Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, yet often overlooked when dealing with the management or treatment plan. Another aspect that gets overlooked is diet. But, before we look at how anti-inflammatory food can help reduce that nasty inflammation, let’s 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. For example, the insane headache, the fever or the heat you feel when you get a mild infection or injury. These are all excellent indicators of acute inflammation. However, this is usually short-lived and physically manifests your body, mobilizing a very effective defence strategy. So 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). But, 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 apparent. It’s tempting 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 then 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. Your immune system struggles to discern good from bad and can begin attacking healthy cells; this leads to disease.
While this is all a very descriptive way of explaining inflammation, the folks at Harvard Medical School did a great job 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 nonetheless.
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 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.
FOODS TO INCLUDE
If you have an allergy or sensitivity to any 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.
Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, green foods are a sure-fire way of combatting inflammation.
This includes: kale, watercress, spinach, microgreens, cabbage, rocket, mustard greens, bok choy, beet greens
Also known as ‘good fats’ we now know that they form an important part of a balanced diet.
This includes: avocados, olive oil, salmon, egg yolks, olives, nuts & seeds, coconut oil
Rich in antioxidants (specifically sulforaphane), shown to be potent at fighting compounds causing inflammation.
This includes: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, radish, turnips, collard greens
They are packed with fibre vitamins and are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods available. They are also so easy to incorporate into your diet.
This includes: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, blackberries.
An anti-inflammatory remedy as old as time itself. Our ancestors have been using herbal teas before science was around to prove it was effective.
This includes: green tea, rooibos tea, turmeric & ginger tea, dandelion tea, chamomile tea.
FOODS TO AVOID
The foods we need to exclude are vastly different. They are often devoid of nutrients and made from one or two ubiquitous, cheap and exploited ingredients.
Here are some foods to exclude if you want to avoid or reduce inflammation
Gluten isn’t a problem for everyone, but it is one of the primary causes of gut inflammation.
This includes: wheat, spelt, rye, barley, pasta, cereal, cakes, cookies, beer
These are highly processed fats that have been exposed to high heat or synthetic fats.
This includes: margarine, fats too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, fats found in processed or fried foods, fats known as trans fats.
Besides playing havoc on your insulin and energy levels, refined sugar offers very little nutritionally speaking.
This includes: cookies, cakes, savoury and sweet sauces, low-fat foods, premade beverages
While you might not be allergic, you may have a sensitivity causing inflammation. Please consult a healthcare professional to be sure and avoid self-diagnosis.
This includes: eggs, peanuts, nightshades, dairy, soy, gluten
GMO foods are controversial, and perhaps an area to rather err on the side of caution.
This includes: corn, soybeans, potato, canola, sugar beets, cotton (cottonseed oil)
A Little More on GMO Foods
Each country allows for various chemical exposure levels or genetic modification to food items. Therefore, it is always best to investigate your region or country’s policies if you want to incorporate clean or organic eating.
Just for fun, here’s a link to one of my favourite ads about the number 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 focused on fresh whole foods is the ultimate way to optimize your health.