Fighting Inflammation with Food
Why is an anti-inflammatory diet helpful?
Your immune system becomes activated when anything foreign, such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical, enters your body.
This often triggers a process called inflammation. Inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protects your health.
But sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That's when inflammation can become your enemy, and an anti-inflammatory diet is your ally.
Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.
Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Doctors and people alike are learning that traditional NSAIDs are not the only way to fight inflammation caused by an injury.
Many professionals are turning to more holistic methods by providing nutritional protocols to help people reduce pain without damaging their internal organs.
Some foods can actually cause inflammation and should be avoided.
And, there are four Anti-Inflammatory powerhouse foods that not only pack nutritional force but can really do an amazing job of reducing your pain by reducing inflammation!
Foods that Cause Inflammation
Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- French fries and other fried foods
- soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
- margarine, shortening, and lard
The Health Risks of Inflammatory Foods
Not surprisingly, eating these foods on a regular basis is considered bad for our health.
Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation.
It's not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.
Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn't the sole driver.
Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above the increased caloric intake.
Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and with it, chronic disease.
Particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, protective compounds found in plants, help reduce inflammation.
Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well. Just don't overload your coffee with sugar.
To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet.
If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of an anti-inflammatory diet, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.
A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases but also for improving mood and overall quality of life.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
A smart goal to up your nutrition game is to eat a salad a day. Salads are an integral part of the fight against inflammation.
Aim for dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and collards, all of which pack nutrients, most notably lutein, folate, and vitamin K, that slow the simmer of inflammation.
These veggies are nutrient dynamos that help fight inflammatory conditions through phytonutrients.
A study in the journal Neurology in 2018 found that eating just one serving per day of greens was associated with slower cognitive decline in aging adults.
Research shows that every green offers unique anti-inflammatory properties, so mix things up and get a variety in your diet for the biggest range of benefits.
How this works is the phytonutrients force your liver to release various enzymes to break down the inflammatory toxins in your body.
Eating wild-caught salmon or other fatty fish, like sardines and mackerel, a few times a week delivers healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids have been found to turn off pro-inflammatory genes in your body and rev cells' ability to scrub themselves of harmful components.
Not a fan of seafood? Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, ground flaxseed or walnuts to get plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
Due to its high levels of omega-3 oils inside the fish, Salmon allows the body to better recover from injury.
Just be sure that your fish is from a wild-caught source so that it has the proper fat balance.
There's been a lot of talk about specifically loading up on turmeric.
Turmeric is a root that has a brilliant marigold color and also has an amazing ability to fight inflammation.
The active ingredient in the turmeric root is called curcumin.
Curcumin has shown to be incredibly beneficial in treating the symptoms of the following:
- Crohn's disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Stomach Ulcers
However, research isn't conclusive when it comes to the benefits of eating it as a spice.
For that reason, it's best to focus on including a range of dried herbs and spices in your diet, rather than relying on the power of one to do all the work.
Keep turmeric, but also include cloves, peppermint, oregano, ginger, parsley, cinnamon, pepper, and garlic.
Find opportunities to add spices and get into the habit of using them daily.
Ways to add them into meals naturally include stirring a teaspoon of cinnamon into your oatmeal, topping cherry tomatoes with olive oil and oregano, and adding turmeric to water to cook quinoa.
Powerful in polyphenols, olives have been known to lower blood levels of C-reactive protein.
This ability is a key marker for determining the likelihood of inflammation throughout the body.
If you haven’t started cooking with olive oil yet, now’s the time!
It’s incomparably rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that helps to minimize inflammation.
Ditch the vegetable oil for healthier options like olive, grapeseed, and avocado oils.
Use extra virgin olive oil in cooking and on salads and get your food working faster for you. It’s good for your heart and your brain, too.
Simple Choices Make a Difference
When you're about to head to the grocery store, remind yourself that fresh is best because that’s when nutrients are at their highest. And keep these healthier choices in mind when dining out, too.
Skip the carne asada burrito and go for sushi: fish, ginger, and garlic all in one spot.
We all should eat healthy, but when our food can help treat swelling and inflammation, it makes even more sense to eat healthy.
Coupled with other treatments and therapies, a diet rich in foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, could keep inflammation down so you can start living pain-free.
Visit Arrowhead Clinic For More Nutrition Information
Understanding how to naturally reduce an inflammatory process through proper nutritional choices an anti-inflammatory diet is not only empowering but can increase our quality of life as we age.
Along with an anti-inflammatory diet, chiropractic care can also help your body remain healthy and pain-free.
Chiropractors focus on helping the body in natural and healthy ways. This also includes nutrition.
If you would like to talk to an expert chiropractor and find a nutrition plan that works for you, contact the fantastic team of Medical Doctors at Arrowhead Clinics.
The Arrowhead Clinics have been serving their communities for nearly 40 years, and they are ready to help you today.
During your free consultation, they will perform a physical exam and go over your entire medical history.
Based on their findings, they will develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs that can include tips on a healthier anti-inflammatory diet.
For a Free Chiropractic Consultation, please click the banner below.
Read our previous blog: 5 Ways a Chiropractic Adjustment Makes You Better