Auntie Flow has finally left the building.
That gives you exactly one month of normalcy and emotional stability to get through a few Oprah reruns without losing your shit.
But while you may have the crying spells under control, you still feel like one swollen broad. The back aches, the fat cankles and headaches have stuck around, with no end in sight.
You may want to quit blaming it on your “heavy flow,” and look at what you’re putting in your mouth. Then again you may not be feeling anything at all. That’s because there are two types of inflammation: “classic” and “silent.”
The redness, swelling and pain caused by a sprained ankle or skin infection is actually the body’s first line of defense as it begins to repair itself. The usual treatment for this type of “classic” inflammation is aspirin and steroids, but long-term use of such anti-inflammatory drugs can suppress the immune system, resulting in osteoporosis, heart failure and even death.
I think I’ll pass…
Inflammation below the threshold of pain (called silent inflammation) is even more dangerous because it can go undetected for years, resulting in chronic disease, including obesity, type II diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, allergies and asthma.
And, if you didn’t already have enough reason to ditch the junk food, research has revealed alarming links between sugar and inflammation. That’s right – sugar can fan the flames of inflammation. So your daily sweet fix could also be the source of your pain and suffering.
Good Carb, Bad Carb
There aren’t any drugs that can reverse silent inflammation, but anti-inflammatory foods combined with a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward prevention. In fact, controlling insulin, a natural hormone made by the pancreas, is the key to managing silent inflammation. Because insulin levels are dependent on what you eat, especially carbs, making the right food choices is critical to maintaining good health.
A diet high in carbohydrates increases insulin levels, which leads to decreased blood sugar, and the feeling of constant hunger. This, in turn, causes you to eat more, which leads to increased fat consumption, and increased inflammation. We’ve all had days like this - you have a bagel for breakfast, and end up eating a box of cookies by mid-afternoon – not what your body really wanted.
On the other hand, a low-carb diet can result in an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which breaks down muscle mass, decreases the effectiveness of insulin and depresses the immune system.
So what would Goldilocks do? Studies show that the best diet is one that is not too high and not too low in carbs – a moderate amount is the key (click here for a helpful nutrition guide).
Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-trained natural and preventive medicine physician, believes that simple changes in how you eat can help counteract chronic inflammation, and has created the Anti-Inflammation Food Pyramid as a blueprint for optimum nutrition.
Dr. Barry Sears, creator of the popular Zone Diet and The Anti-Inflammation Zone believes that Americans eat way too many foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids, found in processed and fast foods, and not enough omega-3 oils (found in nuts, seeds, flax seed oil, and olive oil). When the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 is out of whack, inflammation can occur.
Eating healthfully isn’t the whole picture – ya gotta exercise too (don’t act surprised). In fact, the anti-inflammation “diet” is a misnomer in that it’s not really a diet, but a lifestyle. Even though the specifics vary, most anti-inflammatory lifestyle guides agree on the following:
- Eat a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
- Minimize saturated and trans fats
- Eat good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts
- Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates
- Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat
- Avoid refined foods and processed foods
- Have some protein at every meal – through things like tofu, beans or nut butters
- Use spices like ginger, curry and turmeric that have natural anti-inflammatory properties
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise and drink plenty of water
- Practice relaxation
Moderation is key – you don’t have to be a triathlete, but going for a walk once a day ain’t a bad idea. And while we would never advocate swearing off something as delicious as chocolate, we don’t advise that you make it a food group.
The one area where we suggest total discipline? Sugar.
Like we said, her intentions are bad. Stay away.