “unauthorized” access, the body deploys the “platoon” (white blood cells aka firefighters) to fight the “blaze” (disease). The “platoon” (white cells) identify these “arsonists” and literally engulf each one of them before destroying them. While this “battle” is going on, there are changes that take place within the body such as fever, swelling, redness, high blood pressure and the like; a “backdraft,” if you will. Once the “fire” is extinguished and the “arsonists” are destroyed, the inflammation goes from a blaze to “embers” (inflammation goes down) and the body resumes its normal functions.
The amount of “fire” (inflammation) in your body varies and is dependent on a number of factors – including your activity level, the amount of sleep you get, the degree of stress in your life, and even the foods you eat. These factors are cumulative – meaning they build up over time. And the more that any or all of these factors get out of whack, the risk for disease increases. Are you committing Arson? I’m hoping this is a “Code Four” (everything is under control). I suggest you employ your Firehouse with a top notch brigade!
When our immune system malfunctions for various reasons, our bodies will experience a low-grade chronic inflammation state, which would have your trusty “platoon” (white cells) turn on each other, not to mention tissues, organs or bones resulting in disease and accelerated aging signs. A “Five Alarm Blaze” (chronic inflammation) in our bodies can lead to serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and lower back pain, just to name just a few. Over-production of inflammatory chemicals, which in turn is due to wrong dietary habits, smoking, chronic stress, lack of exercise and being overweight. Dodge the hot zone! Put out the “fire” now…tap into your “fire hydrant” (kitchen) and fill your “fire engine tanker” (body) with the best extinguisher recipe possible! Don’t get burned!
“Playing with matches” (Diet) is one of the key triggers for “fire” (inflammation). You can choose to arm and train your “platoon” with the best artillery and skills or choose to dance with “fire.” How? When you follow a diet that is based mostly on fast food, processed and refined food products, you help in the generation of enemies (free radicals) in the blood stream. These free radicals can be compared with anti-socials, which go on rampage within the body attacking all the healthy tissues they can. This action causes injury, which triggers inflammation and sets up a vicious cycle. The same processed foods that help in the building of free radicals, also suppress the immune system of the body causing it to weaken. Why not equip yourself with a fire extinguisher (anti-inflammatory diet) and seize the “fire within?”
Losing weight is part of a health cycle that involves eliminating chronic inflammation in your body. Lose the inflammation, lose the weight and lose the pain, all can come from eating the right foods.
The food we eat is a huge determining factor when it comes to controlling inflammation. The Standard American Diet (SAD) – (appropriate abbreviation, in my opinion) consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, an abundance of red meat, and an “alarming” amount of processed foods – all of which are likely to increase inflammation and contribute to obesity, which in itself can cause inflammation. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet plan consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.
The first step is to avoid and eliminate processed foods, foods high in sugar, and junk food whenever possible. Choose carefully. Here is a list of the best and worst foods for controlling inflammation:
- Fresh Fruits & Raw and Lightly Cooked Vegetables (fruits: berries, cherries, avocados, pineapple, papaya, apple, veggies: onion, bellpeppers, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts,sweet potato)
- Dark Leafy Greens (romaine, kale, spinach, arugala, swiss chard)
- Lean Meat (preferably from organically, grass fed animals) (cold water fish, such as salmon)
- Seaweed (dulce, kelp)
- Raw Nuts, Seeds and Legumes (walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower)
- Oils (flaxseed oil, coconut oil, olive oil)
- Spices (turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cilantro, basil)
INFLAMMATORY FOOD (make sure you bring your axe for this one!)
- Red Meat
- Processed and Refined Foods
- Fast Foods (I smell a “grease” fire comin’ on!)
- Soda, Caffeine and Alcohol
- Oils, such as Vegetable and Corn
- White Bread, White Rice, Pasta
In addition to these dietary changes, here are some “fire prevention” tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight – Hose yourself down with the extinguisher (anti-inflammatory diet). Decrease your intake of meat, dairy, sugars and hydrogenated oils and increase your daily intake of fiber. Focus on fresh, vibrant “light and bright” vegetation not charred, dead foods.
- Get good “shut eye” sleep – 7 to 9 hours of sleep is a must for optimal health; getting a good night’s sleep is key to controlling systemic inflammation.
- Relax more often to lower stress levels – Find time for yourself throughout the day to focus on your breathing and clear the clutter from your mind; learn to stay focused on putting out the “big fires” (the most important tasks in your life).
- Exercise on a regular basis – Do something you like to do – whether it be going for a walk, run, or dancing around to your favorite tunes. If your body can tolerate it, aim for at least 35 minutes a day. C’mon Hot Stuff, show me what you got!
I realize there is a little “pyro” in all of us. Who doesn’t like to disco with the “inferno” every now and then? I hope you ignite your “spark” and kindle that fire of another kind – passion, fervor, and enthusiasm, to stay aglow!
So, if you are in pain and you’ve made a conscious decision to help yourself get better, then…it’s time to get out the “fire” extinguisher! Why wait until it’s a 5 Alarm blaze. You know the way to the fire escape…avoid the hot zone, be the hero and save a life…YOURS!