Damp winter weather can make your aches and pains give more accurate weather readings than the latest satellites. While the concept may seem like a neat super power that should guarantee a ten-year run with the Weather Channel, the reality is painful and disruptive. The cold winter months are the time of year when more food is consumed, especially during the holidays, but much of that food exacerbates joint pain by making our system more acidic, which leads to inflammation.
Inflammation and Chronic Pain
Inflammation is an amazing tool designed by our body to rush blood and nutrients to an injured site and act as a mini brace until the crisis is over. In the right context, inflammation is great! However, when we aren’t injured and we don’t need a stop to our daily activities, inflammation isn’t a normal part of everyday life. It is a sign that something is off in our system.
There are many causes of inflammation, ranging from a poor diet (especially, too many sugary drinks), poor or not enough sleep, too little or too much exercise, medications, and allergies. Excess inflammation will cause joint pain and poor muscle signaling in the nervous system. Unless reversed quickly, this disruption leads to impaired motor control and chronic pain. Pain begets pain and precipitates injury. Does this sound like you or someone you know? We can make big changes and reduce inflammation and learn how to stop sabotaging ourselves!
Foods Can Cause Joint Inflammation
The paradox is that many of the serotonin-rich foods we love to eat and share with others during the holidays can be the most treacherous importer of inflammation. That cute little gingerbread man with the gumdrop buttons may be organic, have ginger, and be made with love; however, it is still an inflammation bomb that will create an acidic blood-sugar crash and burn in your system.
But it’s the holidays! You’re not going to forgo Grandma’s cookies, your niece’s fabulous brownies, and Uncle Charlie’s honey-baked ham! While it would be great it they could modify the recipes to use bananas instead of sugar and go for fish instead of pork smothered in honey, the reality of the situation is that we may not have control over what they bring but we do have control over what we bring and what we eat. There are ways to buffer what we eat and fight back with antidotes to inflammation.
Easy Ways to Reduce Inflammation
- A simplified way to reduce inflammation is to eat lots of greens and colorful things that come from the ground along with palm-sized portions of fish that swim in cold water.
- Grains, white starches, meat, and sugars need to be purchased along with 1-2 cups of something green without any added sugar. Apple pie, even loaded with Granny Smith apples, does not count as something green. The apples don’t count to balance the added sugars and acid- producing starches from the crust and filling.
- Clean fats, such as grass-fed butter on roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and enough olive oil and lemon juice to make the leaves of your mixed green salad shiny, are great ways to feed your nervous system. These healthy foods will level out your pH against that peppermint hot chocolate or spiked hot cider you had earlier.
- What’s pH? It’s a scale that defines acidic or base components in aqueous (liquid) solutions; neutral is a 7. A food or a solution with a number higher than 7 indicates acidic foods, which increase inflammation. Another great way to bring your dinner plate back to neutral is to drink several glasses of lemon water. The lemon water will give your skin a wonderful vitamin C and collagen-boosting glow and help with digestion as it balances your pH level.
How To Learn What Works Best For You
Everyone’s neuromuscular and digestive system is different, and foods that may be helpful for some may cause an adverse reaction in others. Generally speaking, buying your starches and meats with 2 servings of low sugar fruits and veggies is a good rule. However, not everyone likes or can tolerate kale, some people detest Brussels sprouts, and others may have a reaction to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, collectively called nightshades.
So how do you know what works for you?
- Go to your local pharmacy or shop Amazon and look for diagnostic pH test strips. For about $10-$15, you can purchase 90 test strips that can analyze your urine or saliva to find your pH. The recommended time to test is your second urination in the morning to determine the composition of your system.
- To experiment and see what food or food combinations affect your system, test 1 hour before a meal and 2 hours after and compare. Keeping a journal in Evernote or another note-taking device of your choice is a great way to keep track of what helps and what hurts your unique system. As a side note, you may test slightly acidic to your norm if you are testing after an intense workout.
- For more information on testing and other wonderful benefits of healthy aging on an alkaline diet, visit Dr. Axe Alkaline Your Diet is the Key to Longevity and Fighting Chronic Disease.
While the holidays may be a time of joy and secretly sabotaging foods, that doesn’t mean they have to get your system down. Now that you are armed with these pH balancing and inflammation-fighting work-arounds, go forth and enjoy the winter season of light and festivities!