food be your pharmacy

Chronic Inflammation: A way to shift is to use your kitchen as your medicine cabinet.

Hopefully you didn’t skip the first two parts, because the foundations are there. In Part I, we looked at what inflammation is and how it becomes chronic. In Part II, we discovered that you can change your genes by changing your lifestyle and how certain lifestyle choices are better than others in reducing overall inflammation by choosing anti-inflammatory options.

One of those lifestyle changes involves what you put in your mouth.  Yes, your diet… surprise there, I hope. Though I am quite alarmed and still surprised on my morning commute, every time I see a line of cars waiting to get through the McDonald’s drive-through on their way to work (adults, without kids)–perhaps they’re just going for the large $1 coffee.  One can only hope, but I fear that most Americans still haven’t got it.  What you put in your body can be just as harmful (or helpful) as any medication.

So here’s the low down on some of the things you can add to your daily nutrition. And mind you, you can’t add the good stuff and keep eating like crap, thinking that the good will negate the bad. I suppose there is a little of that going on, but in the end there is a stress-strain curve that’s got to break. Put more of the bad in, and the good is fighting a losing battle.

Food Sensitivities-Elimination Process

1. First, to find out if you have any sensitivities to food, you can try an elimination diet for 2-3 weeks. The purpose of this is to find out if your body is sensitive to certain foods, and not that you have an autoimmune response to it. You can be sensitive and not have antibodies present. It might be a sign that you have leaky gut and your body is having difficult digesting those food particles. See more about this in another post by clicking here.  

Start by eliminating the usual inflammatory suspects: gluten (white/wheat flower, barley, some oats, rye), dairy, sugar, alcohol, corn, and soy.  I know—-all the good stuff!  And it sounds like it would be hard and it is at first, but it is completely do-able. There are so many other good foods choices out there.  And you may or may not feel all that good the first couple days. It depends on how much your body is dependent on those certain foods.


2. The next step is to bring back one of the items at a time. Start with the item that you most miss. So take for instance, dairy. You eat your favorite dairy products for 2 days and on the third day you don’t eat it at all. See how your body reacts. If you have a reaction (digestive, skin, fatigue, etc), then you have likely singled out a food sensitivity. If you don’t have a reaction, yay!  You can continue eating those foods. You do this with the remaining eliminated items until you have done them all (assuming you want to return to eating those things). This is somewhat of the gold standard for determining some triggers for your inflammation. 

Add in Natural Anti-Inflammatories

3. Throughout this process of elimination, you add in the good stuff (natural anti-inflammatories). Following are some brief descriptions of how certain foods and additives can help address chronic inflammation.

  • Coconut Oil: Medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s)
    • Inflammation in the aging brain is characterized by cortical and hippocampal atrophy and enlargement of the ventricles. Check out this image comparing healthy vs an Alzheimer’s brain.
    • B-amyloid protein deposits found in Alzheimer’s is an inflammatory response
    • MCT’s are an alternative to glucose for an energy source for the brain—less energy for the body to process than glucose (sugars/carbohydrates)
    • MCT’s are metabolized to form ketone bodies, which have been shown to improve cognition in patients with memory loss
    • Suggested dose: 5-40 grams/ day = 1-2tsp of coconut oil (1Tbps = 15gm)
  •  Curcumin (Tumeric)
    • Modulates numerous inflammatory markers
    • Studies have implicated it’s importance with cancer, cardiac issues, being neuroprotective, anti-arthritic, and anti-diabetic
    • 40-65% of oral does passes through GI unchanged—so added bioperine (black pepper) allows for rapid absorption
    • Ways to get it: the traditional form found at the grocery store in the spice isle, or the supplement form which is much more concentrated and usually has the bioperine for optimal absoroption
    • Suggested dose: 500mg 4x/day
  • Green Tea
    • Inhibits numerous inflammatory markers
    • Inhibits the production and release of histamine
    • Suggested dose: 3-4 cups/ day (decaf is fine too)
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

