Inflammation Is Vital – Wait What?
Yep, you read that right. Inflammation is vital to healing damaged areas of your body. But, if it persists over long periods of time, there may be a problem.
The foods you eat can affect inflammation in your system. Your body recognises anything foreign in your system such as pollen, chemicals or a microbe, and it triggers a response. It responds with inflammation to protect you from these foreign invaders.
However, when inflammation continues even when there is no threat from foreign invasion, it becomes a problem. There are many health conditions associated with inflammation. Depression, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes among others all have links to chronic inflammation in your body.
In this post we’ll look at foods that reduce inflammation, diseases that show up from too much inflammation and the best ways to manage inflammation naturally.
Generally you don’t see the benefits from following an anti inflammatory diet as you do with say a weight loss diet. However, following an anti inflammatory diet brings benefits not only to your current state of health but for your future health too helping protect you from some of the most common health issues we face.
But first things first…….
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to illness and injury. It sends a signal to your system to defend against foreign microbes such as bacteria and viruses, and to heal damaged tissue. If you did not have this response, you would not heal from illnesses and wounds. It becomes a problem when your system has inflammation for too long or when inflammation occurs in your body when there is no problem.
Your body responds with acute inflammation when you get a cut, sprain your ankle or have a sore throat. This is your body’s response to a local problem. Signs of acute inflammation include swelling, pain, heat in the area and sometimes temporary loss of function in the area.
What causes a damaged area to swell and turn red, is the blood vessels dilating to increase the blood flow. White blood cells flood the area to help heal the injured or damaged part of your body. The damaged tissue sends out signals for help.
Then your body responds by sending in hormones, nutrients and immune cells to repair the damaged area. Prostaglandins, a substance similar to hormones, causes fever and pain that is a natural part of healing. Under normal circumstances inflammation subsides gradually as the area heals.
Chronic inflammation can have long-term negative effects when your body produces constant low levels of inflammation. This type of inflammation can contribute to developing other health conditions.
When you have this type of inflammation, your body thinks there is in an internal threat to your system even though you are not sick or have not injured yourself.
The immune system responds by flooding the area with white blood cells. But there is nothing for them to do and they have nowhere to go. If this happens, they can attack healthy parts of your body instead.
10 Health Issues Chronic Inflammation Can Cause
- Heart Attack
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Bowel Disease
Suffering with chronic inflammation can have debilitating consequences for some people. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis can develop. This occurs when there is a disruption to the ability to turn the substances that fight inflammation on and off. In turn this causes inappropriate inflammation in different parts of your body.
When your body is not sending “off ” signals, your system keeps releasing immune cells when there is no need for them. This can cause all sorts of damage resulting in the rise of adverse health conditions.
In our current environment, we often live with low levels of inflammation. Cigarette smoke, air pollution, stress, and chemicals in our food and water are all triggers our bodies have unwanted intruders. Our lifestyles and environment are complicating the body’s immune responses. And also, any other signs of problems that may be present in your system.
Researchers believe chronic fatigue syndrome involves chronic inflammation with studies of blood samples taken from sufferers showing inflammation is a powerful contributing factor in chronic fatigue syndrome.
The alternative name for chronic fatigue syndrome is “myalgic encephalitis”. The word encephalitis means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. So inflammation is already recognized as a major contributing factor of this illness.
Another disease linked to chronic inflammation is cancer. It can cause damage to your DNA which can cause some types of cancer. Inflammation is a complex issue in cancer. Early activation of inflammatory responses can help your body fight off cancer. If inflammation becomes chronic, it can help the cancer cells spread.
Other research suggests inflammation may also be an underlying cause of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. A large genetic study compared people with and without Alzheimer’s. It found that many of the changes to their DNA occurred in the genes linked to the inflammatory pathways in the body.
Doctors can test you for C-reactive protein (CRP) as often low levels of inflammation does not have symptoms. CRP indicates the level of inflammation in the bloodstream. These tests can detect infection and chronic inflammation in your system.
Chronic inflammation is also linked to causing or complicating diabetes and obesity.
How To Reduce Inflammation In The Body
As you can see, it’s no wonder the topic of inflammation is so widespread within the health media at the moment. It seems inflammation contributes to so many of the common diseases we deal with today.
Your lifestyle, diet and environment can all contribute to chronic inflammation. So, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle to reduce the inflammation in your system. Also, as you get older, your inflammatory controls can weaken which is even more reason to provide your body with the support it needs.
What Is An Anti-inflammatory Diet?
One of the most powerful ways to fight inflammation is as simple as choosing what you buy from the grocery store. Choosing the right foods can reduce your risk of inflammation. But choose the wrong foods and you can exacerbate it while setting your body up for a higher risk of disease.
The best way to eat is a diet that follows the Mediterranean diet. Eat more fatty fish like salmon, herrings and sardines. Include plentiful multicolored fresh vegetables and fruit. Adding healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and moderate amounts of grass fed butter and nuts.
Data strongly suggests the phytochemicals found in fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts are beneficial due to their antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.
All of these nutritious foods will help protect you from the possible damage chronic inflammation can cause. Limit your red meat intake and drink red wine in moderation.
