Although there is some dispute whether the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in November or December, historians believe that Thanksgiving celebrates their first meal in the New Land, shared with the Indians. The Indians had taught the pilgrims how to catch fish, hunt animals, and find shelter. Yet Thanksgiving also has British roots as far back as 1536, when it was a day of thanks celebrated after the English Reformation from the Catholic Church. In the USA, Thanksgiving has become a day of feasting – gorging huge amounts of Turkey and all the trimmings. Heart attacks and heart related diseases rise about 5% on Thanksgiving compared to average days in the year. There can be many reasons but one may be that the tradition is tied to Thanksgiving and Inflammation.
The reason for Thanksgiving peak in heart attacks is associated with the lack of indulgence related to feasting at the meal. While you may have cardiovascular issues waiting to happen, it’s more likely that the meal itself may be part of the cause.
Your body doesn’t know it is Thanksgiving and is not expecting huge portions of Turkey, meat, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and other rich trimmings. The cells, fluids, tissues, organs, and muscles of your body work each second to maintain balance in your body. This is called homeostasis.
Homeostasis is a state of balance inside the body, where the body systems work together to keep it functioning normally. The endocrine system keeps this internal balancing act going by releasing chemicals called hormones. The release or reduction of the hormones is controlled by the body’s natural negative feedback mechanisms that are responding to your eating and other (lack of) activity. The language that sets off the thermostat of homeostasis is inflammation. Inflammation is the first response of the immune system to irritation and your feast may be what’s causing the Thanksgiving and Inflammation alert.
Your body reacts in a stress-related fight or flight system. Your heart speeds up, neurotransmitters are released to muscles and your brain as alerts. Failure to acknowledge these alerts may result in heart attacks, strokes, and digestive disorders.
Inflammation studies have been studied at various Universities that demonstrate how certain foods negatively affect the body’s immune system. Small studies have shown that dementia or Alzheimer symptoms may be reduced by keeping inflammation under control. The Cleveland Clinic supports research in anti-inflammatory foods and new anti-inflammatory diets are emerging.
Blood test analysis should show C-RP and this is an inflammation indicator. It stands for C-Reactive Protein. It is rarely included in average blood testing. If you have a score of less than 3, it represents that body inflammation is very low but there are those who have normal lipid (cholesterol and plaque) indicators that have extremely high C-RP scores. One study showed that Omega-3 consumption (found in fish and flaxseed oils) may reduce C-RP levels in a study of 1395 men aged 42-60. Markedly increased levels of C-RP are observed, for example, after trauma, heart attack, with autoimmune disorders, and with serious bacterial infections but few people have before and after comparisons to make an association of its role.
A high C-RP result means you have inflammation in the body. This may be due to a variety of different conditions, including (inconclusive):
Connective tissue disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
and C-RP results are factored into the blood analyses of all those who may have a possible diagnosis.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a noted naturalist physician, indicates:
“an anti-inflammatory diet that includes two to three servings of fish such as salmon or sardines per week. If you don’t eat fish, he suggests taking fish oil supplements. He also recommends taking anti-inflammatory herbs including ginger and turmeric and following your doctor’s recommendations for heart health – quit smoking, watch your diet (particularly avoid foods that predominantly consist of flour and/or sugar), and get regular exercise.
A recent study at Johns Hopkins showed that as fitness levels decline, CRP levels go up. The researchers weren’t sure if poor fitness leads to an increase in CRP or vice versa, but exercise is an important part of maintaining heart health in any case.”
High C-RP levels aren’t merely associated with organic conditions. Studies cite evidence that chronic anxiety, stress and social rejection may lead to high inflammation C-RP scores. In a rather unique study, it was shown that inflammation may aid in muscle healing but that may be as a result of the body’s auto-immune response for homeostasis.
Returning to Thanksgiving and Inflammation, that recurrent heartburn after the big meal may only be heartburn or an early heart symptom. Foods may cause inflammation. How do you find the Inflammation Factors of your meal? The Inflammation Free Diet Plan book is available at Amazon and offers comprehensive listings.
According to Inflammation Factor, Inflammation scores are as follows:
200 or higher Strongly anti-inflammatory
101 to 200 Moderately anti-inflammatory
0 to 100 Mildly anti-inflammatory
-1 to -100 Mildly inflammatory
-101 to 200 Moderately inflammatory
-201 or lower Strongly inflammatory
and so, according to Inflammation Factor:
Turkey, breast, roasted 3 ounces -104 (Generally you might have 3 times that)
Pork sausage, cooked 3 ounces -86
Stuffing, bread, from mix 1 ounce -6
Ham, spiral cut, roasted 3 ounces -39
Cranberry sauce 1/2 cup -177
Potatoes, mashed 1/2 cup -69
Pie, pumpkin, commercial 1 ounce -26
Cake, fruit 1 ounce -69
Pie, apple 1 ounce -36
Chocolate, dark 1 ounce -76
Bread sticks, plain 1 ounce -79
Coffee, brewed 8 ounces 1
Cola 8 ounces -28
Basically, this possible Thanksgiving dinner has many inflammatory foods. Move the servings into real proportions and your batting well over 1000 in the inflammatory scale. Your body’s auto-immune system is working on high and your heart and arteries are beating rapidly. Thanksgiving and Inflammation might bring you to the edge of having a heart attack or a stroke.
Each year heart attacks kill more than 150,000 Americans, nearly half of them women. Many aren’t fatal if you seek a cardiologic check-up and follow a diet and exercise program. Exercise cuts inflammation that simultaneously reduces your risk of heart disease as well as many types of cancer. Walk 30 min recreationally every day at minimum-with more vigorous/longer exercise as advised by your doctor.
Extra belly fat is an inflammation factory-actually churning out inflammatory chemicals that wreak havoc elsewhere.
A list of anti inflammatory foods include:
a. Berries: especially dark reds and blues like strawberries and blueberries
b. Vegetables-darker the color the better, including dark green kale and spinach
c. Whole grains-including oatmeal, quinoa, barley and farro. Avoid sugary or starchy foods that jack up your sugar level.
d. Healthy oils-found in nuts and fish. Saturated fat found in full fat dairy and meat fuel the inflammatory fire.
There are many factors associated with the risk of developing life threatening diseases and conditions. Some are genetic and some are dietary. The idea is to consider what you can change and whether you’re willing to effect those changes that you can control in a path towards wellness. It’s a lifestyle choice that is up to you. The sacrifices may help reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. After a while, they won’t seem like sacrifices. There are no guarantees, however. That’s where the Pleasure Principle remains dominant.
So this Thanksgiving, as in previous Thanksgivings, I ask the host of the dinner to prepare a fish dish for me. After all, the Indians that met the Pilgrims showed them how they caught fish. Fish, like Salmon, is rich in Omega 3 fatty acid and the Inflammation Factor (Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, baked 3 ounces 843) is great. Does it have cholesterol? Yes. But it’s a healthier way to celebrate Thanksgiving. You really don’t need Thanksgiving and Inflammation.