Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, yet often overlooked when dealing with the management or treatment plan of a condition. Another aspect that gets overlooked is diet. But, before we look at how food can help reduce that nasty inflammation, lets first define inflammation.
There are two primary types:
Acute meaning short, sudden, sometimes severe, may last a few days or weeks.
Chronic meaning slow, creeping, mild to severe and develops over months and years.
We all know acute inflammation. The insane headache, the fever or the heat you feel when you get a mild infection or injury. These are all good indicators of acute inflammation. However this is usually short lived and is a physical manifestation of your body mobilizing a very effective defense strategy. It’s actually a good thing.
Our first reaction may be to stamp it out immediately and take pain medication. (It is after all very uncomfortable and it’s in our DNA to avoid pain). Pain and discomfort aside, this process is doing exactly what it needs to be doing. Our immune system is going into hyperdrive to speed up the healing process and get us up and running as quickly as possible.
THE QUESTION: If inflammation is good, why would it be at the root of diseases?
Excellent question, so glad you asked!
The problem is that when the inflammation doesn’t go away, it leads to chronic inflammation.
Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation isn’t always as obvious. I am tempted to use a heavy word like insidious but in truth it is, yet again, the body correctly reacting to its environment. Correct or not, long term low level inflammation can be very damaging to us. The immune system gets overworked and becomes like a toddler that’s just been given a few caffeine concentrated energy drinks. Anything and everything is fair game for an enthusiastic attack. Basically your immune system struggles to discern good from bad and can begin attacking healthy cells. This leads to disease.
This is all a very descriptive way of explaining inflammation. The folks at Harvard Medical School did a great job of explaining it from a medical perspective. If you are dealing with any form of inflammation or the diseases listed below, I highly recommend reading the article: Understanding Acute and Chronic Inflammation
Diseases Caused by Inflammation
Most of our health issues can be traced back to chronic inflammation, but here are some of the big ones. I would love to say these conditions are rare, but they are almost as common as the flu: (The list is also much longer, but these are the most common)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Intestinal Permeability (aka: Leaky Gut)
Inflammation can also cause general pain and discomfort that do not fall neatly under a diagnosis.
So What Does Food Have To Do With All Of This?
Food actually has a lot to do with it. There are many foods in our modern diet known to cause inflammation. Granted, these foods have varying levels of inflammatory effects. Much of the reaction depends on the person, but they cause inflammation none the less.
If you are battling with general malaise, pain or one of the many conditions linked to inflammation you may want to consider cutting some of these foods out. (See below)
The good news is that there are also foods that help our body fight this inflammation and they are readily available, we just need to know the difference. To help you, here are some foods to avoid and foods to include that can assist you on your anti-inflammatory journey.
Obviously if you have an allergy or sensitivity to any of the foods you will want to skip them, but you get the idea.
These foods are all natural and are abundant in the nutrients and compounds our bodies need to optimize health.
The foods we need to exclude are vastly different. They are often devoid of nutrients and made from one or two very common, cheap and exploited ingredients. Here are some foods to exclude if you are wanting to avoid or reduce inflammation:A Little More on GMO Foods
Each country allows for various levels of chemical exposure or genetic modification to food items. It is always best to investigate your region or country’s policies if you are looking to incorporate clean or organic eating.
Just for fun here’s a link to one of my favorite ads about the amount of chemicals found in food. It’s called the Worlds Most Skippable Ad. You most likely will only watch the first few minutes, but it’s enough to illustrate the point.
Essentially a diet that focuses on fresh whole foods is the ultimate way to optimize your health.