Silent Inflammation – What is it, and What Can We Do?

Chronic-Inflammation

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I’ve been thinking a lot about “silent inflammation” lately and how it is perceived to be the cause of numerous diseases (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more).  I’m putting more and more pieces of the puzzle together, and I’m really excited to experiment and track some healing strategies for myself and my horses in terms of inflammation.

I’m recalling a conversation I had with my chiropractor in Ocala about a year or so ago, when he did some muscle testing on me for gluten intolerance.  When I tested positive for being sensitive to gluten, he said that my intestines were most likely inflamed and would need a break from gluten for a while – at least 6 months, up to a year.  My intestinal lining would need time to heal, and in order to do this, I had to eliminate the cause of the irritation – gluten – and allow the repairs to begin.

So, up until recently, I was just focusing on eliminating the gluten, but now I’m thinking deeper.  How did it get irritated and inflamed in the first place?

I’ve been doing some research and I’m finding that another good strategy to incorporate in my healing protocol is to make sure I don’t have an overload of free radicals in my system.  How do I do this?  Make sure my body is able to produce its own antioxidants, make sure I’m taking in enough antioxidants in my diet, and making sure the toxins I’m exposed to are minimized.

Remember, free radicals are produced from normal cellular activity, but the body can normally produce antioxidants to neutralize the negative effects of the free radicals.  In today’s environment, with the excess exposure to toxins, chemicals in foods, lack of nutrients, stress, and so on, our bodies are bombarded with free radicals and our body isn’t able to keep up with producing enough antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals.  The average person doesn’t eat enough good-quality, healthy food to take in enough antioxidants to deal with this onslaught.

So what happens?  All of these free radicals create damage, which in turn, creates inflammation.  If left untreated, this inflammation may lead to a number of diseases, arthritis being one of them.  It can also lead to other diseases like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, and cancer.  These cause the body to produce even higher levels of inflammation.

According to Floyd H. Chilton, author of “Inflammation Nation,” approximately 50% of Americans suffer from an inflammatory disorder.

Remember that inflammation is your body’s normal response to injury and infection – inflammation helps the body heal.  But when the body gets “stuck” in inflammation, that is when extra free radicals are produced.

So what are a couple of the things I am adding to my healing process?  I’m looking into resveratrol, which is a chemical component of red wine, grapes, cocoa, and vegetables that helps prevent and reverse inflammation.

Glutathione, which is naturally produced in the body, is known as the master antioxidant.  Glutathione (GSH) can neutralize way more free radicals than other antioxidants.  As we age, the body tend to produce less glutathione, so I’m researching to see how I can maximize my body’s production of GSH.  It is believed that lack of nutrition and excessive toxins (from the environment, water, food, and lifestyle) are a big component of the decline in production of GSH.

According to an article in Well Being Journal (Jan./Feb. 2010 – Reversing Inflammation by Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.), Robert Keller, M.D. has found that specific nutrients such as L-glutamine, N-acetyl cysteine and others, are needed to manufacture and absorb GSH.

Foods such as good-quality whey protein, curcumin, eggs, and grass-fed meat all help with the production of glutathione in the body.

Other excellent food sources for antioxidants are tomatoes, carrots, berries, peppers, oranges, (do you notice a pattern of very colorful produce?).  Organic green tea is also high in antioxidants (I definitely have that one covered!).

There you have it.  Next week I will touch upon infection and inflammation and talk about what strategies I’m starting to incorporate with myself and my horses to help with inflammation and osteoarthritis (an issue with my horses), which many say can’t be reversed… but I beg to differ!

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Why We Need Sleep… New Study Shows it May be More Vital Than We Realized

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By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

What’s better than a great night’s sleep?

Not much, if you’re asking me. I’ll take a good nap or a decent night of rest over just about anything. If I can get some good-quality shut-eye I’m a happier, healthier, glowy-er person overall, and that’s important to me.

The true purpose of sleep, while hotly debated, has remained one of the many mysteries of the universe in the scientific community. However, a new study is also showing that there may be more important benefits to getting your much-needed z’s than just improved mood and energy.

A study performed on mice is showing that sleep is needed to actually cleanse harmful toxins from the brain.

“Sleep puts the brain in another state where we clean out all the byproducts of activity during the day,” says study author Maiken Nedergaard (read more on Nedergaard’s findings here).

These “byproducts” include beta-amyloid protein, which can form a plaque in the brain that may be linked to Alzheimer’s.

The study used florescent ink on awake and sleeping mice to monitor brain activities. The dye showed that, while sleeping, the mice’s glymphatic system (a recently discovered network in the brain) “works by circulating cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain tissue and flushing any waste into the bloodstream, which then carries it to the liver for detoxification.”

Cells in the brain even shrink, allowing more open space to be flushed out.

This new discovery may help unlock many of the mysteries of sleep and why it is so important to our bodies – and why we feel so unfocused (and cranky) without adequate amounts, become ill more easily… and possibly why we develop serious issues like Alzheimer’s.

Rats entirely deprived of sleep died “within weeks” in the study.

So, the next time you’re counting on coffee to get you through the day, remember how vital sleep is to your overall health, happiness -and probably the happiness of those around you -and allot yourself time to get the rest you need!

Good night… and sleep well this weekend.

Can’t sleep? Try out the tips below!

– Restrict use of electronics an hour before bed time. Research shows that the light from phones, televisions, computers, and other equipment confuses the body’s concept of time and restricts the release of melatonin. Dimming lights an hour before sleep may also help prepare the body for rest.

-Try a hot bath.

-Use calming essential oils like lavender, Roman chamomile, or frankincense in your environment near bed time.

