by Jessi Haggerty
My body is a big fan of "second day soreness." You know, after a hard workout or dance class, you feel your muscles screaming "WHY?!" two days later. Well apparently my body wasn't waiting two days after the OnStage Level Placement Auditions. After a year long hiatus from dance, I decided to jump right in, eager to shimmy, kick, and roll on the floor. I was smiling with sweat thrilled about the new dance community I discovered as I entered my apartment building. But, by the time I got up the third flight of stairs, I was ready to overdose on Advil and Icy Hot cream.
There really is no better feeling than working your body to its fullest potential, but as I searched around for the pain killers, I realized I was looking in the wrong place. My body was inflamed, and while natural and necessary, the inflammatory process can become detrimental if your body isn't getting what it needs to facilitate it.
The truth is, most of us are probably walking around in a constant state of stress, and the scary thing is, it feels normal to us. Whether it's acute (the common cold, post injury or surgery) or chronic (rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes), we’re experiencing some sort of inflammation.
Other things that can cause inflammation?
So… what does it need?
Drink it. It’s one of the easiest and best things you can do for your body. ~1.5-2 liters/day is a good goal for most, but the best way to tell is if you have clear urine throughout the day. If you are partaking in a regular moderate to vigorous intensity exercise program, make sure you drink an extra ~.5 L split before/during/after your workout. Coffee and alcohol drinkers (guiltyyy), try to match your caffeine/alky intake with that much extra fluid. (Example: 8 ounces of coffee=8 ounces of extra water).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Not all fats are created equal. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (two essential fatty acids that we need to consume from food because they are not created naturally by the body) should be about 4:1. The typical American diet contains about a 20:1 ratio. Omega-3s are essential for facilitating the inflammatory process, while Omega-6s (saturated and trans-fats) can be pro inflammatory.
Increase intake of: Walnuts, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, cod), flax meal
Decrease intake of: red meat (steak, pork), fried foods, cheese and whole fat milk, excessive amounts of vegetable or corn oil (substitute with flaxseed, walnut, canola oil).
Antioxidants and Vitamin C.
The inflammatory process facilitates early tissue healing and repair (think redness and swelling around a cut), something that antioxidants and vitamin C are essential for. Where to find them? Berries (rasp, blue, straw, black, pomegranates); dark leafy greens, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits). A wide range of fruits and veggies will help cover your basis.
Your digestive tract is responsible for about 60-70% of your immune system, so keep it balanced. Things like stress, poor eating habits and excessive exercise can disrupt the natural flora, or bacteria, in your digestive tract. Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, meaning it is a precursor to forming other healthy bacteria in your gut. You can find this in fruits, vegetables, whole grains (especially oatmeal), nuts and beans. It’s also beneficial to keep cholesterol and blood lipid levels in check. Cultured foods like plain greek yogurt and kombucha beverages contain live bacteria in them, that will help keep your gut balanced. And don’t forget to get some…
At least 7-8 hours of it. Sleepy-time is your body’s time to heal, rejuvenate and keep your hormones in check.
Take a couple of these throughout the day. Don’t forget, all of the little stresses that you face throughout the day can add up, leaving your hormones out of control and your body craving a hamburger or ice cream cone. Taking a break is OK. So do it, even if it's just a 10 minute walk, or a few uninterrupted deep breaths.
Check out my Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Recipe (Makes 2 servings) loaded with antioxidants, omega-3s, probiotics and about 25 grams of protein.
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2-1 cup orange juice
juice of 2 oranges OR 4-5 clementines (whole)
1 cup plain low fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 tbsp flax meal
Jessi Haggerty is a Registered Dietitian, currently working for Whole Foods Market and her private nutrition practice, Just Bee (www.whatwillyoubee.com). She is a new member to OnStage Dance Company, and is stoked to have the opportunity to audition, rehearse and perform with this huge group of talented people!
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