It’s a good thing.
Imagine that you step barefoot in a piece of glass. Immediately, your foot hurts. And then it may turn a little red, swell some and get warmer.
The Roman scholar Celsus in the first century AD defined these as the four classic symptoms of inflammation: dolor (pain), rubor (redness), tumor (swelling) and calor (heat).
Pain, redness, swelling and heat are caused by increased blood flow. Blood flow that brings your immune system troops to the scene of the crime to do their jobs. To help fight potential infections, to clean up the mess (damaged cells) and start the wound’s healing process.
Pain is a useful symptom. It can alert you if there’s still some glass left in your foot that needs to be removed. Or it can tell you to stop using your foot to speed up recovery.
When your troops are done, they leave. Depending on the amount of work and injury, this can take hours, days, and in some cases, maybe weeks.
And this is how it’s supposed to work. Inflammation is your body’s mechanism to defend itself against injury or infections.
Inflammation is a good thing.
However, there’s also chronic inflammation.
In a situation of chronic inflammation, your immune system may fail to eliminate whatever was causing acute inflammation.
Or a chronic irritant may be present. Like a food that doesn’t agree with you, an environmental toxin or allergen.
As a result, your body may persist a low-grade level of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can last for months or years. And you can have chronic inflammation going on without noticing a thing. That’s called silent inflammation.
Chronic or silent inflammation can cause a lot of damage.
Chronic inflammation acts as a constant trigger for your immune system. Because of chronic inflammation your immune system is constantly active or overactive. And that makes it more likely to become active towards its own tissue (autoimmunity).
Therefore, reducing inflammation may be key to modify your immune system and your autoimmune response.
If there’s less inflammation going on, your immune system gets a chance to cool down. My doctor called this a chance for a reset. And this in turn may reduce the autoimmune attack on your thyroid.
So, how do you reduce inflammation?
The good news is that you have control over some big inflammatory factors. Thus, you may be able to significantly reduce your level of inflammation.
Perhaps the biggest contribution to inflammation comes from some of the foods you eat.
By changing your diet, you may greatly reduce your overall level of inflammation. And this may make a big difference to how you feel and to your symptoms.
Following 2 key dietary steps may help make a big difference to how you feel and to your symptoms:
- Remove the top 3 most inflammatory foods
- Just eat real foods (JERF)
Let´s dive in.
1. Remove the top 3 most inflammatory foods
The gold-standard to find out if these foods are an issue for you, is by following an elimination diet.
An elimination diet means that you take out foods you suspect don’t agree with you for a certain amount of time. I commonly recommend a period of at least 4 weeks. That’ll give your immune system some time to calm down and reset.
During this time, eliminate all gluten, dairy, and sugar from your diet. A diet excluding these 3 foods is also called a basic elimination diet.
Carefully notice and, preferably, write down any change in how you feel and any change you observe in your symptoms.
After the elimination period, reintroduce the refined sugar, dairy, and gluten one by one and notice if you experience a reaction to them. That’s commonly all you need to find out if one (or all) of these three are an issue for you. If they are an issue, consider keeping them out of your diet for a longer period.
If you don’t notice any significant improvements on this basic elimination diet, you could consider to remove other common inflammatory foods.
Other common inflammatory foods include soy, corn, other grains, legumes, nightshades, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and eggs.
Although I’m a fan of the elimination diet, you may prefer to test for food sensitivities instead. Testing provides the benefit of seeing things black-on-white. For some this “proof” makes it easier to avoid eating those foods. A certified functional health coach can help you find the right test for you.
2. Just eat real food (JERF)
By eliminating the 3 top inflammatory foods, you may already achieve a big change in how you feel. However, one of the pitfalls when starting off on a gluten-free diet is that people start to eat “gluten-free junk food”. Instead of normal breakfast cereals, they eat gluten-free breakfast cereals. They replace their daily bread with a gluten-free version. And they switch their cookie for a gluten-free one.
Unfortunately, most of these gluten-free foods are not better for your health than the conventional items. Often, they are loaded with sugar and chemical additives. And they lack any nutritional value. These foods will likely increase your level of inflammation. So, avoid these.
To reduce inflammation, your body needs nutrient dense foods that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, etc. Chances are small that you find those foods prepackaged.
Instead, you’re more likely to find them in fresh vegetables and fruits, pastured eggs, pasture raised meats, wild-caught fish (beware of iodine and mercury levels though), nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like ghee, olive oil and coconut oil. In other words, JUST EAT REAL FOODS.
A note regarding iodine. If you have Graves’ disease, the consumption of iodine is a controversial topic. In general, it’s contraindicated as it may trigger hyperthyroid symptoms. So, you may want to limit your iodine intake. One of the biggest sources is iodized salt. You can replace this with a high-quality salt such as Himalayan salt. You may also want to limit foods that naturally contain high amounts of iodine, like fish and seaweed.
Eat organic and pasture raised whenever possible
Buy and consume organic whenever possible.
Why is this important? Mainly, because you’d reduce your exposure to pesticides and insecticides. And thereby you’d reduce your overall toxic burden and your body’s level of inflammation.
Another benefit of organic foods is their higher antioxidant levels making them excellent anti-inflammatory foods.
When it comes to eggs and meats, depending on your economics, primarily consume them from pasture raised animals. Not only because of social considerations (better lives for the animals), but also for your health.
Animals, just like humans, store most of their toxins in their fat to protect their bodies’ vital organs. To reduce toxicity and inflammation, eat only the leaner parts of lower quality animals. And enjoy the fattier meat primarily from animals that were pasture raised.
Be courageous and also try organ meats, like liver, heart, and kidneys. Note that pasture raised is key here! Organ meats are one of the most nutrient dense foods. They’re filled with all of the B-vitamins, vitamin A, iron, zinc, selenium, essential fatty acids and more. Nutrients that are absolutely vital for your immune system.
Let’s get you started instantly
Now it’s up to you.
I realize you may feel overwhelmed at this point.
But remember, you don’t need to change your whole diet overnight. Taking small steps (think baby steps) can add up to big results.
If you like to take it one step at a time, see what change appeals most to you and start there.
Even though I mentioned removing 3 foods from your diet as a start, feel free to begin with only one. And see how that makes you feel.
Alternatively, start your day in a healthier way by replacing your breakfast with the tasty easy breakfast smoothie from the recipe I share here.
Or, simply start by focusing on buying and eating less processed (packaged) food and more organic produce and take it from there.
No matter how big or small you start, the good news is you can start reducing your level of inflammation now.
As always, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.