On Your Health

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Eat Your Way to Better Health With Dr. Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Juli Johnson, APRN.  Juli works at the INTEGRIS Health Cancer Institute, where she is an Integrative Medicine practitioner. Juli is an advanced practice nurse who has been with INTEGRIS since 2000. In 2014, she graduated from the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine program at the University Of Arizona College of Medicine, where she studied under the Integrative Medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D.  

Hi, I’m Juli. First, you might wonder, what is Integrative Medicine? In a nutshell, it’s a holistic approach to health and wellness. It’s a philosophy of care that treats more than just the disease that might be present in the body. We are all more than just our physical bodies. Integrative Medicine treats the whole person -- the mind, the body and the spirit -- and examines how all elements work together to affect a person’s health.

The body has an innate ability to heal itself. Integrative Medicine combines conventional Western medicine and complements it with safe alternative therapies that treat the whole body and help it heal. These therapies include treatments such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, nutrition and stress reduction techniques.

Today I’d like to talk a little about the role that nutrition plays in Integrative Medicine. First, you need to know that inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. Without it, we can’t heal. When it is doing its job, inflammation is a good thing. But when it’s out of control -- as in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain and much more -- it can damage the body. Plus it’s thought to play a role in obesity, heart disease and cancer. So do you want to prevent inappropriate inflammation, reduce the risk of age-related diseases, and promote optimal health at any age? Then try Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory diet. This is his food pyramid.

By aiming for variety, including as much fresh food as possible, minimizing processed and fast foods, and making fruits and vegetables the foundation of your meals, you will be moving in the right direction. To get started, try the following:

Improve your carbs

The majority of carbohydrates in your diet should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with a low glycemic load. You can do this by replacing foods made with white flour with healthier whole and cracked grains, and part-whole-wheat and buckwheat noodles such as Japanese udon and soba.  Look for quality carbs with high fiber.

Replace your cooking oil

Whenever you can, use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil as your main cooking fat (for a neutral-tasting oil, use expeller-pressed, organic canola oil). Avoid safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed and mixed vegetable oils, as well as margarine.

Decrease your consumption of animal protein

Except for fish (such as omega-3 rich wild Alaskan salmon) and reduced-fat dairy products, animal derived protein should be limited. You can easily replace meat with vegetable protein such as beans, legumes and whole soy foods. Cut back your animal protein sources to a couple of times a week and try to use animal and plant based protein sources.

Eat more fiber

Try to eat 40 grams of fiber a day, which is simple to do if you increase your consumption of fruit, especially berries, vegetables and whole grains. We are generally very low on our fiber with today’s common eating patterns. Fiber is filling, improves our bowel health, and improves glycemic control. Ready-made cereals can be good sources of fiber, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4 to 5 grams of fiber per serving.

Reduce processed and refined foods

It is actually simple but does take work and attention. The cleaner we eat, the better we will feel. Real food has real health benefits.

I encourage you to evaluate your pantry. We are human and what is there and handy, we will typically consume. If we can stay out of boxes and bags, and minimize the food we get through windows, we will start winning the battle.

Increase omega-3s in your diet

Consider wild caught Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, black cod, walnuts, avocados, omega-3 enriched eggs, freshly ground flax seeds and whole soy foods.

Juli offers an Integrative Medicine Clinic every Tuesday at the INTEGRIS Health Cancer Institute Wellness Center.

If you’d like to talk to Juli about Integrative Medicine give her a call at 405-773-6400.