by Dr. Will Cole
Inflammation is a response of your immune system that is essential to defend your body against everything from viruses and bacteria to a cut. However, for many people, inflammation goes haywire, and they end up constantly battling a storm of chronic, low-grade inflammation.
This hyper-inflammation is the underlying commonality between just about every health problem we see today. Brain fog, depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis all are somewhere on the inflammation spectrum.
Getting your inflammation levels balanced is essential for you to thrive. The problem is, many people can get overwhelmed and not know where to start.
If you were waiting for the right time, it’s now. You can start bringing your inflammation levels down and balancing your immune system today.
My job as a functional medicine doctor is to get to the root cause of health problems but also come up with practical, sustainable solutions to address them. Here’s my simple one-day plan to get you started:
1. Start your day with a cup of coffee.
For all you coffee lovers out there, this is an easy one! It may be a shock to hear that coffee is encouraged, but coffee drinkers were shown to have lower CRP (an inflammatory protein) levels so start off this one-day diet with a nice big cup of joe. Make sure what you are drinking is organic and third-party tested for mold. If you can’t tolerate coffee, green tea has also been shown to lower CRP.
2. Decrease NF-kB.
Did I tell you this is not your mother’s anti-inflammatory plan? We are getting scientific here, my friend. High levels of the inflammatory nuclear factor kappa B, or NF-kB, will not do you any favors when trying to balance inflammation levels. When NF-kB is activated it binds to your DNA and brings about various inflammatory cascades in the body and has been shown to play a role in many chronic inflammatory conditions. Start decreasing this by snacking on NF-kB-fighting super foods throughout your day such as blueberries and matcha green tea.
3. Increase your Nrf-2.
The protein Nrf-2 turns on genes that are responsible for antioxidant and detox pathways. This in turn helps calm inflammation levels. Activate Nrf-2 by focusing on dietary antioxidant foods such as matcha green tea. Not only will green tea increase Nrf-2, but it is pulling double duty decreasing the inflammatory NF-kB as well.
4. Maximize your fat-soluble vitamins.
The vitamins A, D, E, and K2 are extremely important to your health for many reasons. They play a big factor in bringing down inflammation by decreasing levels of the inflammatory protein CRP. Focus on food medicines that are high in these vitamins by following my food plan below.
5. Avoid alcohol – except for one kind.
Make sure to limit the alcohol (or cut it out entirely!). It can actually increase your levels of CRP. However, studies have shown that red wine when consumed in small amounts is associated with lower CRP. So if you choose, end your day with a nice glass of your favorite organic red wine before heading to bed!
6. Boost methylation.
Methylation is your body’s biochemical superhighway that helps protect your DNA, brain, and gut from inflammation. It is important to support healthy methylation pathways to lower homocysteine, an inflammatory amino acid. A great way to help with this is by eating sulfur-rich vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
7. Reduce stress and increase mindfulness.
Stress can hurt your health in more ways than one, including raising CRP. People with stressful jobs or toxic relationships have been shown in many studies to have higher CRP levels. Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to help lower stress and also bring down CRP. Incorporate mindfulness at some point either in the morning before you start your busy day, during lunch, or even in the evening to close out the day.
Your One-Day Inflammation-Calming Diet
Now let’s take these inflammation-busting tips and maximize them for your day. This plan will focus on calming inflammation in all its forms: CRP, NF-kB, and homocysteine. In addition, your anti-inflammatory methylation and NRF-2 pathways will be activated. Win-win!
Breakfast: Cold-Brew Adaptogenic Green Mushroom Smoothie
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1/3 cup organic cold-brew coffee
- 1 tablespoon spirulina
- 1 cup raw chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen banana
- 1 scoop pea protein
- 1 teaspoon chaga powder
- 1 teaspoon ashwagandha powder
- 6 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend.
Alternative Breakfast Idea: Fasting + Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Matcha Tonic
Another way to drive inflammation down is intermittent fasting. Sipping on this tea and waiting until lunch allows your body to clear out inflammation a little faster. If intermittent fasting isn’t your thing, just have this yummy golden tonic as your midmorning snack.
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin coconut oil
- Pinch of black pepper
- Blend ingredients well in a blender.
- Pour into saucepan and heat for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until warm.
Lunch: Wild-Caught Tuna Avocado Salad
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 can pole-caught, sustainably sourced tuna
- 1 stalk finely diced celery
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil-based organic mayonnaise
- 2 to 3 springs finely chopped fresh dill
- Bibb lettuce, baby Romaine leaves, or Boston lettuce
- Himalayan sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Mash the avocado in a small bowl.
- Add tuna, mayonnaise, dill, and celery to the bowl.
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Lay in lettuce of your choice.
Dinner: Nourishing Chicken Zoodle Bone Broth Soup With Roasted Turmeric Cauliflower
Ingredients for the bone broth:
- Whole organic chicken
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 inch of ginger root
Ingredients for the soup:
- 4 to 6 cups organic chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 to 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 to 2 cups chopped carrots
- 3 to 4 small to medium zucchinis
- 2 cups shredded organic chicken
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- Himalayan sea salt to taste
Ingredients for the cauliflower:
- 1/2 large cauliflower
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons Himalayan sea salt
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- Rinse the chicken, and place it in the pot.
- Fill your pot three-quarters full with water, and add the herbs and vegetables.
- Cook on medium-high until bubbling, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer covered, at least 8 hours, up to 48 hours, to taste.
- Allow to cool, then pour stock through a strainer and transfer to mason jars to store in the fridge.
- Saute the onions and carrots in coconut oil until onions are soft.
- Add bone broth and bring to a boil.
- Make zucchini into noodles. Slice the zucchini into your desired size of strips, either thick or nice and thin (more like actual noodles) with a julienne slicer.
- Once the carrots are tender, add the zucchini and simmer (covered or uncovered) until tender. The time will vary depending on the size of your zucchini “noodles.”
- Add the chopped chicken and garlic, bring back to a boil, and then turn heat off. Cover and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Pull off cauliflower florets.
- Combine the cauliflower florets with the turmeric, salt, and olive oil.
- Place in baking dish (spread out the cauliflower so they’re not on top of each other).
- Cover the baking dish with tin foil.
- Bake for 75 minutes.
- Serve on the side.
Snack: Organic Blueberry Balls
- 10 pitted medjool dates
- Shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/3 cup frozen organic blueberries
- 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- Process the nuts, dates, vanilla, and almond butter in the food processor.
- Add frozen blueberries and process again until well-blended.
- Roll into balls.
- Freeze for an hour to harden.
- Remove from freezer and roll in the shredded coconut.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
Throughout the day
Make time to give yourself some “Brain Breaks,” times of calm and silence. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, close your eyes or spend time in nature and breathe. If you are eating like a champ but filling your body full of stress, you won’t calm inflammation effectively. After your day is over, if you want tot take it to the next level, take my 60-day challenge to calm inflammation in my Elimination Diet video class. This journey will help you find out what foods your body loves and which it hates, focusing on the world’s most anti-inflammatory foods.
I originally wrote this article for mindbodygreen.