Eating healthy to reduce inflammation

Reduce Chronic Inflammation & Be Healthier – Part 2: The Relationship Between Your Diet & Chronic Inflammation

In Reduce Chronic Inflammation & Be Healthier – Part 1 we looked at what is inflammation, what causes it and what are its often painful symptoms.

In a nutshell, inflammation is actually one way that your body responds to a perceived threat. When you strain a muscle or cut your skin, the body responds by sending more blood and immune cells to the affected area to fight off pathogens and begin the healing process.

Even the pain you feel is part of the body’s defenses to stop you from over-using a damaged joint or ligament, or from making a cut worse. But that pain can be difficult to endure and patients seek physiotherapy, massage or even acupuncture to manage the pain.

We also discussed the two main classifications of inflammation, which are acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

  • Acute inflammation: like what you suffer from an injury or illness, is temporary and goes away once the cause of the inflammation is treated and/or resolves itself.
  • Chronic inflammation: as the name implies, is prolonged over time due to an ongoing issue, like chronic illness or repetitive strain injuries, like tennis elbow. Sometimes the body triggers chronic inflammation when no actual threat exists. Arthritis, which is inflammation of one or more joints in your body, is one example of this.

Due to its ongoing nature, chronic inflammation can have symptoms that go beyond the redness and swelling normally associated with inflammation. The ongoing bombardment of affected areas with the body’s defenses can actually have a degenerative effect on cells in the area. Non-physical symptoms of chronic inflammation can include depression, anxiety and stress.

The Connection Between Your Diet and Chronic Inflammation

While pain relievers are often used to treat the pain of both acute and chronic inflammation, they do nothing to address the causes of the inflammation. However, a growing body of evidence shows that certain foods cause chronic inflammation and certain other foods are powerful tools in fighting inflammation.

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health

Significantly, the foods most commonly associated with promoting inflammation are also those foods that cause other ill health effects, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

By transforming your eating habits to curb chronic inflammation, you’ll also be doing lots more to improve your health, including managing your weight, improving your immunity, sleeping better and even living longer

Foods That Cause Inflammation

Some foods have inflammatory nutrients, other foods we eat to excess and still others are foreign to our system. In any case, here are just a few of the foods that can cause inflammation:

Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar can appear on food ingredients labels under any one of 56 different names, including molasses, barley malt and corn syrup.

Refined Carbohydrates

Including white bread and baked goods made with refined flour.

Fried Foods

Including french fries, fried chicken and fish sticks

Red Meat

Especially high-fat meats like hamburger, and processed meats like cold cuts, hot dogs and sausage

Trans Fats

Including margarine, shortening and lard

Foods that Fight Inflammation

Anti-inflammation foods have antioxidants, polyphenols other compounds that reduce the risk of inflammation.

Tomatoes

They are an excellent source of lycopene, which not only fights inflammation, but protects your brain too.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Oleocanthal, only found in extra virgin olive oil, has a significant impact on inflammation.

Green, Leafy Vegetables

Like spinach, kale and collards, safeguard the body against inflammation-causing compounds like cytokines.

Nuts

Including almonds and walnuts have lots of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.

Fatty Fish

Like salmon, mackerel and tuna, are also great sources of omega 3s.

Fruits

Like strawberries, raspberries, oranges and blueberries, are packed with anti-oxidants and other inflammation-busting compounds, like flavonoids.

If you want to make the ‘what to eat, what not to eat’ equation as simple as possible in the fight against inflammation, cut out as many sugary, processed foods as possible and eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as you can. When you do, you’ll feel better, look better and suffer less pain.

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