Maximizing our health is a multifaceted process. The biggest hurdle is believing that we have the power and the ability to live a life that not only increases the amount of time we have on this beautiful planet called Earth but also how we live life has a direct impact upon the quality of the life we live. In my last article I discussed how chronic inflammation can trigger the disease process which can lead to many health issues. Research is clear about the direct link between chronic inflammation and certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease to name just a few.  How can we reduce chronic inflammation?

One of the facets to maximize our health is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Andrew Weil, founder of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona developed the Anti-Inflammatory diet. Dr. Weil stated “About 20 years ago, I began seeing evidence that chronic, low-level, purposeless inflammation is the root cause of much serious chronic disease, and, in fact, is the factor underlying categories of disease long thought to have nothing in common: cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS, and cancer. Since then, much more evidence has appeared to support this hypothesis.” The standard Western diet consists of a lot of fried food, sugar, simple carbohydrates, and ultra processed foods which contribute to chronic inflammation. The Anti-Inflammatory diet contains lots of fruits and vegetables, cold water seafood, lean protein, and whole grains, foods that reduce chronic inflammation. Examples of high anti-inflammatory foods include leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards, cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts and broccoli, fatty fish like salmon and trout and fruits likeberries and apples. Anti-inflammatory foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols or antioxidants to help combat inflammation.

It is important to consult with your health care professional such as a dietician or nutritionist before implementing dietary changes because “one size does not fit all” due to individual variability. Food allergies and food intolerances along with other potential responses due to individuality need to be taken into consideration. Also, as always listen to your body, be present with it, what does it say to you. How do you feel mentally and physically after eating specific foods. Compare short term gratification to how you feel later, in the long run.

I encourage my clients to start with small steps when makingsignificant changes. For example, someone may start by just adding one additional vegetable to their diet per day and/or someone might start with reducing one sugar drink per day. Success breeds confidence which then breeds success. It all begin with taking that first step. 

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Paul Bokker Ph.D., LPC/S, NCC, BCC, NBC-HWC, BC-TMH
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