Nutrition and Control of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic, low grade inflammation is at the root of many health problems, such as cancer, digestive problems, and chronic pain. Inflammation is our body’s response to constant irritants including smoking, lack of exercise and diets that are high in fat, calories, and processed foods. As we approach the holiday season, eating healthy is a great way to reduce inflammation and promote better healing and overall health.

1: Choose foods that Decrease Inflammation & Support the Immune System:

Foods That Fight Inflammation (EAT)                             Foods That Increase Inflammation (LIMIT)

  • Omega- 3 Rich Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Oysters)
  • Red Meat
  • Whole Grains (Wild Rice, Oatmeal)
  • Processed Carbs
  • Beans and Legumes (Black Beans, Lentils)
  • Sugar
  • Nuts and Seeds (Walnuts, Almonds, Flaxseed)
  • Soda, Fruit Juice, Sports Drinks
  • Fruits and Vegetables (Berries, Leafy Greens)
  • Full Fat Dairy
  • Spices (Garlic, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger)
  • Trans Fats Found in Processed Food and Pastries
  • Cocoa and Dark Chocolate 70% or Higher
  • Excessive Alcohol
  • Olive Oil and Green Tea
  • Aspartame (Artificial Sweetener) and Sodium

2: Maintain Blood Glucose Levels: Foods with high GI rating increase glucose rapidly, and then fall quickly. This spike in blood sugar leaves you feeling hungry sooner. Foods with low GI help you stay fuller longer.

Low GI Foods (EAT)                                                     High GI Foods (Limit)

  • Whole Grains
  • White Bread
  • Most Vegetables
  • White Rice
  • Dairy- Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
  • Corn
  • Most Fruits
  • Most Cereals
  • Nuts and Barley
  • Pretzels and Popcorn
  • Whole and Sprouted Wheat Bread and Pasta
  • Rice Cakes
  • Slow Cook Oatmeal
  • Some Fruits and Fruit Juice
  • Brown Rice and Quinoa
  • Sugar

3: Drink More Water!!  

4: Decrease Sugar Intake: Sugar has shown a significant impact on inflammation in the body. The AHA recommends daily intake not exceed 37g for men and 25g for women.

List of Words Meaning Added Sugar to LIMIT:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Raw Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert Sugar
  • Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • White Grape Juice
  • Lactose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

5: Decrease Sodium Intake: The DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) bases its diet on 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day and suggests further lowering salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. 2,400mg of sodium equals 6gm or 1 teaspoon of table salt.

Lower Sodium Options:

  • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned with no salt-added vegetables
  • Choose low or reduced-sodium versions of foods when available
  • Limit cured foods (such as bacon/ham), foods packed in brine (pickled vegetables, olives)
  • Choose fresh salsa instead of ketchup or barbeque sauces

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!!

Prevention and Treatment of Headaches

Prevention:

The #1 way to prevent cervicogenic headaches (HA’s), or HA’s that begin in the neck or base of the skull, is good posture!  This includes keeping your head back with your ears directly over your shoulders, especially while using a computer or mobile device, as well as while driving.  When we assume a forward head posture, the stress and strain that’s placed on the structures of our cervical spine (neck) is significantly increased.

Good work station ergonomics is also key to sitting (or standing) with good posture.  Be sure your low back is well supported while seated, and that your elbows are bent 90 degrees while using a keyboard.  Most importantly, position your monitor so that your eyes are level with the top 1/3 of the screen.  If you use a laptop for longer than 30 minutes at a time, consider getting a docking station and an external monitor and keyboard.

Another way to prevent HA’s is by maintaining good mobility via regular stretching and cardiovascular (CV) exercise.  You should try to stretch all of the muscles in the front, side and back of your neck at least 3x/week.  Be sure to hold these stretches for a minimum of 30 seconds, repeat each twice, and never stretch to the point of pain.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of CV exercise per week, such as 30 minutes, 5x/week.  Among its MANY benefits, CV exercise helps to increase the mobility of all of your joints by increasing your blood supply.  This, in turn, increases the amount of oxygen and nutrition that is supplied to the muscles and joints of your neck (as well as all other areas of your body).

Treatment:

The first thing to do to relieve cervicogenic HA’s is to release the tight muscles at the base of your skull, as this is oftentimes a major contributor.  Place a rolled up hand towel under your neck while lying on your back.  Next, place two tennis balls in a sock and position them directly under the base of your skull.  Maintain this position for at least 5 minutes, until these muscles begin to relax.

Once you’ve release these tight muscles, you then need to activate them by performing repeated chin tucks (i.e. deep neck flexor head nods).  After removing the tennis balls, your head should lie flat on the floor or mattress with no pillow under your head.  Next, perform 10 chin tucks for 10 seconds each.  A physical therapist can best teach you how to properly and effectively perform this exercise.  Research shows that repeated chin tucks are the most effective way to reduce cervicogenic HA’s by “waking up” your deep neck flexors, which are your primary cervical (neck) stabilizers.  Traumatic injuries such as whiplash can cause these muscles to become inhibited, or “go to sleep”.  This increases the stress, strain and load on all of the structures of your neck, which in turn leads to HA’s.  By performing these exercises 1-2x daily, you teach these muscles how to fire again, thus decreasing the amount of load on the cervical spine.  This, in turn, decreases cervicogenic HA’s!

Flare-Up Management

 

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or general overuse.  Immediately following an injury, swelling can occur to clean up and clear away the affected area for the healing process to occur, subsequently resulting in recovery.  However, prolonged inflammation can lead to chronic pain and dysfunction; therefore, controlling inflammation is a key first defense against pain.

How to Decrease Inflammation

Avoid the use of heat, which can exacerbate inflammation.

Icing is a great way to reduce initial inflammation and to interrupt the pain signals the body is sending out.  Apply ice over the affected area for 15-20 minutes, 5-6 times a day, not to exceed once an hour.  Icing before sleep can help calm the nervous system and overactive muscles, resulting in better sleep.

Icing instructions

  • Do NOT apply ice or a cold source directly to the skin. Instead, keep a thin layer of material between the skin and ice.
  • There are 4 sensations you’ll experience when icing: First – cold, then a burning feeling, followed by some aching in the area, and finally numbness.  Once numbness is achieved, continue icing for another 5-10 minutes.
  • When ice is not available, a bag of frozen vegetables or another safe cold source will suffice

Post-Icing Activities

Once icing has done its job and symptoms have reduced, it’s a great opportunity to stretch and move around. General mobility like walking promotes increased blood flow to bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the site of pain and inflammation.

Strength training and more demanding activities should be avoided initially after a flare up.  Although you may feel ready for these types of activities, it’s best to slowly recover for 3-4 days before resuming normal exercise.