Because so many of my patients suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other inflammatory illnesses, I find myself repeating a lot of what you're about to read. I just can't express how much your diet can affect inflammation both positively and negatively. A healthy diet of fresh, whole foods rich in antioxidants, minerals, and essential fatty acids can help to prevent and reduce inflammation so that you can live better.
Inflammation is a normal body process that occurs when we are injured or sick and the lympthatic system works by bringing the immune system's army of white blood cells to the area of concern by way of increased blood flow in order to heal it. We've all experienced it at some point, having a cut or a scrape that becomes red and puffy or an injury which causes the area redness, swelling, heat, and pain. Acute inflammation is pretty short lived, only lasting a few hours to a few days. As uncomfortable and painful as this is, it goes away with a little bit of time.
On the other hand, when inflammation becomes chronic, as it does with autoimmune diseases or arthritis, for example, we have to make some lifestyle changes to minimize inflammation in order to manage pain, keep our energy up, and maintain mental clarity. There are a lot of foods and spices that you can add to your diet which can help with chronic inflammation. But first, what to avoid:
Foods that Cause Inflammation
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that most of the foods we know to be unhealthy can lead to inflammation or perpetuate it. Not a huge shock, that it's the fun stuff. The stuff we develop cravings for. Just in case you need a reminder of what these foods are, or learn some hidden culprits that you were unaware of , here's a list:
The reason why these things cause an inflammatory response is pretty basic. We don't process them well because our bodies weren't designed to. And the greater the intake, the greater our bodies respond. For me, I love beer. And I looooove dairy. But when I have too much, my mucous membranes become inflamed and I develop cold-like symptoms. It's a bummer because I want to eat cheese and bread all day! With beer! Good news is, there are delicious things that help to fight inflammation. And a little secret, once you start changing your dietary habits, you actually stop craving the things you did before. It's true.
HOW FOOD REDUCES INFLAMMATION
Inflammation and oxidation are closely related: antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging cells which can lead to inflammation. Nutrients can also prevent inflammation through pathways, notably by turning off genes that trigger inflammatory proteins or processes, by boosting the concentration of proteins that counter inflammation, or by modulating the digestive system which is important for immune system functioning.
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
When following a diet which helps reduce inflammation it is recommended to move away from a typical Western diet and aim for one that resembles the ancient diet of the Mediterranean which is comprised of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, little to no red meat, foods that are rich in omega-3s, and none that contain chemicals or meat additives. Here are some great foods to incorporate into your anti-inflammatory diet:
- Blueberries - Found in citrus, olive oil, and dark berries, quercetin is a flavonoid (a beneficial substance or phytonutrient that's prevalent in fresh foods) that flights inflammation.
- Green Leafy Vegetables - Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids. Chard, for example, is super high in the antioxidants vitamin A and C.
- Pineapple - Bromelain is a digestive enzyme found in pineapples which helps to regulate the immune response that often creates unwanted and unnecessary inflammation. Bromelain also comes in supplement form where it is often paired with quercetin. Pineapples, themselves, also have high supplies of vitamin C, B1, potassium, and manganese, as well as other antioxidants.
- Salmon - Along with other cold water fish, salmon is a particularly good source of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, which are some of the most potent anti-inflammatory substances. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
- Turmeric - Turmeric's primary compound, curcumin, is its active anti-inflammatory component. It is particularly effective in treating arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A study out of Japan discovered that curcumin significantly reduced the inflammatory cytokine, interleuken (IL)-6, an inflammatory marker involved in the RA process.
- Flaxseeds - Flaxseeds are packed with antioxidants and are also a good source of omega-3s and phytonutrients. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health. Polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the guy and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.
- Coconut Oil - In a study conducted in India, the high levels of antioxidants present in coconut oil helped to reduce inflammation and heal arthritis. Use turmeric and coconut oil together or saute your anti-inflammatory veggies in this heat-stable oil.
- Walnuts - Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein and omega-3s and can help make up the difference if you are following a diet without a lot of meats. Walnuts are great because some phytonutrients found in walnuts are hard to find in other food sources.
- Celery - Celery is an excellent source of potassium and it contains antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and K. In recent pharmacological studies, benefits of celery include both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilites and help improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Celery seeds can also help lower inflammation and fight bacterial infections.
- Broccoli - Broccoli is high in both potassium and magnesium, and its antioxidants are potent anti-inflammatory substances in their own right. Anyone with chronic inflammation should include this veggie powerhouse in their diet.
- Beets - Betalain is the antioxidant that gives beets their signature color and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Beets help to repair cells and contain high levels of potassium and magnesium.
- Bone Broth - Bone broth contains minerals that your body can easily absorb: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and others. They contain chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine which reduce inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain.
Whether or not you suffer from chronic inflammation, this dietary advice will help you thrive. I'm not telling you to rid your pantry or fridge of all the things you love. Don't deprive yourself of comforts, but take steps to make new ones. Food is love. Food is medicine.
If you need more help managing pain, acupuncture and herbal medicine could be the answer. Book your appointment with me online today.