Did you know that the leading causes of death and disability worldwide are chronic degenerative conditions?
These diseases, which include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Alzheimer's and type II diabetes, are increasing dramatically worldwide, in all regions and socioeconomic levels.
To be clear, chronic degenerative conditions outweigh deaths caused by famine, war, and even infectious diseases. Although it should be noted that this was not always the case.
What has changed then?
It certainly hasn't been genetics. Our DNA has changed very little in the last hundred thousand years.
To understand why we are experiencing this explosion in the prevalence of these conditions, we must ask if there is some shared mechanism behind them.
In fact there is. In a word, it is inflammation.
All of these diseases are a consequence of increased levels of inflammation within the body which, at its highest levels, can damage the arteries of the heart, brain, joints and even alter the function of the immune system.
So if inflammation is at the root of the planet's deadliest conditions, it makes sense to explore its true impact and find solutions for a longer, healthier existence.
The importance of what you eat
Without a doubt, the biggest change that humans have experienced in recent decades is the type of food we consume.
Unfortunately, the so-called "Western diet" has become a widespread norm. And that is essential, because being rich in ultra-processed components, sugar and refined carbohydrates, it drastically increases inflammation.
FACT: Of the 1.2 million foods sold in grocery stores in the United States, about 68% contain added sugar and an incredible 58% of what Americans eat is ultra-processed.
For this reason, forward-thinking healthcare providers are turning to diets designed to reduce inflammation.
In them, whole foods from natural sources prevail, low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, mainly of plant origin, with an emphasis on providing adequate amounts of healthy fats.
Also, they insist on including foods that contain probiotics (fermented foods) and prebiotic fiber to improve the growth and metabolism of probiotic bacteria in the intestine.
It turns out that gut bacteria are very important in maintaining the lining of the intestinal wall, which represents a powerful line of defense for the rest of the body, keeping it isolated from chemicals that can aggressively increase inflammation.
This explains the important relationship between intestinal health and systemic inflammation.
Threatening the function, health, or diversity of our resident microbes through poor food choices, taking medications such as antibiotics, and even exposure to pesticides and herbicides can cause increased permeability of the intestinal lining, commonly known as "leaky gut." ".
Such a condition dramatically worsens inflammation, setting the stage for a wide range of diseases.
Specific intestinal bacteria, including Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, are known to help stop and reduce intestinal permeability. Therefore, they are important components in probiotic supplements.
Our gut bacteria also thrive when nourished by foods rich in prebiotic fiber and polyphenols.
Remember that prebiotic fiber nourishes our good bacteria , which allows us to produce metabolic products that provide health benefits.
The best food options with prebiotic content
There are several, but among the best are:
- Dandelion leaves.
- Jerusalem artichoke.
- Garlic, onion and leek.
- Flax and jicama (Mexican yam) seeds.
Supplements containing acacia gum and baobab fruit derivatives are also excellent sources of prebiotic fiber.
For their part, polyphenols contribute to further improving the growth of beneficial bacteria and help suppress the growth of potentially pathogenic organisms. In addition, they are antioxidants in themselves and help reduce the inflammatory process.
This explains why there is so much research on polyphenols in heart disease, cancer, preservation of brain function, and gut-related disorders.
Foods rich in polyphenols include:
- Black beans.
- Flax seeds.
- Cinnamon and coffee.
- Dark chocolate
- Olives and olive oil.
- Red wine.
Sleep like a baby
Enjoying quality sleep is an incredibly underrated habit in terms of its importance to health and disease resistance.
It is estimated that two-thirds of American adults do not get adequate amounts of deep sleep, which puts them at great risk for chronic degenerative diseases because it directly increases inflammation.
This may explain, at least in part, why sleep disorders are associated with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and type II diabetes.
Many think that the effects of not sleeping well from Monday to Friday can be repaired on the weekend. Well it doesn't work that way.
A single night of poor sleep has consequences the next day, not only in terms of inflammation, but hormonal balance and even blood sugar regulation.
It's worth it, then, to have an idea of how restful your sleep is.
You can get the gold standard with a formal sleep study, performed by a doctor in a laboratory, which provides you with information about the quantity and quality of your sleep, according to its various stages. It also reveals respiratory problems such as sleep apnea that compromise good rest.
However, there are now many wearable devices that offer meaningful data to make the necessary changes to your sleep habits.
Tips that can help you sleep like a baby
- Stop caffeine after 2 p.m.
- Minimize screen time at night, as blue light from computers, tablets, phones and TV can inhibit the hormone melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Expose yourself to bright light in the morning to solidify your circadian rhythm.
- Make your room as dark as possible.
- Lower the air conditioning temperature a degree or two.
Our environment seems to be increasingly toxic. And if you want to make changes to your lifestyle, it is important that you know the sources of toxicity and reduce its harmful impact.
Stress is a toxin that is practically omnipresent in our lives and the cause of increased production of the hormone cortisol.
Chronic elevation of cortisol has significant negative effects on the gut. Not only in the various species present in this organ, but it acts on the intestinal wall to increase its permeability, and therefore, the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Through this mechanism we can understand the relationship between the unbridled modern world and the increasing rates of chronic degenerative diseases.
But there is good news.
Yes, you can compensate for the harmful effects of stress with simple actions:
- Meditation : Meditating, even just 12 minutes a day, has been shown to reduce cortisol and inflammation, balance the immune system, improve empathy and compassion.
- Exposure to nature : You don't need to plan a trip every week. By exposing yourself to nature for just a few minutes, even in an urban environment, you will drastically reduce your cortisol levels.
So much so, that a recent study demonstrated reduced measures of stress in individuals who were in a hospital waiting room when a plant was present.
There are even benefits when exposed to a photograph or painting of a natural environment.
Perhaps that is the reason why people who live in greener environments have increased longevity.
As you've seen so far, inflammation plays an important role in helping fight viral infections and recover from injuries.
But when the fire of inflammation continues to burn for a long period of time, it marks the beginning of any number of chronic degenerative conditions.
The solution is in your hands.
If you choose to take action, right now, to leave bad habits behind, you will make a big difference in your life, keep inflammation at bay, and be healthier and happier.