We are hearing from more organizations that nutritional wellness (nutrition and wellness combined) is no longer a “nice to have”; it is a must for their employees. The pandemic has highlighted that the majority of the U.S. population is not in good health. According to the National Institutes of Health, 70% of deaths in our country today are from chronic diseases, and 90% of those diseases are due to lifestyle choices , mostly due to poor food choices and lack of physical activity. As a society, we must start looking at what we eat and the role it plays in our health and well-being in a very different way. We will point out that the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group has been saying this for years!
A key factor in developing chronic disease is chronic inflammation inside your body. Unlike acute inflammation from burns, wounds, stings, etc., this type is internal and cannot be seen. Chronic inflammation is the body’s response to injury that happens inside the body—in the blood vessels, digestive tract, airways, joints, heart, brain and other issues.
The injury in chronic inflammation is caused by reactions to the foods we eat and the lifestyle choices we make. Eating highly processed foods, drinking sugary drinks, smoking cigarettes and living a sedentary lifestyle all create minor internal injuries that the body needs to repair. The immune system is activated and chemical messengers called cytokines are released into circulation. The steady release of cytokines, day after day, helps repair the damage, but in the process also damages healthy tissues. Eventually, the damage becomes so significant that it is often irreversible. Chronic inflammation reduces your quality of life in the short term and ultimately shortens your life.
What causes chronic inflammation? In simple terms, the main contributors are prolonged illnesses such as gum disease that foster bad bacteria throughout the body, obesity (fat cells produce excess cytokines), poor gut health that leads to leaky gut, which can trigger an immune response or food allergies/sensitivities, lack of physical activity (exercise lowers blood sugar, which can prevent diabetes) and psychological stress, which increases the level of the pro-inflammatory stress hormone, cortisol. Inadequate sleep is also a huge contributor, because sleep is when the body repairs itself and rebalances hormones.
How do we prevent chronic inflammation?
This comes back to good food choices. Anti-inflammatory fruits, such as berries, brightly colored vegetables (dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, etc.) foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, free-range eggs, chia seeds, walnuts, etc.) herbs and spices (turmeric, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper), high-fiber grains and beans and legumes.
Foods to avoid because they promote inflammation include sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, trans fats, refined oils and fried foods. Gluten and dairy products are also problematic for some people.
In addition, maintain a healthy digestive tract by eating fermented foods and a high fiber diet (25 grams daily for women, 38 grams for men).
Behavioral changes that can help include getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, reducing stress, increasing our level of physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining good dental health.
The rest of the world is beginning to realize that we, not the medical profession, are in charge of our own health and a key component of maintaining a healthy mind and body is what we feed ourselves. Nourishing, not just eating, is a key success factor in good health. To learn more about how to practice nutritional wellness for yourself or your company, please contact us.