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Nutrition & Inflammation

by Christina Wilson August 14, 2022

Nutrition & Inflammation

 

Our understanding of inflammation dates back to Roman times when the medical writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus described the four features of inflammation: heat, swelling, pain, and redness. Acute inflammation is a normal body reaction that signals the immune system that something is wrong, so it can fight off infection or heal injuries. Pain from a cut or fever is an example of acute.

Chronic inflammation is referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting for prolonged periods of several months to years. Long-term inflammation can be silent and created by many things, including ongoing stress, sleep deprivation, being overweight, yo-yo dieting, or high blood sugar. Inflammation increases the stress hormone cortisol, which produces belly fat. Chronic inflammation can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs and lead to diabetes, arthritis, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. In addition, this process can be bidirectional, as these conditions can cause chronic inflammation. 

While stress, genetics, environmental toxins, and various lifestyle factors can promote inflammation, scientific evidence shows that nutrition is also significant. For example, what you eat can affect your levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker for inflammations. 

Anti-inflammatory foods are the same foods that keep you healthy and promote longevity, so eating with inflammation in mind doesn't have to be extra complicated.

Anti-inflammatory powerhouses

  1. Load up on anti-inflammatory foods. 
  2. Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods. 
  3. Control blood sugar. 
  4. Make time to exercise.
  5. Lose excess weight.
  6. Manage stress.
  7. Optimize your sleep hygiene.

Fiber Research suggests eating a fiber-rich diet protects against inflammation. Fiber feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut, releasing substances that help lower inflammation levels. 

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Colorful produce is loaded with antioxidants. These potent chemicals act as the body's natural defense system, helping neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage cells. Research has shown that antioxidants in cherries and other red and purple fruits have an anti-inflammatory effect. Berries, in particular, contain polyphenol compounds purported to have anti-inflammatory activity in humans. *

Keep it spicy Spices have anti-inflammatory properties, including turmeric, ginger, basil, cinnamon, cayenne, and oregano. 

Oil change Enjoy avocados and olives and cook with avocado and olive oil.

Omega-3s Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in regulating the body's inflammatory process and can help control pain related to inflammation. Good sources include fish, especially salmon, tuna, and sardines. You can also obtain omega-3s from plant sources, including walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. One study found those who had the highest consumption of omega-3s had lower levels of the inflammatory protein: C-reactive protein (CRP). 

Curcumin offers various health benefits, including lower levels of inflammation related to arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Try adding turmeric to soups and stir-fries. If you don't like eating turmeric, you can find it in some nutritional supplements.

What to Restrict

Processed foods can cause inflammation. In addition to spiking blood sugar and thus insulin (which causes insulin resistance), some studies show they can alter the bacteria in our gut. That alteration can interact with our immune system and eventually trigger it, leading to chronic inflammation. Excess consumption of omega-6 oils can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. Refined sugar and starches increase blood sugar levels and may lead to bacterial overgrowth in the gut, which in turn causes inflammation.

Aside from eating a noninflammatory diet, other things you can do to reduce chronic inflammation include getting plenty of quality sleep, managing stress, and staying physically active. In addition, ten to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure daily can help fight inflammation as vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, and Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to inflammation. 

Anti-inflammatory Menu idea

  • For breakfast, try oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts. Or whip up a Superfoods protein powder smoothie with spinach, berries, and flaxseeds. 
  • Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables
  •  Have a salad with a variety of fresh vegetables and lean protein as your lunch
  • Enjoy turkey or black bean burgers with Brussel sprouts and baked sweet potato wedges, accompanied by an arugula salad for dinner.
  • Plain dark chocolate for dessert is considered an excellent anti-inflammatory choice! 

 

*Nightshade vegetables include eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and potatoes. People with arthritis are sometimes advised to avoid nightshade plants because they contain an alkaloid called solanine. Although most people tolerate solanine fine, solanine can worsen symptoms such as joint pain for people sensitive to it. If eliminating nightshades from the diet for a week or two brings no noticeable improvement, it suggests that solanine sensitivity is not a factor, so go ahead and eat those antioxidants. 

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Christina Wilson
Christina Wilson

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