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Inflammation is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. While short-term inflammation is usually nothing to worry about, chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of serious health conditions including heart disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer. Inflammation is often a sign of poor diet choices, and poor nutrition can lead to more serious complications over time.

Having spent the last 20 years of my life on developing various treatments for cancers, I have come to realize that at least some of the cancers can be delayed or prevented by right nutritional choices. There is a strong connection between inflammation and cancer, and between nutrition and inflammation. You should know the warning signs of inflammation so that you know how to spot it, how to avoid it, and how to make sure you reduce your risk of developing a life-threatening illness.

What does inflammation look like?

Inflammation is the human body’s healing response. Injured or infected areas become inflamed as the body brings extra nourishment and immune activity to the site in order to heal it. Inflammation causes redness, swelling, heat, and pain at the injured or infected area. As the body’s natural response to pain, not all inflammation is bad; in fact, it’s necessary. It is when inflammation persists that there may be cause for concern. As opposed to acute inflammation, chronic inflammation does not pose any obvious warning signs, but you can be proactive in preventing it by making conscious health choices.

How does it relate to nutrition?

You can cut back on inflammation by practicing a healthy diet and, vice versa, poor nutrition is a major contributor to inflammation. Certain foods, such as processed foods and red meats, can increase inflammation. Practicing an anti-inflammatory diet is the best way to reduce chronic inflammation, and it can also help you reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

How does it relate to cancer?

Chronic inflammation can cause long-term damage to the body, weakening your immune system and making you more susceptible to a variety of cancers. Cancer can be delayed or prevented by making the right nutritional choices. Most of the foods that fight inflammation are also known to reduce your risk of developing cancer, so practicing a healthy diet is not only good for your diet- it lowers your risk of serious diseases like cancer.

How do you prevent inflammation?

If you want to cut back on inflammation, you can practice what is known as the anti-inflammatory diet, which is not exactly a diet in the sense of having weight-loss goals or a fixed period of time. Rather, it is, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, a “way of selecting and preparing anti-inflammatory foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health.” In essence, the anti-inflammatory diet involves eating more fruits and vegetables (which contain high levels of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients as well as fiber and antioxidants), minimizing your intake of fast and processed foods, and eating as much fresh food as possible. Other tips include eating fish at least three times a week, consuming foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, consuming at least 25 grams of fiber per day, cutting out trans fat, cooking with oils that contain healthy fats, and making healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising more, and reducing stress. There are also medications made to treat inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids; however, both come with a set of side effects and should only be used in moderation. My personal tip for getting in your recommended intake of inflammation-fighting foods? Juice! My favorite recipe is A (apple), B (beets), C (celery), G (giner), L (lemon), and T (turmeric). I go by the motto of, a glass of juice a day keeps the inflammation away!