    fatty acid patwhays

    • Essential fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) = wild fish, seaweed, algae; and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid )= nuts, seeds, vegetable oil
    • DHA (docosahexaeonic acid) is synthesized from EPA, the enzyme for this conversion needs Zinc, Vitamin C, B Vitamins
    • Preferred ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3= 1:1 but Western diets are closer to 16:1
    • Flaxseed is an ALA
      • Only 5% converts to EPA in humans
      • Only 0.5% converts to DHA in humans
      • So fish oil is the best source, because our bodies can’t covert very much to a usable form of fatty acid
    • Fish get EPA from seaweed and algae: so you could eat the fish, or eat the things the fish eats!
    • Some Omega-6’s go towards good inflammatory markers, others go to arachadonic acid pathway of inflammation, so not all Omega-6’s are bad
    • Insulin (ie sugar intake) activates arachadonic acid pathway, while EPA inhibits it
    • Suggested dose: 2-4 gm/day
  • Vitamin D (added 11-29-14, see article for detailed information)
    • UV light photosynthesizes Vit D3 in the skin or via supplemental Vit D2 or Vit D3
      • –>this Vit D is transported to the liver where via enzymatic reaction, it is formed into 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH-D)
      • –>25-OH-D is transported to the kidneys where another enzyme helps to form it into 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25-OH-2D)
      • –>1,25-OH-2D then connects with the Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) inside the nucleus of cells (particularly immune cells such as monocytes and macrophages), where it aids in transcription of DNA via Nf-kb (see Part I)
      • 1,25-OH-2D Enhances the innate immune response while inhibiting the adaptive response (acute inflammation–see Part I)
Vit D Synthesis image

Vitamin D Synthesis

  • Evidence has shown that the VDR system can be impaired due to infection and resulting inflammation
    • Because of our self-regulated feed-back loops, this will increase levels of 1,25-OH-2D which will in turn decrease levels of 25-OH-D
    • Increased levels of 1,25-OH-2D (>42pg/ml) causes increase of bone break down by increasing the amount of osteoclasts (cells that break down bone for reabsorption) –> thus putting you at risk for osteoperosis
  • Lab tests usually test your levels of 25-OH-D, so you could be low but still have high levels of 1,25-OH2D healthy and low Vit D image
    • So, in this case, if you supplement with Vit D, you may be making the problem worse, because the system down the chain is broken (VDR), and will cause more accumulation of 1,25-OH-2D
    • It seems that there is a faulty immune system at the root of the problem and the solution lies in healing the microbial problem  by repairing the VDR function
    • Sufficient 25-OH-D levels = 20-30ng/ml (shown on blood test)
    • Sufficient 1,25-OH-2D levels = 29pg/ml +/- 9.5pg/ml (max is 45pg/ml)
  • However, if you have been tested and your physician or functional medicine practitioner decides that it would be a good idea to supplement here is the suggestion
    • 3000-5000IU/ day
    • Or it has been suggested that 10-15 minutes, 2x/week of sun exposure to the skin without sunscreen

Above are just some of the justifications to ingest these natural anti-inflammatories, others were reported in Parts I and II. Remember that these nutrients are coming into effect the arachidonic acid inflammatory process at the same enzymatic reactions that your NSAIDS and corticosteroids are—without the ugly side affects. Just be mindful that some “good” foods/additives can also cause a reaction in some people. Some foods are histamine-rich or increase histamine release in the body and may cause a reaction. See this link for more information or see this other great link, on that. I’ve had clients report reactions to things like cinnamon, turmeric, or cilantro and I believe it was likely due to a histamine intolerance.

Also, you don’t have to take these things blindly.  You can have your doctor do a simple blood test to check your levels of Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Vitamin B12 and Folate. Then you can be sure if you actually need to take them. But some of the supplements are additional and can help with inflammation regardless.


4. And finally, here is your handy take-home handout (click here) with all the suggested anti-inflammatory goodness to add to your lifestyle. It is easy to get carried away with this and think that you have to take ALL of these. You will see some listed as ‘Basic,’ meaning that they are more crucial for every day immune system function. The ‘Additional‘ section is comprised of those that you could add on a weekly basis. The idea is to bring in more of the good and carve out more of the bad (sugars, processed foods, fried foods, etc). And of course, the best way to get nutrients is through your food! For centuries, we have gotten our nutrition through the foods that we grew and ate, so our bodies just know what to do with them (when all is going right). So if you don’t want to supplement, eat a variety and as close to the source as you can get.

Put it all together from the information from Part I and Part II and you find that there are alternatives to taking medications. Take them when you need them, but don’t make it a habit if you have a choice. Please always check with your trusted health care professional if you are unsure or uneasy about starting a new regimen.

I welcome your feedback and hope that if you find this helpful, you will share with your colleagues and your friends. Click here to Contact Tianna to see how she can assist you with learning how inflammation might be affecting your life, and what you can do about it. I can help you with a wellness plan, starting with an elimination diet.

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1. Chronic Inflammation: Special Focus, Nutritional Interventions; by Dr Mike Lara, MD, Berkeley, CA; October 2, 2014, Sponsored by Institute for Brain Potential

2. Mangin, M., Sinha, R., & Fincher, K. (2014). Inflammation and vitamin D: The infection connection. Inflammation Research, 63(10), 803-819. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from

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