29 Nov Inflammation: What You Need to Know
Inflammation is a natural process—but it is by no means comfortable.
Brought on by your body’s biological response to harmful invaders—such as disease-causing pathogens—inflammation helps your body heal and defend itself.
Helpful as it can be, inflammation can also be very harmful if it becomes a chronic condition.
Chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or years—and may lead to various health problems.
That said, there are many things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury.
Classic signs of acute (short-term) inflammation include:
- loss of function
On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation often occurs inside your body without any noticeable symptoms. This type of inflammation can drive illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and cancer.
When doctors look for inflammation, they test for a few markers in your blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP)?Protein produced by your liver, homocysteine?A common amino acid in your blood, TNF alpha?Tumour necrosis factor, and IL-6?Interleukin 6 acts as both a pro-inflammatory cytokine and an anti-inflammatory myokine.
What Causes Inflammation?
Certain lifestyle factors—especially habitual ones—can promote inflammation.
- Consuming high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is particularly harmful.
- Scientists have also hypothesized that consuming a lot of refined carbs, such as white bread, may have an extremely negative impact.
- Processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats have been shown to promote inflammation and damage the endothelial cells that line your arteries.
- The FDA has deemed trans fats no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe,” so most foods should no longer have trans fats.
- Vegetable oils used in many processed foods are another possible culprit.
- Regular consumption may result in an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which some scientists believe may promote inflammation.
- Excessive intake of alcohol and processed meat can also have inflammatory effects on your body.
- Additionally, an inactive lifestyle that includes a lot of sitting and lack of exercise is a major non-dietary factor that can promote inflammation.
The Role of Your Diet
If you want to reduce inflammation, base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants—and avoid highly processed products with lots of added sugar and oils.
One diet considered anti-inflammatory is the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers, such as CRP and IL-6.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods are associated with an increased risk of chronic inflammation.
- Refined carbs: White bread, white pasta, etc.
- Desserts: Cookies, candy, cake, and ice cream
- Processed meat: Hot dogs, bologna, sausages, etc.
- Processed snack foods: Crackers, chips, and pretzels
- Certain oils: Processed seed and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption
Foods to Eat
Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.
- Fruit: Especially deeply colored fruits like blueberries, pomegranates, grapes, and cherries
- High fat fruits: Avocados and olives
- Healthy fats: Olive oil and avocado oil
- Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies
- Nuts: Almonds and other nuts
- Peppers: Bell peppers and chili peppers
- Chocolate: Dark chocolate
- Spices: Turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, etc.
- Tea: Green tea
- Red wine: Studies suggest that a compound called resveratrol in wine has anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit health
One-Day Sample Menu
It’s easier to stick to a diet when you have a plan. Here’s a great sample menu to start you out, featuring a day of anti-inflammatory meals:
- 3-egg omelet with 1 cup (110 grams) of mushrooms and 1 cup (67 grams) of kale, cooked in olive oil
- 1 cup (225 grams) of cherries
- