Unwanted Inflammation and How to Reduce It

A special thanks to my intern, Callie Parry for writing this article.

Our bodies are the vehicles in which we travel through life. We use them every day to move, explore, love and dance. Just like any vehicle our bodies can pick up unwanted passengers. That is why a system is in place for any possible situation. When these foreign invaders such as pathogens, irritants or damaged cells come in to our vehicle the immune response is initiated to remove these harmful passengers and begin the healing process. It is within the immune response that inflammation comes in to play. Inflammation, which is the immune response of body tissues to injury or infection, is an important component of immunity.

Nowadays the word inflammation seems to be plastered on every billboard and heard in any advertisement. Article after article is telling you what to do to reduce inflammation. It becomes overwhelming to tackle this problem, especially without knowing exactly what it is. In order to prevent something we need to know more about it. So what exactly is inflammation?

First and foremost inflammation is not innately bad. It is a natural biological response that is essential for our health. The problem comes when inflammation gets out of control. When it moves from acute inflammation to chronic inflammation. For example, when you fall down the stairs, like we all do sometimes, you may get a bruise or two. Bruises are signs of our immune system in action. The key indicators of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. A bruise is an outward manifestation of the body healing whatever tissues and cells that were damaged in the fall. This simple instance is an example of acute inflammation. Depending on the infection or irritant at play acute inflammation may last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks.

Chronic inflammation is where we get in trouble. Our immune system is so eager to help us that it often goes overboard and can become self-perpetuating. Essentially, Inflammation comes about as a response to inflammation. It is almost as if the inflammation itself has become the foreigner the body is attacking. Chronic inflammation can last anywhere from a couple months to years.

You may be wondering how to know if you are a victim of chronic systemic inflammation. It’s a hard thing to detect because the signs of chronic inflammation are symptoms that are frequently attributed to a whole list of other problems and conditions. But I am going to give you a list of a few and if you are experiencing a large percentage of them you may want to consider talking with your physician about chronic inflammation.

The first sign is aches and pains. Our cells produce cytokines which are inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals cause muscle and joint pain by increasing the body’s sensitivity and stiffness. Next, fatigue. This is a hard one to attribute to inflammation because we all live such hectic lives that exhaustion seems to be just part of the equation. But if you are experiencing unexplained fatigue where you find it hard to just get through the day with adequate energy, then your body may be inflamed. When you have the cold or flu you tend to be tired, because your body, your immune system, is working overtime to fight the disease at hand. Fatigue results from chronic inflammation because it is constantly fighting the unwanted disruption. Irritated skin is another sign of chronic inflammation. This makes sense because the telltale signs of inflammation are redness and swelling. Also when your body is allergic to something you may get hives or a rash because your immune response is affecting you skin cells. If you have unexplained rashes, redness, or puffy skin, inflammation may be at the root. Finally excess weight or inability to lose weight is an inflammation indicator. Inflammation is exactly what it sounds like; inflamed, large. If you find you have a hard time losing weight or you tend to feel constantly bloated, it may be due to chronic inflammation blocking your system and inhibiting body functions. Also, immune cells can cause insulin resistance which inhibits weight loss. After hearing this list you may feel doomed. Don’t despair, the great thing about the body is it is excellent at self-regulating and fixing it self. Now that I told you some of the signs of inflammation, here are some simple things you can do or avoid or reduce inflammation in your life.

One’s diet can affect inflammatory responses within the body. None of us like to hear this because everyone seems to be telling us to eat this and not eat that. But let’s keep it simple. Avoid anything packaged. Packaged foods tend to have high amounts of simple sugars and unhealthful additives. Try to stick to a whole food diet. A Mediterranean dietary pattern, which has a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats and omega-3 to omega 6 and supplies plenty of  fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, has shown anti-inflammatory effects when compared with typical North American and Northern European dietary patterns in most observational and interventional studies. The carotenoids, flavonoids, monounsaturated fat, high fiber, omega-3 fats and nuts in this type of diet pattern can reduce inflammation. Saturated fat, cholesterol, low fiber foods and high glycemic load foods have been shown to be pro-inflammatory (cause inflammation).  In this diet make sure you are getting adequate fluids throughout the day. Try finding a convenient water bottle you can carry around with you to remind you to drink more.

