When I was 25 years old, getting bone marrow biopsies at a cancer hospital in Manhattan and munching on a Luna bar, I had no idea what the heck inflammation was, and I never would have dreamed of eating something as delicious and fresh as these orangey cabbage wraps. My Western medicine MDs never mentioned the word inflammation or talked about the bonfire of inflammation in my body and they surely didn’t chat about an anti-inflammatory diet; they told me to eat gluten and dairy and soy and said sugar wasn’t an issue. I also didn’t even realize that my Luna bar, which I thought was super duper healthy, wasn’t healthy at all. It was a candy bar made of GMO soy, highly processed, full of gluten and too many other ingredients I didn’t even recognize. (P.s. these cabbage wraps are another story – stay tuned!)
Fast forward to today, I’m 32 years old. I haven’t eaten anything out of a box in years and I’ve removed all the inflammatory foods that were causing me to get worse and worse and worse and spiral into a Leaky Gut, C-diff colitis, autoimmunity whirlwind that’s taken me years to heal from. Sadly, it took me way too long to understand what inflammation was because my Western medicine doctors didn’t even know it existed! Over the past few years, I’ve started connecting the dots between what I eat, my environment, my lifestyle, my stress, my happiness, my ongoing chronic inflammation and illnesses. After I started taking charge of my own health, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and started to piece things together, understand toxicity and how to put out the fire of inflammation that so many of us are carrying in our bodies day in and day out — without even knowing it!
I switched my life into a new phase. I started making myself delicious, anti-inflammatory meals like these cabbage wraps. No more toxins in my food, beauty products, personal care products, etc… no more toxic friends, no more going on dates with men that I knew were wrong for me, no more stress. Once I made these shifts and started being still with myself, meditating, finding inner happiness and being grateful – my entire life changed and my inflammation went bye-bye.
So, how can you get a hold of the inflammation burning up inside your body? Here’s a little bit of info to help you take charge of your own health, connect your own dots and start feeling better today by reducing your inflammation and finding the root causes, where they are coming from and why. (And P.S. more information like this is in my cookbook, Eating Clean.)
What are the types of inflammation?
There’s two types of inflammation: Chronic and Acute. Let’s start with Chronic.
Chronic Inflammation is when your body is damaging your immune system because it’s confused to a toxic load of physical, mental and environmental toxins which could be stress, chemicals, poor food choices, not eating enough, not eating the right foods, etc. So, what happens here is your immune system (which is your friend and should be helping you fight foreign invaders) gets overwhelmed and doesn’t know the difference between YOU and a foreign invader such as bacteria, viruses, toxins. Your immune system starts destroying healthy tissues, cells and everything else in its path. Not good! This type of inflammation is silent and surprisingly happens without you even knowing it’s there. Scary, right? Alcohol, sugar, gluten, conventional meats and eggs and dairy, sitting too much and not moving, eating too many processed foods, toxins in personal care products, air pollution, tap water etc. are just a few examples of how your inflammation gets triggered. Here are a few other tips on inflammation.
Acute Inflammation is your immune system’s response to tissue damage when something goes wrong such as you cut your finger, your finger bleeds, turns red and feels warm and inflamed. This is your lovely and helpful immune system hard at work sending white blood cells to your finger to help repair the tissue. Here, inflammation is your buddy and pal and it’s super helpful!
Let’s circle back to chatting about chronic inflammation. It wears n’ tears on your immune system which leads to health issues and chronic disease such as allergies, IBS, arthritis, asthma, cancer and aging. You do NOT need drugs to fix these issues – as many Western MDs will tell you is the only way out! They had me on steroids and tons of drugs to band-aid my pain but it did nothing to help me heal or get to the root cause of my inflammation fire. Working with an Integrative MD to get to the root cause of your problems and pain is what you need.
What causes chronic inflammation?
There are lots of things that can trigger chronic inflammation but here are a few:
- Too much exercise
- Food allergies
- Poor gut health
- Infections such as parasites, yeast, bacteria and viruses
- Not sleeping enough
- Not eating the RIGHT foods
- Eating too many processed foods
- Not moving your body/doing light exercise
What can you do about chronic inflammation?
Don’t stress yourself out even more. Here are a few ways to put out your inflammation fire that’s burning silently in your body.
- Have your doctor run a blood test for CRP: C reactive protein which will tell you how much inflammation you have in your body.
- Eat more leafy greens.
- Get more sleep.
- Do light yoga or stretching and light walking.
- Eat MORE GOOD fats. Coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are great. Focus on ground flaxseeds and walnuts (like I used in these cabbage wraps) for Omega 3s which are inflammation fighters!
- Eat enough GOOD carbs. Whole grains and sweet potatoes along with other root veggies like beets are great!
- Eat high quality protein. Always organic; focus on getting enough protein at each meal.
- Rest more.
- Breathe from your belly – not from your chest. This signals your parasympathetic nervous system to take charge and help you heal.
- Address food allergies. Work with your Integrative MD on getting a food sensitivity and food allergy test such as one by Metametrix lab, which is the one I use with my doctor.
- Find hidden chronic infections.
- Heal your Leaky Gut and FOCUS on GUT HEALTH. This is SO important! Almost 80% of your immune system is in your gut. SO, if your gut is in bad shape, well then, your health is is bad shape and your immune system is suffering big time. To test for leaky gut, you can do the Genova Lab’s Intestinal Permeability Test, which is an easy urine test that you can do to determine if you have leaky gut.
- Take high-quality probiotics!
- Eat organic. Check out the Dirty Dozen to avoid the dirties (highest sprayed with pesticides) fruits n’ veggies.
- Get rid of toxins in your personal care products, makeup, beauty products and cleaning supplies.
These are just a few ways you can start to clean up your inflammation today; start with one of these tips and work your way through all 15 to help you put out your inflammatory fire. And then treat yourself to these absolutely delicious cabbage wraps to celebrate!
Try to buy everything organic. Here’s why: The Benefits of Eating Organic.
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 12 large leaves purple cabbage or romaine lettuce leaves, or Swiss chard leaves
- 1 cucumber diced
- 1 cup finely chopped purple cabbage
- 4 Tbsp. raw walnut halves
- Juice of 1 large orange
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and halve the squash lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard seeds from each half.
Transfer squash in a large baking dish, cut sides down. Pour 1/2 cup water into the dish and bake until tender, about 35 minutes.
Steam cabbage leaves in a steamer basket until tender.
Remove from oven; use a fork to pull the flesh of the squash out (looks like spaghetti) and transfer to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Lay cabbage leaves on a flat surface. Portion squash, cucumbers, chopped cabbage and walnut halves into leaves and drizzle with orange juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with orange zest. Serve.