Before we talk about Inflammation and diet, I must point out the perfect diet for every human being does not exist. We are all different and the optimal diet for you might not work for anyone else. Some obvious health-impacting choices exist of course: Doughnuts are bad and alcohol in excess will cause you serious problems. But the key to diet is to listen to your body, seek professional guidance, and above all, try to eliminate inflammation.
What is inflammation and why is chronic inflammation a symptom of the modern diet? Read on to find out more about anti-inflammation diets. It’s simpler than you think.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation in the body is a response to infection, irritants, and pathogens. Anything that harms the body produces a reaction which is part of the immune system’s healing process. Inflammation is, in fact, a good thing, used by the body as a response to harmful stimuli. Acute inflammation, as it’s called, helps our bodies to heal. Our bodies are under constant attack from viruses and bacteria. Inflammation is part of the response to these attacks.
Chronic inflammation on the other hand, is a long-term condition where the immune response is harmful to our systems. Many of the foods we eat daily are prime causes of chronic inflammation. Anyone suffering from long-term health conditions should examine their diet as a matter of course. A nutritional therapist can help you discover which foods might cause auto-immune reactions in your body. Eliminate these foods from your diet to bring the body back to a healthy state.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
For many people, the foods on this list will not cause them problems. In one sense they are lucky. That said, eliminating or reducing intake of the foods on the first list will improve your health even if you experience no symptoms of inflammation.
This is the big one. Sugar and inflammation go hand in hand. Everyone should have heard by now about the negative health effects of sugar, not to mention the food industry’s less than truthful statements about sugar v fat.
Sugar upsets the pH balance of your body. Our blood pH is slightly acidic and the bodily systems work to maintain this level.
Inflammation occurs when an acidic environment in the blood causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress results from the body’s inability to produce enough antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals. Refined sugar is literally toxic to the body, creating oxidative stress that can lead to cancer, chronic fatigue, heart failure, and inflammatory diseases.
Sugar is also one of the prime culprits in skin problems such as acne, wrinkles, and sagging skin. The inflammation response to sugar can be extreme, producing enzymes that damage the skin’s structure.
Unfortunately for us, the food industry has invented some clever ways of disguising sugar in foods, making it difficult to know which food products to avoid.
The following names are pseudonyms for sugar. The effect on the body is the same in any case. Avoid if possible.
- Carob syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Corn Syrup
2. Trans Fats
Think of trans fat as unnatural fat. Most trans fats are produced in large scale by food industries and all contribute to negative health effects. Trans fats are present in fast foods, snack products, margarine, and cookies. These products contribute to the immune system’s over-activity, which manifests itself as inflammation.
Read food labels and avoid partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
We all know about the well-known negative effects of alcohol: weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
But alcohol is a major contributor to inflammation in the body. In moderation, alcohol such as wine has anti-inflammatory effects but alcohol is an irritant. Leaky gut occurs when changes in the intestinal function allow foods and other compounds to pass out of the gut and into the bloodstream. Alcohol abuse is a major contributor to leaky gut syndrome in the body. When food particles enter the bloodstream inflammation occurs as a response.
4. Red Meat
Processed red meat such as burgers and sausages are the main culprits.
While high-quality red meat can be an important part of your diet thanks to the healthy fatty acids and nutrient profile, meat has the potential to cause inflammation. Certain compounds found in red meat, such as Neu5Gc, react with antibodies in our bodies, resulting in chronic inflammation. While hard evidence has yet to be found, eating organic, burn or char-free, grass-fed meat is preferable to feed-lot, BBQ meats. Eat the highest quality, free-range and organic red meats possible.
Be careful with the ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. A diet with too much Omega 6 can cause inflammation as the body requires a healthy balance of these two essential fatty acid types. A ratio of 4:1 is ideal.
Sources of Omega 6 include:
- Grape seed oil
- Corn oil
- Sesame seeds
Sources of Omega 3 include:
- Fish, in particular oily fish like Salmon and Mackerel
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods That Fight Inflammation
Containing high levels of antioxidants, berries of all types help protect our bodies against inflammation. Flavonoids are the antioxidants present in blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Most of these nutrient-rich berries are widely available in Ireland. There’s no excuse not to add these delicious foods to your diet. Add them to yoghurt, cereals, smoothies or as a snack on their own. We don’t encourage consumption of cakes but if you must bake a cake, why not use berries instead of sugar as a sweetener.
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
Eat your greens! This age-old advice is still valid. Greens, especially leafy greens are akin to superfoods in the battle against inflammation.
Spinach, kale, swiss chard are all high in antioxidants and combined with oily fish, berries or nuts can be beneficial in combatting inflammation.
3. Oily Fish
Wild-caught salmon is the king of protein foods that help reduce inflammation. The potent Omega-3 fatty acids present in large amounts in this fish combat inflammation and help with tissue repair.
Anti Inflammatory Drinks
1. Apple cider vinegar
Drinking apple cider vinegar in diluted form every day can help with detoxification. It can help balance the body’s pH levels and balance blood sugar levels. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has an alkaline pH and can help prevent our blood becoming too acidic.
The best kind of ACV by far is the unpasteurized, raw, organic type. The positive health effects of an unprocessed ACV surpass those of the cheaper off-the-shelf versions in supermarkets. Fermenting apples used to make ACV produce prebiotics. Prebiotics act on healthy bacteria already in the guy as opposed to probiotics which introduce new bacteria.
Add a small amount of ACV to water and drink 20 minutes before a meal. This will promote good digestion and help reduce inflammation in the gut.
2. Turmeric Ginger Tea
Both Ginger and Turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties as well as being digestive aids. Ginger has many health-promoting properties. It improves gastrointestinal health, contains anti-cancer compounds, and thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties can even reduce muscle pain.
Turmeric’s major compound is curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. Curcumin has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
Making Turmeric Ginger tea is easy. Add 1 or 2 spoonfuls of turmeric powder or grated turmeric root to a cup. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger root. Add a pinch of pepper. Add boiling water and let steep for 4-6 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste.
Would you like to know more about nutrition and anti-inflammatory diets? Why not try a Nutritional Therapy session to find out what dietary adjustments can bring about big changes in your life.