WE’RE BURNING UP!

IMG_3619Slow Burn by Too Rude (click to play song)

Fires are burning wild… not in the parched California hills but in our overworked, undernourished bodies. Inflammation is rampant. A body riddled with accidents and sports injuries. A shoulder “frozen” after rotator cuff surgery. Stress wrecking havoc on moods, skin and digestion. Hormones fluctuating like crazy. Knees and hips tweaking out after being contorted behind a desk too long or perhaps from simply – dare I say it – aging. All this, in my health-conscious family alone. I can only imagine what’s aflame in the rest of humanity.

So much is made about inflammation, but really – what is it? Used properly, inflammation is a good thing – the body’s immune system jumping to action under attack. When an injury occurs or an infection sets in, the immune system sends out white blood cells to help trigger the healing process. When faced with emotional or psychological stress, adrenal glands kick in cortisol – the fight-or-flight hormone – to help dilate the blood vessels, forcing blood to the organs and tissues for battle. That’s Acute Inflammation, which is perfectly natural and quite helpful. You can see the visible signs of swelling and redness along with feeling the ache and congestion. But when our immune system and adrenals are in overdrive, the result is Chronic Inflammation, like the motor’s ON switch just won’t flip off, burning out the engine. These symptoms are less visible and can be difficult to identify as inflammation. Often it feels like a general malaise, while sometimes it’s the feeling that we’ve been hit by a Mack truck.

Chronic is when the inflammation sets up shop in the body and jams the healing mechanisms. Medical studies have proven that uncontrolled inflammation is a major factor in heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. It just may be the root of all bodily evils, and it seems like every fiendish spark fuels the fire. Stress and exhaustion, injury and overuse, infections and viruses, unhealthy diet and eating habits, lack of exercise and obesity, food allergies, hormone imbalances, environmental toxins… life on earth is fraught with burning perils.

So what can we do to extinguish the smoldering wildfires in our bodies?

  • Run like hell from the devil! White may look angelic, but in the food world it’s pure evil. Don’t stoke the flames with sugar, salt and refined grains like white bread, white rice and white pasta.
  • Create healthy eating habits: fuel your body with proper nutrients, add supplements when needed, and don’t skip meals. If we deprive ourselves of nourishing calories, our bodies go into survival mode – too weak to battle the fires.
  • Follow this flame-fighting pyramid diet fanatically when in chronic mode and casually when the burn cools:

TREATS

Red Wine

Dark Chocolate

SUPPLEMENTS

Omega 3,

Fish Oil, Probiotics,

Magnesium, Vitamin E

HERBS & SPICES

Turmeric, Curry, Garlic

Ginger, Cinnamon, Parsley

Rosemary, Green Tea with Local

Honey

FISH & SEAFOOD

Wild Alaskan Salmon

Tuna, Oysters, Sardines (try

the canned ones with flavored

marinades – they go down a little easier)

PROTEIN

Skinless Poultry, Omega-3 Eggs, Tofu, Almond Milk

Greek Yogurt, Kefir

ESSENTIAL FATS (yes, really)

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Red Palm Oil, Flaxseed, Avocados

Nuts

BEANS & LEGUMES

Any and all, especially organic

WHOLE & CRACKED GRAINS

Steelcut Oatmeal, Quinoa, Bulgur Wheat, Brown and Wild Rice

FRUITS

Every Kind of Berries, Apples, Grapefruit

VEGETABLES

Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Beets, Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Shitake and Maitaki Mushrooms

[Minimize these arsonists during intense inflammation:  alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, red meat, and “nightshade” veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and white potatoes.]

  • Drink a cup of hot lemon water with a spoonful of local honey first thing in the morning. It helps to balance the bacteria in the digestive tract, staves off allergies, and contains antimicrobial properties to banish bad germs as well as ascorbic acid to boost the immune function. Ok, then you can follow it up with that cup of coffee so necessary for mental clarity and sanity.
  • Minimize exposure to toxic chemicals and harmful synthetics – embrace eco-friendly cleaning products, natural fibers, and organic anything.
  • Floss every day. Neglected gums equal inflammations waiting to ignite.
  • Exercise regularly. Walking is free and easy to do… the only excusable opt-out is slogging through a frigid Chicago winter… those bodies are working hard enough just to stay warm.
  • Coach Tony’s tried-and-true policy: ice those injuries (although admittedly I’m a chilly wimp who rarely follows this advice).
  • Refrain from popping excessive ibuprofen. It masks the inflammation, disabling the body’s natural abilities to heal. It also kills our detoxifying livers.
  • Douse the flames with plenty of water and Emergen-C – my answer to every physical ill.
  • Find shelter in the firestorm with yoga and meditation – my answer to everything.