Top 11 Foods To Fight Inflammation
Apart from being delicious, broccoli is nutritious. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable as are brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower which should also be included in an anti inflammatory diet. These are high in antioxidants and have links to decreasing the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, which is a powerful antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory effects.
Chili and bell peppers are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Chilis contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid which can reduce inflammation in your system. Bell peppers have quercetin which is an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation.
#3. Dark Chocolate And Cocoa
Dark chocolate is delicious and packed full of inflammation fighting antioxidants. But you have to choose chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa to get the anti-inflammatory effects. Chocolate is rich in flavanols which help to keep the cells that line your arteries healthy. A small amount of dark chocolate each day or so is now considered healthy.
Grapes are jam packed with anthocyanins that are known for reducing inflammation. They can also help reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, heart disease and eye problems. They also contain resveratrol which can also reduce the risk of inflammation and other conditions.
#5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is among the healthiest fats you can include in your diet. It plays a huge role in the Mediterranean diet and is rich in monounsaturated fats. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has much greater benefits than other olive oils that are more refined. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is best used drizzled on salads and vegetables rather than using it for cooking.
Tomatoes are jam packed with nutritional benefits. They are high in lycopene, potassium and vitamin C, which all contain anti-inflammatory properties. Cook them into healthy sauces and include them in stews and you can increase the amount of goodness your body absorbs.
Avocados are truly one of nature’s superfoods. They contain fibre, monounsaturated fats, magnesium and potassium. Avocados also have tocopherols and carotenoids which have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer. A healthy fat you can indulge in, try spreading avocado on some corn cakes or multigrain toast for breakfast. Together with a boiled or poached free range egg, you have a fast and healthy balanced breakfast.
#7. Fatty Fish
Fish high in fats are a fantastic source of protein and are packed full of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish like salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. When your body metabolizes these, they have anti-inflammatory properties.
Berries may be small but they pack a healthy punch. They are full of minerals, vitamins and fibre. The most common berries include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. They also contain antioxidants that can boost your immunity and reduce inflammation. Try to eat organic versions as berries grown by conventional means are highly sprayed.
Mushrooms such as portobello and shiitake are low in calories and are rich in B vitamins, copper and selenium. They also contain antioxidants that protect your system from inflammation. But cooking them can reduce their nutritional effect. Eat them raw or lightly cooked to get the full benefits of mushrooms. Mushrooms sliced thinly are great in your salad.
#10. Green Tea
Green tea is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, cancer and other conditions. It also protects your system from damage. Try buying fresh loose leaves and brewing your tea in a pot rather than using teabags.
Make the effort to go to your local Chinatown area where you’ll get a great range of fresh green tea leaves. But remember, green tea also contains caffeine. So if you are caffeine sensitive or trying to cut down on caffeine you may need to limit your consumption.
Turmeric is in amazing spice with an earthy flavour often used in curries. It is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can reduce inflammation in diabetes, arthritis and other conditions. Adding fresh, cracked pepper with turmeric greatly enhances the benefits of turmeric when you use it cooking.
It is not turmeric itself, but curcumin a compound it contains that has anti inflammatory properties. Several human studies show evidence of anti inflammatory activity in curcumin.
If you can find some fresh turmeric, perhaps from your local Asian grocer you can make a healthy drink. Simply chop some turmeric and a few slices of lime and add it to a jug of filtered water to drink throughout the day.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Now you have a list of 10 delicious anti inflammatory foods you can easily start incorporating into your regular diet. However, you also need to start eliminating or at the very least reducing the inflammatory foods you eat.
This includes the processed foods in your diet especially those high in trans and saturated fats. The main foods you should avoid when you want to reduce inflammation in your system include:
- Drinks packed full of sugars
- Trans fats in fried foods
- Processed meat
- Foods containing gluten
- Vegetable and soybean oils
- Corn, safflower and sunflower oils
- White pasta
- White bread
- Too much alcohol
- Snack foods such as chips
- Sugar laden desserts
- Carbohydrate laden foods
- Red meat particularly conventionally raised.
- Margarine and shortening.
These foods can increase inflammation and chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contribute to putting on weight and obesity which is also a risk factor that causes inflammation.
How To Make Changing To An Anti inflammatory Diet Easy
For some people making the move to eating an anti-inflammatory diet can be a big adjustment. Here are some diet tips to help make the transition to an anti-inflammatory diet easier.
You don’t have to do everything all at once. Just gradually start doing a couple of things on this list each week. Before long you’ll be eating way better and feeling way better too.
- Reduce the amount of fast food you eat
- Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit
- Drink more water
- Eliminate sugary drinks from your diet, your waistline will thank you too.
- Add supplements such as Omega-3 and turmeric to your diet.
- Plan your meals and snacks in advance, and take a shopping list with you when you go shopping.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Take some regular exercise, even a twenty minute walk each day will help.
- Eat the right amount of calories for your situation and do not overeat.
Putting It All Together
Changing your food habits to an anti-inflammatory diet by introducing foods that reduce inflammation help to prevent potential health problems and reduce the need for chemical medications. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help your current health situation whatever it may be AND keep you healthy into the future.
As always, please feel free to leave a comment.