I just finished reading “An Inflammation Nation: The Definitive 10-Step Guide to Preventing and Treating All Diseases through Diet, Lifestyle, and the Use of Natural Anti-Inflammatories” by Dr. Sunil Pai. The author is based in Albuquerque, NM and runs the Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health and Lifestyle Center there. He also serves on the Neuro-Acupuncture Institute’s Board of Directors with my stepfather.
Dr. Pai’s book provides a 10-step plan to better health. Some of the steps are fairly obvious, like eating less sugar and more plants. However, there were several surprises in the book for me that really changed how I think about medicine, supplements and health. Here are my top four takeaways from “An Inflammation Nation.”
NSAIDs are more dangerous than I realized
Some of you, like me, were probably vaguely aware that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin could cause stomach issues like ulcers. However, we’re constantly hearing about how bad inflammation is for the body. These drugs, which are available over the counter and are pretty much everywhere, are pretty widely accepted as safe. Right? WRONG!
Dr. Pai points to a body of research from Europe and the rest of the world which finds, over and over, that these drugs could be doing more harm than good. For examples, NSAIDs contribute to the degeneration of cartilage. Cartilage is a connective tissue found in joints. NSAIDs are often recommended for people with aching joints (just think about all the commercials on TV.) The drugs they are recommending for joint pain are actually damaging joint tissue, making the problem worse! What the hell?
Also, have you ever read the “black box warning” on NSAID products? Well, not only do they warn you about the risk of ulcers and internal bleeding, but they warn you about the increased risk for heart attack and stroke. According to Walgreens, “a black box warning is the strictest warning put in the labeling of prescription drugs or drug products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when there is reasonable evidence of an association of a serious hazard with the drug.” Having a black box around the warning tells you that “the drug may lead to death or serious injury.” Dr. Pai goes on to describe some pretty terrible things that can happen from NSAID use, and NSAID use in combination with other prescription drugs. He notes that deaths related to NSAID use are under-reported, and recommends people stop using these immediately.
He goes on to describe a “natural anti-inflammatory dietary supplement” called Bosmeric SR that he and his colleagues have developed. It’s made up of mostly things you’ve heard of, like turmeric, black pepper and ginger. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to the supplement and each component if you really want to get into it. It’s available from his website, but it is expensive.
With supplements, buyer beware
If you’re anything like me, when you saw the price of Bosmeric SR, you panicked. It is not cheap. Maybe, like me, you’re thinking that perhaps you could just piece together the supplements he recommends and save a buck. He does go into detail about the specific formulations and amounts of each ingredient in his supplement, so in theory, this is possible. Well, be careful what you buy!
He goes into pretty scary detail about fish oil supplements first. He talks about the quality of the fish, including where they are raised and the risk of heavy metal contamination. Then he started looking into different commercial brands of fish oil, requesting their lab test results. He found that many products weren’t delivering the potency written on the labels. As you’re probably aware, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements, so they can basically say and do anything they want. If these companies won’t provide their lab test results, you have no way of knowing what you’re actually getting – and putting into your body!
This theme is repeated throughout the book, with another scary section on turmeric sourced overseas. He recommends doing your homework and requesting lab test results before you buy supplements so you’re sure you’re really getting what’s promised on the label.
Yoga and meditation vs. traditional exercise: which is best for stress reduction?
I am really trying to be consistent about going to the gym. I go three times a week (okay, sometimes two) and do a routine of strength training, then about 30 minutes of cardio. While Dr. Pai doesn’t recommend against this, he does note that this type of exercise doesn’t typically reduce stress for people. He notes that traditional exercise like running or lifting weights increases our heart rates, blood pressure and adrenal hormones. Stress does the same thing, so it’s basically adding more stress to your system.
To reduce the stress, he recommends adding yoga and meditation to our daily routines. These things reduce the heart rate and relax the arteries, taking the body out of the constant “fight or flight” state so many of us tend to live in. Time to dig up that yoga DVD I have stashed somewhere!
The importance of family, friends and faith
The last step in the plan focuses on the people around you, and your general attitude towards life. He recommends doing things you find fulfilling, and spending time with the people you love. He also suggests volunteering, having a positive attitude, and letting go of anger and resentment. It makes so much sense, but have you ever heard these things from your doctor? I never have.
What I’m going to do next
If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’ve been trying to clean up my diet since my iron deficiency diagnosis. I’ve been exercising pretty consistently, and have kept that up since moving back to the United States. My diet, I’ll admit, is slipping; there’s a lot of temptation when you’ve been away from the foods you love for two years. Also, my mom is Grandma T and she can bake! Since reading this book, though, I’ve decided I need to get on a better track. So, here are the steps I plan to take.
Cut back the sugar
Yes, it’s nice that we always have peach strudel, cookie balls or some other sweet goodies around. However, I do NOT need to be eating that kind of stuff every day. I’m going to try to limit my sweets intake to 1-2 times a week.
Increase fruits and vegetables
I was doing very well with this in Scotland, but since moving back, the tacos and potato chips have slowly crept back in. I’m trying to have big salads for lunch again like I used to, and I’m trying to cut back on the meat and dairy intake.
I won’t, however, be completely eliminating meat and dairy. I know from my iron issues that I need to be aware of my risk for deficiency and make sure I’m eating the right foods to address this. Plus, the book never really covers B12, which is not available through any plant source. Calcium would be another concern, but I take a supplement to cover that already.
Take more supplements, but do the research
I’ve already been taking turmeric with black pepper, two of the four major ingredients in Bosmeric SR. I cut out NSAIDs a few months ago when I realized how much they were bothering my stomach, and I’ve felt better for it. After reading this book, it’ll take a lot to convince me to take them ever again.
I’ve also been taking a calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement since I broke my foot walking last year. I’ve cut the dosage down now that I feel like my body’s up to speed. Since starting this one, I’ve noticed that my nails are healthier and my skin is clearer, so that’s a nice bonus. Also, I haven’t broken any more bones.
I stopped taking a daily probiotic since moving back but continued taking saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast often used in treatments for diarrhea. This one wasn’t mentioned in the book at all, but it seems to help keep my stomach happy, and I’ve experienced far fewer tummy troubles since adding it to my regular regime.
I had stopped taking vitamin D3 when I moved back to New Mexico, thinking that I’d probably be fine with the abundant sunshine here. However, the book has convinced me to add that back in to my daily routine. I found a fish oil that also contains vitamin D3, so I’ll be getting my Omega 3s in at the same time. I opted for Nordic Naturals, a brand recommended to me by my former chiropractor at an integrative health center. They do publish their lab test results on their website, and it seems to meet the conditions Dr. Pai laid out in his book. The dosage is a little lower than he recommends but it’s close.
I’m also adding in boswellia, an Ayurvedic herb commonly used to treat inflammation and another component of Bosmeric SR. Again, I couldn’t find the exact formulation he recommends, but I got close with a supplement from Solgar, a brand Legend’s doctor has often recommended for supplements.
I’m hoping that the addition of the fish oil and boswellia will help calm down some of the inflammation issues I’m having from allergies. I’m allergic to most trees, grasses and weeds native to this area so I’ve had a sniffle since arriving home last month. As always, I’ll be sure to update you on my progress!
Are you intrigued by “An Inflammation Nation”? It’s available on Amazon if you are ready to jump in! I really enjoyed it and I think I learned quite a lot from it that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
What’s your take on inflammation? Are you doing anything to address inflammation in your regular routine? Tell me in the comments!