As someone diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases, I can attest to the trials and tribulations of inflammation. You don’t need to have an autoimmune disease to know or feel inflammation either. We all deal with it in some form. At times, our body will become inflamed if there is an injury that needs attention. But ongoing inflammation is not something you should have to deal with on a regular basis. In fact, it is not healthy for our body to be in a constant state of inflammation. Your diet is an important component in regulating that ongoing inflammation.
Inflammation in your body is a result of infection, cellular damage or injury. It is your body’s natural response to some form of trauma. When you have an injury, signals are sent throughout the body, like little messengers. These messengers call on the nutrients you need from your body and, with the help of immune cells, they all travel to the site where the damage has occurred to begin healing. Inflammation is a normal part of a healthy immune system. When inflammation can’t be turned off, becoming chronic, then it becomes a big problem in more ways than one.
Chronic inflammation can cause many diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, just to name a few. When you see or hear “itis” at the end of any health condition, such as arthritis, you know an inflammatory condition is the result. So what should someone do to alleviate the inflammation? Well, don’t think that taking a pill such as Aleve or Tylenol will help. Instead, follow an anti-inflammatory diet and see results that will last without the side effects of a pill.
Diet and Inflammation
Did you know that your diet plays a major role in the daily operation of your body? There is an intricate process that breaks down the nutrients from our food and puts those nutrients to work where they are needed. Many times, our body can’t turn off the inflammation because of the foods we are eating. That painful elbow or knee might be the direct result of what you are eating.
Our immune system will send out both pro and anti-inflammatory messengers called prostaglandins. The fats we consume in our daily diet create these messengers. Eating the wrong types of fat or the wrong balance of fats puts our body in a pro-inflammatory state. You have heard about eating more Omega-3 fats. Well, the reason they are so important is that they are essential for managing inflammation and helping to keep that pain away.
An anti-inflammatory diet needs to be low in sugar and refined grains. Studies show that higher insulin levels stimulate inflammation. When you eat a diet high in sugar and refined grains, you are feeding your body pro-inflammatories and causing yourself pain that can be avoided. High anti-oxidant rich vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will help keep those inflammatory agents in line. When following an anti-inflammatory diet, keep in mind it is just eating real food. There isn’t a magic pill or magic formula. By eating food that you prepare yourself using fresh fruits and vegetables, you are on your way to keeping that inflammation at bay.
Here are several tips to eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is the number one reason our body will begin to show pain. We need water to keep those joints fluid. You can read more about water here.
- Relax. Meditation has been shown to lower inflammation in the body.
- Add some spice (to your life). By incorporating some fresh and dried herbs and spices, you can combat inflammation. Try adding turmeric, ginger, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon and chilies to your dishes.
- Make sure you are using the right types of cooking oil. Choose oils that rich in monosaturated fatty acids such as olive, avocado and almond. You may also want to use saturated fatty acids such as coconut, butter or ghee if you are cooking at higher temperatures.
- Get more Omega-3 fatty acids. Choose meat such as beef and lamb that is grass-finished and buy pasture-raised poultry and eggs. Don’t forget fresh fish such as salmon, is rich in Omega-3’s. Make sure it’s not farmed.
- Eat foods that are rich in probiotics. Unhealthy digestion will contribute to
inflammation because poorly digested food will trigger an inflammatory response from our immune system. Eat sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and drink kombucha.
- Keep your added sugar intake below 5% of your total caloric intake per day. That is the equivalent of 25 g per day or about 6 tsp of sugar a day. Sugars raise blood insulin levels, which in turn promote inflammation.
- Cut out the coffee and drink more tea. Green and black tea help with inflammation with green tea being slightly more powerful.
- Eat your veggies. Eat at least 5 cups of fresh fruit and/or vegetables every day. Cherries have been shown to be one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods.