Believe it or not, inflammation plays a role in everything from digestive disorders and allergies to arthritis and belly fat. Why? Because the fat-burning pathways in our liver and muscle cells are controlled by a group of proteins called PPARs, which influence the interaction between our insulin sensitivity, inflammation and weight. A PPAR imbalance can contribute to inflammation, obesity and insulin resistance—which is is why optimizing the power of our PPARs can be highly beneficial for weight loss or maintenance.
Bottom line: Incorporate these six recommendations—from anti-inflammatory supplements to insulin-sensitizing lifestyle habits—to get your inflammation and weight under control.
Boost your EPA: For many purposes, a regular or extra-strength fish oil supplement is exactly what the doctor ordered. But when it comes to high levels of inflammation, I often have my patients switch to a fish oil with a 6:1 EPA/DHA ratio for a period of three months. EPA alters the level of a hormone called eicosanoids, which controls inflammation and pain. Fish oil that favours EPA can be extremely effective at breaking the inflammatory cycle.
Focus on digestion: A whopping 60% of the immune system is clustered around the digestive tract. Compromises to digestion, including food allergies, bacterial imbalance, deficiency of enzymes or acids, yeast overgrowth, parasites and stress, negatively affect not only the process of digestion but also our entire immune system. I begin the treatment of every patient by focusing on digestion first simply for these reasons. Painful conditions such as gas, bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are all related to inflammation in the digestive system.
Rethink your immune system: Many experts now view inflammation as a symptom of an immune system in constant overdrive. When the body is stuck in this state, even ordinarily mild stressors such as viral infections, emotional stress or exposure to household chemicals can cause the immune system to wildly overreact. Allergies, autoimmune disease and tissue destruction can result when our immune system is working too hard to protect us. I recommend taking 200 micrograms selenium along with plant sterols to calm an overactive immune system and, in turn, reduce inflammation.
Get your diet under wraps: Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that overconsumption of any one macronutrient — protein, carbohydrate or fat — can contribute to inflammation. They also identified immediate effects of specific foods on inflammation. Orange juice, for instance, was shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine was found to be neutral, whereas cream promoted inflammation. The team also discovered that overweight test subjects experienced significant changes in free radical stress indicators and inflammation just one week after starting a more nutritious diet. Considering the long-term health benefits of reducing inflammation this rapid change is extremely encouraging.
Add in enzymes: There are certain proteins in the body that stimulate and others that suppress inflammation. Under normal circumstances, your body balances the two. In the case of an inflammatory or immune response, however, your body can get out of control. Systemic enzymes support that balancing process, assisting normal inflammatory responses. The most popular brand is Wobenzym, which has shown to improve everything from thyroid antibodies, endometriosis, and joint pain to post-surgery recovery and scar tissue. Take 3-8 tablets with water 2-3 times a day on an empty stomach (30 minutes before eating or 2 hours after food). I find dosing on rising and before bed to be the easiest.
Get yourself tested: Two blood tests for highly sensitive C-reactive protein and homocysteine are the simplest and best diagnostic tools currently available to assess inflammation and can be ordered through your physician. Hs-CRP is a marker of inflammation and a risk factor for arterial disease. Levels tend to increase as body fat increases and with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 0.8 mg/L. Homocysteine is an inflammatory protein that, if elevated in the blood, is a proven independent risk factor for heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. And like Hs-CRP, homocysteine has been found to increase with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 6.3.