-Before sleep, jot down your thoughts in a journal to keep them from bothering you while you’re trying to relax. Try adding a list of things you are grateful for, to help keep worries and depression at bay.

-Exercise during the day will help tire your body for the night. Don’t exercise within three hours of bed time, however, as the extra endorphins will keep you up!

-Stop caffeine intake five hours before your scheduled bed time. Yes, really.

-Mediate and/or stretch to relax the body and mind.

-Drink herbal teas designed to aid in sleep, like Nuwati Herbals’ Cloud Walking Tea. Avoid black and green teas.

-Experiment with supplements like valerian root or melatonin to find what works for you.

Got a Foodie Bitch tip for great sleep? Leave it in the comments below!

The Foodie Bitch’s Hot Chocolate

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Last week I pulled out a superfood I bought a while back from my newly organized pantry.  It’s called shilajit powder.  When I bought it, I had never heard of it before, but in the last week it seemed to be all over – in conversation, on Facebook, and in some of my readings.

So, I thought I would pull it out and remind myself as to why I bought it in the first place.

Shilajit, is used quite a bit in Ayurvedic medicine, and actually means “rock of life” when translated from Sanskrit.  It’s an organic mineral pitch formed from the Himalayan and other mountain ranges. It is believed to have detoxifying and cleansing properties, and contains over 85 minerals.

It sounded great, but I didn’t know how to incorporate it into anything.  I looked on the back of the package (from Sunfood) and saw this recipe:

Smoky Mocha

2 cups almond milk, warmed

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1 tsp. maca powder

1/2 tsp vanilla powder (I didn’t have that, so I used pure vanilla)

1/8 tsp shilajit powder

Instructions:

Warm the almond milk, then put it in a blender with the remaining ingredients (so as not to heat the other superfoods too much).  Blend until smooth and creamy.

So, I thought I would give it a go.  It was amazing! I loved it and so did my family.  I was so excited because I had an alternative to tea and an easy homemade version of hot chocolate – perfect for a cold and rainy fall day!

What I especially love about it (aside from the flavor), is that it is loaded with superfoods.  Aside from the shilajit, it has raw cacao powder which is also chock-full of minerals and antioxidants.  It is a natural energy-enhancer and contains anandamide, a chemical in the brain known as the “bliss chemical.” Combine that with the benefits of maca powder, which has been known to increase energy, endurance and strength, and you’ve got yourself a powerful drink!

I wanted to play around with the recipe, so I grabbed what I thought was pure vanilla, but it (strangely) came out of the bottle clear rather than brown. I glanced at the label and realized it was actually peppermint.

Hey, what the heck, right? It wasn’t what I expected, but it still tasted pretty good! Next time I will only use about 1/4 tsp. of peppermint, or a drop of peppermint essential oil. One variation, tested and Foodie Bitch approved!

I plan on experimenting with the shilajit, maybe adding cinnamon one time or some cayenne pepper another.

In fact, enough writing – I’m going to make myself a drink right now! Bottoms up!

Tea: Know What You’re Really Drinking

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

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One of the things I love about my mornings is my ritual cup of tea.

At some point each morning I have at least one cup of tea.  In fact, recently, I started a new morning ritual: before I start responding to e-mails or scrambling about to get stuff done, I make a cup of tea, go on the porch if the weather is nice, sip my tea for a while, and then meditate – for a minimum of 5 minutes.  Twenty minutes is even better, but at the very least 5 minutes.

It’s something that feeds my soul, so I want to start the day out on the right track and honor that.

My absolute favorite tea is Jasmine – I love the Jasmine pearls, in particular.  I usually order Organic Jasmine Pearls from from Mountain Rose Herbs.  Of course, I’ll have a big scoop of local raw honey, and sometimes I’ll add a couple of drops of Lemon essential oil in to the honey, OR I’ll add some fresh lavender buds from our garden in to steep with the pearls.

(Yes, that’s one of our cat’s tails in the picture – she loves her mornings on the porch too!)

HOWEVER, I have recently become more of a Foodie Bitch when it comes to my tea.  I first thought about it when I went to Teavana and picked up some delicious-smelling tea.  After a few times of drinking the tea, I noticed my stomach was a little upset.  Then I looked at the ingredients and there was a bunch of “natural” and artificial flavoring in their teas.  I figured that had something to do with it (no big loss: is it just me, or are they really pushy in that store?).

Then I started reading about how certain tea bags may have chemicals on them, and how in plastic tea bags, the particles may leach into the hot water.

THEN I started reading about how much of the tea contains high levels of pesticides!

Really??  Having a cup of tea shouldn’t be this complicated!!!

So, once again, we need to make informed choices and know what to look for.  The best way to make sure you’re drinking good quality tea is to buy organic, non-GMO, loose-leaf tea.

HOWEVER, I have recently become more of a Foodie Bitch when it comes to my tea.  I first thought about it when I went to Teavana and picked up some delicious-smelling tea.  After a few times of drinking the tea, I noticed my stomach was a little upset.  Then I looked at the ingredients and there was a bunch of “natural” and artificial flavoring in their teas.  I figured that had something to do with it (no big loss: is it just me, or are they really pushy in that store?).

Then I started reading about how certain tea bags may have chemicals on them, and how in plastic tea bags, the particles may leach into the hot water.

THEN I started reading about how much of the tea contains high levels of pesticides!

Really??  Having a cup of tea shouldn’t be this complicated!!!

So, once again, we need to make informed choices and know what to look for.  The best way to make sure you’re drinking good quality tea is to buy organic, non-GMO, loose-leaf tea.

Check out “The Food Babe” article about tea here for a more in-depth look at “What’s Really in Your Tea.”