You may have heard that certain spices help with inflammation. This is true. These spices include ginger, turmeric and Ceylon cinnamon. Fortunately these spices taste great in stir-fries, roasted vegetables and soups. You could even try adding ginger to a granola recipe or mixing it in with your morning bowl of oats. You may want to consider supplementing with turmeric. Here is an article discussing several health benefits of turmeric.

Another great remedy for inflammation is making sure you get adequate sleep. Recovery time is essential for your body to repair and restore itself. Six to eight hours per night is recommended so an average of 7 hours each night is ideal. You can work towards this by setting a time each night for yourself to go to bed.

Physical activity decrease  inflammation, as measured by reductions in CRP (a blood test biomarker for inflammation) and certain pro-inflammatory cytokines. Regular exercise is important in reducing one’s risk for obesity and chronic diseases associated with inflammation. However, excessive exercise can increase systemic inflammation. For example, overtraining syndrome in athletes is associated with systemic inflammation and suppressed immune function.

One last aid against chronic inflammation is yoga. Yoga is a great mental and physical practice that helps remove unwanted toxins from your body. The poses you move through help release blocks in your system. Also by managing stress your body is better able to keep up and clean up.

These are just a few of the ways to stop chronic inflammation in its tracks. Remember that inflammation is good as long as it is kept within a reasonable realm. Be aware of your body and mindful of how you feel. These pesky hitchhikers don’t have to remain in our vehicle for long. Take the necessary precautions to keep your mind and body clear and inflammation free.

Written By: Callie Parry, Intern

Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):634-40. doi: 10.1177/0884533610385703.

Bruunsgaard H: Physical activity and modulation of systemic low-level inflammation. J Leukoc Biol 2005; 78(4): 819-35

Linus Pauling Institute

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Myth of Detoxification Diets

file4381262973614Some think detox diets will help them lose weight or detoxify their bodies. The theory that the body collects harmful toxins over time has become widespread. Despite the popularity, this just isn’t true. In reality, the bowel, kidneys and liver are designed to neutralize and remove toxic substances. For example, the liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, detoxify chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver and kidneys do a good job of processing chemicals and removing them in sweat, urine, and feces. And some chemicals are also expelled through the lungs and skin.

Detoxification diets asks one to temporarily give up certain kinds of foods and replace the usual diet with a very low calorie liquid diet, food restriction, prepackaged products or even laxatives. A couple days’ of “detoxing” probably won’t be harmful but don’t follow this kind of plan for more than 3 days. If you do decide you want to do a quick-fix weight loss type plan, consult with a physician or dietitian you trust for some healthy guidelines. Some healthcare providers have some powdered products that are nutritionally balanced and safe if used for a short-term.

Keep in mind that there is very little clinical evidence or proof to support that our bodies need help to get rid of waste products if we are healthy, or to support the use of these diets. And these kind of diets can be difficult to adhere to and dangerous as many lack sufficient nutrients and have side effects such as fatigue, fainting, headaches, vomiting, nausea, metabolic disturbances, dehydration, muscle cramps, and the big reduction in calories can lead to decreased lean muscle mass and slowed metabolism.

Rationales that cause people to believe these diets have worked for them include:

  • They experience weight loss or decreased bloating which is the result of eating less and fewer calories. Unfortunately, they also lose muscle and water along with any fat loss and if the regimen includes a laxative they will lose fecal matter. After a regimen such as this, they are likely to gain the weight right back.
  • Clear skin, which is the result of improved hydration – as many such diets include large amounts of water consumption.
  • Decreased headaches, from not consuming alcohol or caffeine

These effects have convinced many people to use detoxification products. Following such a program can actually slows one’s metabolism because of the loss of precious metabolism boosting muscle. It also detracts people from going in the right direction which is to learn how to eat a healthy diet long-term.

Rather than subjecting themselves to unproven detox diets and for long-lasting health change, people are better off eating a healthy diet of whole, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains; low-fat dairy, and lean proteins like fish, skinless chicken or turkey, and healthy fats like olive oil while eating fewer calories fewer refined and processed foods, reducing consumption of alcohol and caffeine and drinking more water.

This approach will give ample benefits, long-term results without the risk of harmful effects.


Clemens R and Pressman P.  Detox diets provide empty promises.  Food Technology. 2005; 59(5): 18.

Dixon B.  “Detox”, a mass delusion. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2005; 5: 261.

Klein AV1, Kiat H. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014 Dec 18. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286.

