By Dr. Caitlyn Nguyen, family medicine physician
Part of my focus during residency was integrative medicine. My mentor was trained in integrative medicine, and I had a month-long rotation in California with an integrative medicine group.
I have picked up a few useful things that I have incorporated into my daily life. There are a lot of things we are doing on a daily basis that creates inflammation and, that in turn, leads to or worsens chronic illnesses. There are things that we can control such as lack of exercise, stress, diet with processed foods, smoking or second-hand smoking, and also things we cannot control — such as our genetics.
When we have a build up on inflammation, it affects every part of our body.
Some things are difficult to address all at once. If you start exercising too vigorously or overworking the body because you are motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle, you are more prone to injuries. My personal theory has been to make these positive changes in your life, but start with one goal at a time.
It is about creating habits and a lifestyle that is suitable for you.
Running 5 miles may be ideal for some people, but definitely not for me!
Ginger: It has long been used as a spice in the culinary world. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well as helping with digestive health and conditions like nausea.
I typically cook with fresh ginger roots that you can get at most Asian markets and in grocery stores like Dillons and HyVee. I also take 1 gram of ginger supplement in the form of a capsule at nighttime.
Caution: In large amounts (>4g/day), ginger can cause your blood to be too thin, especially if you are taking blood thinner.
Turmeric: It is also commonly used as a spice. It is an antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory. There are studies that have shown benefits in conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Turmeric also can slow down progression of plaque build up in the arteries and can help with Alzheimer's.
During my integrative medicine rotation in California, a cardiologist would use turmeric after stent placements to decrease inflammation in the blood vessels.
When buying the supplement, make sure it contains black pepper extract to help with absorption. Depending on what you buy, it would be safe to follow the directions on the bottle.
Since I'm not a big fan of taking medications or supplements multiple times a day, I buy a higher concentration of turmeric and take it once at night. Dosage should be 900 to 1200mg/day.
There are plenty of recipes online for turmeric tea that will help you sleep better.
These supplements are ones I use in my everyday life. Please consult your physician for questions about your specific conditions and whether supplements could help with inflammation and chronic illnesses.