It seems counter-intuitive to add heat to a fire, but one of the best ways to fight inflammation is with warm foods and hot soup. Tony makes the meanest flame-busting porridge with steelcut oatmeal, ground flaxseed, a handful of walnuts, a handful of blueberries and a good dousing of kefir… just about the coolest morning ritual a guy could have. And to follow that up, these are two of my favorite Anti-Inflammatory Soups:

COCONUT CURRY SOUP 

4 c. water

3 c. spinach leaves

1/2 lb. snow peas, trimmed and halved

1 – 5  3/4 oz. package Pad Thai noodles

1 T. olive or red palm oil

1/4 c. thinly sliced shallots

8 oz. shitake mushrooms

1  1/2 t. curry powder

1/2 t. ground turmeric

1/2 t. ground coriander

2 t. red curry paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 – 10 c. chicken broth

1 – 13.5 oz. can light coconut milk

2  1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken breast (optional 1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, tails removed, or extra-firm tofu, cut into chunks and sautéd)

1/2 c. chopped green onions

2 T. stevia (sugar substitute)

2 T. fish sauce

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1/4 t. crushed red peppers

7 lime wedges

Boil water in a large saucepan. Add spinach and peas – cook for 30 seconds. Remove veggies from pan with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Add noodles to water – cook 3 minutes. Drain and add noodles to veggies in bowl.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots and shrooms for a few minutes. Add the next few ingredients through the garlic – sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken (and shrimp/tofu if using), onions, stevia and fish sauce – cook for 2 minutes. Add noodle mixture; stir in cilantro and chili flakes. Serve with lime wedges.

TURMERIC SOUP

2 -3 T. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

8 oz. shitake mushrooms

5 garlic cloves, minced

Heat oil and sauté onion, shrooms and garlic.

4 carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

salt and pepper

Add carrots, celery and salt & pepper – sauté until soft.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

12 – 16 c. chicken broth

2 – 3 T. turmeric

1 c. wild rice

Add chicken, broth, turmeric and rice – cook according to rice package directions.

1/4 c. chopped parsley

4 c. spinach leaves

Add parsley and spinach just before serving.

IMG_2178In reverberating validation, this cool placard literally leapt onto my lap as I was finishing my reflections on inflammation. During a recent visit to Denver – one of the great foodie cities – my daughter took us to lunch at True Food Kitchen where they serve up scrumptious, organic, über-healthy creations. Propped against a wall of aspen tree trunks, this sign at our table put an exclamation mark on everything I’ve been spouting off about here. Amazing when you put something out to the universe – the good and the bad – it all comes back at you.

Cool the burn, stay hydrated,

 and chillax, my hot-blooded friends.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Yasmine Austere
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 00:04:55

    Clove Oil is also very good 🙂

    Reply

  2. marlenedotterer
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 02:19:11

    Lots of good points, Jana. Thanks for the recipes! This page is going in my Evernote file.

    Reply

    • janahaertl
      Mar 04, 2014 @ 14:37:22

      Thanks Marlene. By the way, I forgot to put NUTS in the Essential Fats section of the pyramid… be sure to add that to your Evernote file… a handful of nuts every day is a key ingredient to a healthy diet!

      Reply

  3. brendadit
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 02:22:06

    Great info. Thanks for sharing Jana. Brenda

    Reply

  4. Jacqi
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 03:42:24

    Jana,

    Just loved this post! It is so me – we are on a adrenal healing regimen right now AND my favorite cookbook is True Foods. Thanks so much for sharing the recipes- can’t wait to try them!

    Love you!

    Jacqi

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply

    • janahaertl
      Mar 04, 2014 @ 14:43:26

      Jacqi, you have always been one of my favorite healthy lifestyle inspirations! I would love to hear about the key parts of your adrenal healing regimen – I’m intrigued. I just received my copy of the True Foods cookbook… WOW! It is just beautiful, and every recipe looks amazing… I’m making the Bibimbap for dinner tonight 🙂 Thanks for the great recommendation! xo

      Reply

  5. Kathryn Benvenuto
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 15:23:10

    Great writing, info and recipes Jana – I’ve been reading so much lately about adrenal health and anti inflammatory diets. We ate at a True Foods Kitchen recently in Scottsdale – LOVED it! Wish we had one around here. Will have to check out their cookbook!

    xoxo Kath

    Reply

    • janahaertl
      Mar 04, 2014 @ 14:46:36

      I agree, Kath… we need to convince Dr. Weil to open a True Foods Kitchen in the Bay Area! We also need to compare adrenal health/anti-inflammation notes… I always love bouncing ideas off of you! xo

      Reply

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