MacGregor HE.  “Purification, or just a purge?; liquid fasts, colonics, pills, vegetables. Detox regimens that promise to remove harmful chemicals are wildly popular- but the science behind them is scant.”  LA Times. 23 October 2006, Health, Features Desk, Part F: Pg. 1

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Clear Liquid Low Residue Colonoscopy Bowel Prep Diet

Colon prep foods

**Please be sure to follow your physician’s instructions and if there is a difference in instruction or advice, defer to your physician’s advice. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor, dietitian or diabetes educator.

The day before your colonoscopy you may be asked to follow a clear liquid diet. I want to provide you with some detailed info to make the process of consuming a clear liquid diet as painless as possible since the rest of your experience in prepping may be a bit uh, unpleasant. 🙂

New research shows that consuming small portions of lowresidue (low-fiber) solid foods on the day before colonoscopy led to improved colonoscopies, compared with a clear liquid diet. So some doctors are now using a cleansing method of low-residue diet in the morning and clear liquid diet starting at noon. Again, check with your doctor to find out the exact method of your colonoscopy cleansing and timing.  Here is a list of low-residue foods that are ok to consume and those to not eat.

This diet is also appropriate if your doctor has told you you need a clear liquid diet for some other reason besides colonoscopy prep. But in that case, the color of the beverages does not matter. And of course, ignore the instructions about drinking the liquid bowel prep.

Note that for colonoscopy prep you may NOT have any food or beverage with red, blue, or purple coloring. The coloring may stain the inside of the intestinal tract. Orange, green and yellow are okay. And even though some alcohol is clear you may not have it.

The following foods are allowed in a clear liquid diet:

  • Water (plain, carbonated or flavored)*
  • Fruit juices, clear and without pulp, such as apple or white grape.* No pineapple or orange juice for instance. If you can see through it, it’s ok to consume.
  • Fruit-flavored beverages, such as apple juice, white grape, WHITE cranberry juice.*
  • Fruit-flavored drink mixes, such as Kool-Aid, Crystal Light*
  • Carbonated drinks, including dark sodas (cola and root beer)*
  • Gelatin*
  • Tea or coffee without milk or cream
  • Sports drinks Gatorade, All-Sport, Powerade*
  • Clear, fat-free broth, bouillon or consommé
  • Honey or sugar
  • Hard candy, such as lemon drops or peppermint rounds
  • Ice pops, fruit ice, popsicles, Italian ice. *No milk, bits of fruit, seeds or nuts
  • Clear liquid nutritional supplements: Enlive by Ross, Carnation instant breakfast JUICE drink, Resource Breeze by Novartis
  • Water

*NO! red, blue, or purple coloring for colonoscopy prep. Orange, green and yellow are okay.

No! alcohol.

How to make a bad-tasting liquid prep like PEG easier to swallow:

Use a straw so the prep liquid goes to the back of your tongue

Drink it chilled

Hold your nose

Suck on a hard candy after each glass

Flavor the prep liquid with powdered drink mix, ginger or lime

Bite into a lemon or lime after each sip.

Sample Clear Liquid Diet Menu:


  • 1 glass clear fruit juice
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea, without dairy products
  • Sugar or honey, if desired
  • Water


  • 1 glass clear fruit juice
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • 1 ice pop
  • Water


  • 1 glass clear fruit juice
  • 1 glass water
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • Water


  • 1 ice pop
  • 1 cup coffee or tea, without dairy products, or a soft drink
  • Sugar or honey if desired
  • 2 hard candies
  • Water


  • 1 cup clear juice or water
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • 1 cup coffee or tea, without dairy products
  • Sugar or honey, if desired

Clear Liquid Diet Recipes:

Sparkling Fruit Juice

1 cup clear fruit juice from clear liquid list

1/2 cup sparkling water

1/2 cup ice

Blend the juice and ice until slushy. Pour in a glass and add sparkling water.

Fruit Slushie

1-6 oz can of frozen clear juice concentrate

4 tbsp sugar

3 cups crushed ice

Mix all ingredients and blend until smooth.

Sparkling Lemon Lime Frozen Slush

Juice from two limes

Juice from one lemon

1 cup ice

5 tsp. sugar or to taste

1 cup sparkling water

Blend the juices, ice and sugar until slushy. Pour in a glass and add sparkling water.

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