by TBDA junior board member Lauren Sturges
“Well, what are your symptoms?” The five words that make tick-borne disease sufferers break into a nervous sweat. It isn’t difficult to describe a sore throat, runny nose, or the pain of a broken bone. But how do we find the words to describe the more unusual and ever-changing symptoms we experience?
One night in the ER, I stumbled over my words trying to explain what I was feeling. Frustrated, the nurse brought out a chart of smiley faces numbered from 1 to 10 by pain. “Which of these is you?” she asked. I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want to be confused for smiley face number 1, who looked like he might have to wait a very long time to see a doctor.
Instead I said: “I’m not really in pain, I feel like I’m on fire, I feel tremendously uncomfortable, I’m so weak, I feel…..icky.” At the time, I didn’t realize that much of what I was struggling to describe was the intense widespread inflammation inside my body.
It isn’t surprising that many of us are at a loss for words in these situations. The majority of individuals aren’t accustomed to these sensations, and therefore commonplace terms have not been created for them.
As with many illnesses, tick-borne disease can cause agonizing internal inflammation that can hinder recovery. Even treatments, which do us well over time, can cause painful interim inflammation. Luckily, we can help combat this by the things we put in our body.
Below is a list of soothing food items that are easy to come by and delicious additions to any diet. Eating meals that include these foods helps to reduce chronic inflammation and the symptoms associated with it. Not to mention, these items are generally healthy and provide additional health benefits.
- Chia seeds: This superfood is packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, which function as one of the best natural anti-inflammatories. Chia can be used to crust fish, chicken, and tofu. I also use it in oatmeal and on salads. But perhaps my favorite usage of this seed is for sugar-free chia seed pudding — a recipe I will be sharing with you all in the coming weeks!
- Aloe Vera: If you think about the soothing effect it has on sunburns, it is no surprise that it soothes internally as well. Aloe has been used as a remedy against inflammation for thousands of years. It is particularly effective for the digestive tract. My favorite way to have aloe is to drink pure aloe juice in soda water with a little lime.
- Avocado: It is true that avocados are technically a fruit, but they are more vegetable-like in their nutritional value and contain less than one gram of sugar. Although they contain various anti-inflammatory properties, avocados are particularly superb for their complex phytonutrients. Bring on the guacamole!
- Dark leafy greens: Take your pick! Kale, spinach, collards, broccoli….each of these nutrient-dense vegetables can help cool down your inflamed body, as well as aid in detoxification. If you are among the green-wary set, I would urge you to look into green smoothies. There are some great recipes online that taste just like fruit smoothies and some even like milkshakes. I will be posting some of my favorites in the weeks to come.
- Ginger: The first of the anti-inflammatory spices, ginger, like aloe, has also been used as a remedy for ailments for thousands of years. Ginger is wonderful to eat alongside Japanese food, but I also use it minced in many of my smoothie recipes because it effectively cuts the pungent taste of vegetables.
- Cinnamon: This spice helps prohibit inflammatory activity and is also thought to have anti-bacterial properties as well. It doesn’t hurt that it is delicious and perfect for spicing fall foods and drinks. I use cinnamon in oatmeal and paleo pancakes. It is also useful in smoothies, as it cuts the taste of vegetables, much like ginger. You can find a great recipe for a cinnamon smoothie on my most recent column, “Healthy Mocha Frappe.”
- Turmeric: I’ll be honest, when I first began to research anti-inflammatory foods I had never tasted Turmeric, or at least never cooked with it. It seemed to pop up on every list as one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods. Once I started using it, it quickly became a staple in my kitchen. Turmeric is great on scrambled eggs and in chicken dishes. There are many wonderful turmeric root teas available online as well.
Happy cooking! I will make sure to make next week’s column a recipe that contains one of these foods.