When most people think of inflammation, they probably think of occasional joint pain or athletic injury. However, inflammation is far more insidious than occasional or situational aches or injury. While inflammation is part of the body’s immune system (the body attacks foreign bodies it considers a threat to the body), chronic inflammation damages the body. Chronic inflammation is a causal factor in many diseases suffered by Americans, including cancer, obesity and heart disease. It has also been linked to type 2 diabetes, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
In many cases controlling inflammation begins with diet. Everything we eat and drink either triggers, increases or decreases inflammation in the bodies. Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can cause inflammation, while a diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains protects against inflammation. Acidic foods, such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar and aspartame, also cause inflammation. Fresh fruits and vegetables, which are alkaline foods that restore pH balance, become very important for anyone struggling with inflammation.
Gluten may also be a culprit for those with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and arthritic conditions. Gluten causes inflammation of the gut for about 80 percent of the population. Stress, a sedentary lifestyle and high levels of emotional, physical or psychological stress (which raises cortisol levels), are also causal factors. Reducing stress and getting enough rest and sleep all combat inflammation. However, one of the best way to control inflammation is by changing the foods we eat.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, the following foods have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body:
- Fatty Fish. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to reduce inflammation. If you don’t like fish, consider fish-oil supplements.
- Whole Grains. Replacing refined grains like white bread, rice and pasta with whole grains can help control inflammation. Whole grains have more fiber and have been shown to reduce inflammation markers in the blood.
- Dark, Leafy Greens. Studies show vitamin E may protect the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. One of the best sources of vitamin E is dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale and collard greens.
- Nuts. Nuts are a great source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats. Although all nuts are beneficial and full of antioxidants, almonds and walnuts have a high amount of omega-3 fat.
- Soy. Studies suggest whole soy foods can help lower inflammation levels in women. The isoflavones in soy contain antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.
- Blueberries. Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant-rich fruits and a powerful inflammation fighter.
- Herbs and Spices. Several herbs and spices also have inflammation-fighting properties.
- Curcumin spice can act as an anti-inflammatory supplement.
- CMO, or cetyl myristoleate is often used for joint health.
- Fish oils help shift prostaglandins to less inflammatory types; similar supplements include krill oil and flaxseed oil.
- Frankincense is an herb that has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent.
- Indigo plant is used in Chinese medicine.
- Silymarin, a derivative from the milk thistle plant, has been used for centuries to treat liver ailments.
- Vitamin C and flavonoids have anti-inflammatory effects and are associated with improved endothelial function.
- Serrapeptase is an enzyme available over the counter and online.
Foods that Trigger Inflammation. There are also foods that trigger or aggravate inflammation in the human body. Sugar, simple carbohydrates, certain fatty acids, and oils fall within this category. A diet that minimizes the following foods will go a long way in combating inflammation and inflammatory related health conditions.
- Fried foods
- Refined carbohydrates (white bread, refined grains, and pasta)
- Soda and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Vegetable oils
- Red and processed meat
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
While inflammation is a natural and necessary defense in the human body, chronic inflammation can be deadly. Cultivating and maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle plays a major role in combating chronic inflammation.Jody Amato is a freelance writer, editor, and regular contributor to Eating in the Real with Renée™. To find out more about Jody visit her website at jodyedits.com.