Many women in midlife suffer from chronic joint and muscle pain. I do! With arthritis and degenerative disc issues from years of over-doing it, I have to be very attentive to taking care of my body these days. The good news is that the experts tell us a particular way of eating can have a profoundly positive effect. Changing the way you eat to eating anti-inflammatory foods can make all the difference for women over 40. It has for me! As a part of my simple life project I have boiled down my shopping list to a very specific short list of staple items which I will provide at the end of this article for you.
Research indicates that diet should be an integral part of a pain management program — especially as women age. Before we go into the specifics of what are the anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating, let's talk about what inflammation is and why it's so problematic.
Painful inflammation is the body’s way of trying to heal
Inflammation in short term can be a way the body tries to heal itself. The inflammation that lingers over time, however, not only causes pain in the body, it can lead to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and mental health issues such as severe anxiety and depression. Scary stuff! And it's something we must take seriously as we are here in the midlife point!
While you should always consult with your team of health care professionals who practice medicine (traditional and/or alternative), it's good to know that we can combat this chronic inflammation to a large degree by selecting anti-inflammatory foods.
“Following an anti-inflammatory diet is powerful therapy for pain control with many beneficial side effects,” Dr. William Welches, pain management specialist at The Cleveland Clinic says. “The anti-inflammatory diet is considered an integrative approach to pain management, along with exercise, stress management, osteopathic manipulation therapy and acupuncture.”
Three anti-inflammatory foods tenets to follow
Here are three basic shopping and eating guidelines based on the guidance of Dr. Welches:
- Eat the rainbow: Take in eight to nine servings of highly nutrition vegetables and fruits every day. Go for the dark greens and dark purples and blues in the veggie and fruit aisle and make sure you include plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower too. Think black berried, blue berries, purple cabbage, swiss chard, spinach and kale. The fiber and anti-oxidants in these foods helps return the body to balance.
- Miminize dairy and grains: Keep the dairy intake to a bare minimum - maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or a bit of greek yogurt but otherwise steer clear. Also, avoid all refined sugar. Instead, reach for whole grains, including barley, buckwheat, steel cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt. Keep the servings small (like 1/2 cup) and only once/day.
- Make meat an occasional thing. Take red meat or other meats very infrequently. Instead, include clean fish high in omega-3's such as wild caught salmon as the “meat” or choose vegetarian main dishes that combine legumes and small portions of whole grain along with lots of dark leafy greens and/or cruciferous veggies.
Go the extra mile to get your inflammation down!
To get the most of your efforts to reduce inflammation, in addition to eating anti-inflammatory foods observe the following practices according to Dr. Andrew Weil, alternative medicine doctor who promotes an anti-inflammatory lifestyle: .
- Get outside and take a brisk walk for at least 20 minutes every day or hop on the treadmill. Be sure you are getting your heart and breath rates up to what is ideal for your age and health (consult with your doctor!).
- Manage stress with meditation, breath exercises and very gentle yoga.
- Incorporate organic herbal teas into your daily regimen rather than rushing to the coffee pot. The caffeine in coffee and the acidic quality of coffee can increase inflammation.
My simple life project grocery list
As promised I'm going to share my own grocery list of staple items I have on hand at all times:
Wild caught salmon
Blackberries and blue berries
Tri-colored organic bell peppers
Fresh basil and mint from my garden in summer
Organic virgin coconut oil
Free range, organic eggs
Spelt or Millett
Ezekiel bread (sprouted grains metabolized as highly nutritional as this "bread" contains no processed flour)
Himalayan pink salt
Other purse spices
Organic herbal teas
Organic green tea
Organic oolong tea (good for inflammation!)