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Are you inflamed?


 

I am the person, who when excited by a new book, Netflix series, coffee, car mechanic, recipe, etc., I want everyone I know to be excited about this hidden treasure as well.  I will tell everyone!  That is how I feel about my experience with anti-inflammatory eating.  I have seen the benefits firsthand, in many ways, therefore, I want the whole world to take advantage of this secret to feeling good as well.  Now, let me say I completely understand the resistance.  This type of change requires – change.  Giving up certain comfort foods, ones we have known and loved for the better part of our lives.  It requires incorporating new foods, foods we have spent a lifetime avoiding, or ones we have never even seen or heard of before.  It requires a change in routine.  Most of us know what we buy when we go grocery shopping, where and what we eat for lunch, our favorite dinner spot, Starbucks drink, just to name a few.

 

Prior to my starting my full-on anti-inflammatory eating lifestyle, I would have considered myself a very healthy eater, and I still do, but there is always a next level.  I had been living a lifestyle of mostly whole foods, no chemicals, additives, or preservatives.  I enjoyed some sweets like cookies, cakes, usually always homemade.  I would eat the occasional organic ice cream and dark chocolate.  I had not been drinking alcohol for many years and slowly incorporated some natural wines and artisanal IPAs into my life, which I enjoyed mentally at some level.  And let’s be honest, I was more likely to have that extra scoop of ice cream or cookie after having a drink or two since at that point, I really didn’t care.

 

I am and have been an active person for many years, running, swimming, walking, yoga, hiking, I have gone through phases of what I was into at a certain time with running being the most consistent.  It doesn’t cost anything other than a pair of sneakers; I can step outside my front door and go.  I am now in the second half of my life, and I am a single parent of a 9-year-old, and a 5-year-old.  When I think ahead to how old I will be when they are a certain age, I have a mild anxiety attack.  I had definitely noticed waking up feeling more tired, achy, experiencing more bloating and digestive discomfort, and sleeping less restfully.   I started to think I needed to do more to feel better ALL of the time.  I had heard a podcast with a functional medicine doctor saying he was going to live to be 100, and I thought, hey, why can’t I do that?

 

The first to go was the alcohol.  I knew it was not doing me any good and I was drinking “a few glasses of wine” every day.  I had been down this road before and also knew for me it had to be all or nothing, therefore nothing was what I chose.  Once the alcohol was removed and I started to feel better, I started to crave sugar less, because after all, alcohol is sugar, and what goes better with sugar, but more sugar?  I also started to notice my joints were less achy and my energy was increasing.  I started following a very strict anti-inflammatory diet which involved no alcohol, no sugar, no soy, no beans, no grains, and no dairy.  There had been a prior period where I had not had dairy for many years, knowing with my training in traditional Chinese medicine that dairy is inflammatory, but wine and cheese – need I say more?

 

Once I made this radical change, I really started to feel good.  My body felt great, I had energy, and I slept more soundly.  I lost some extra weight I had put on over the prior 2 years, my skin improved, there was nothing negative I could say about any of it.  The hardest part may have been eating out or social engagements, but I am pretty good at bringing my own food or planning ahead by looking at a menu online to see what my options were, that kind of thing.  Most restaurants offer a salad with chicken and that was generally my go to.

 

One thing I did not expect to happen, was realizing after some time of following this new eating routine, that I had not had a cold sore, which for me was BIG!  According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under the age of 50, or 67% of the global population are infected with the HSV-1 virus, so clearly, I am not alone here, but nevertheless, I always felt like there was such a stigma surrounding this virus.  First let me give you a little background on this little bugger…  Back in my early 20’s I had a boyfriend who had a cold sore, we kissed, and the rest was history so to speak.  For me it was bad bad bad.  I would have these horrible outbreaks that would take over the lower half of my face and cause my neck to swell dramatically, forcing me to go into hiding for at least a week.  I went through years of making up stories since it did not present like a typical cold sore.  I would say it was an allergic reaction, I used some nasty skin cream, I burned myself, there were many stories until eventually I just disappeared whenever it happened.   What I had not realized for many years was that I was more likely to have an outbreak if I became sick, had gone through a period of drinking too much and sleeping too little, had been eating too much sugar, or had gotten too much sun.  Why did these things trigger an outbreak?  And then it hit me, inflammation.  All of these created some kind of inflammatory response in the body combined with an immune reaction.  Once my immune system had become distracted in order to handle these other issues, the dormant HSV-1 virus was able to rear its ugly head, literally!    Holy moly what a lightbulb moment.  Let me also say I had spent the greater part of my life trying to “figure out” how to make this horrible affliction go away.  I had tried many, many things, some of which are a story for another day, but this little nugget was gold!  So, consider this, if chronic inflammation was responsible for my HSV-1 outbreak, think of how it plays a role in many other health related issues including cancer, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, and depression?  There are many studies showing the connection between these ailments and chronic inflammation.

 

As a healthcare practitioner I see many people in different phases of their lives, emotionally and physically.  I do believe very strongly that chronic inflammation plays a significant role in both emotional and physical well-being, since the two are so deeply intertwined.  It is my hope that through sharing my experience I can spark a desire in others to want to make different choices for the sake of good health.  Back in the ‘90’s I thought I was being “healthy” by doing my Stairmaster for an hour a day, drinking diet coke, and eating bagels – back then, that is what the media was telling us to do.  Thankfully we have learned a great deal since then.  The point being, I did not wake up one day and become a purist in my eating, it has been, and still is, a long and continual journey of trial and error.  I would be concerned about anyone who made an overnight 180-degree shift as that would likely be destined for failure.  After continuing to read and learn more about inflammatory foods I have added beans and organic tofu back into my diet, which I am enjoying tremendously.  I recently eliminated the oat milk I was using in my coffee.  It is processed after all, but I had a really hard time letting it go because it tasted so good!  I have also been one to have gone through periods of binge eating, which I know is very common and a habit that is hard to break.  I do still fall into it but will be binging on healthier foods, which will usually still cause some digestive upset but not much more than that.

 

To aid in your journey I am attaching links to some resourceful information regarding anti-inflammatory lifestyle that I have found helpful, I hope you will find it helpful as well.  You as the reader may be consuming something that I would never think of consuming, but maybe it is a better choice than what you were consuming a month, week, or day ago, which is a step in the right direction.   There are many ways to start, from my experience, it all starts with a desire to change.  You must truly want to change in order to have the motivation to take the first step and continue to take the steps necessary to take charge of your health.  Simple but not easy as they say, one baby step at a time, and I will be your biggest supporter if you need a cheering squad!

 

In good health…

 

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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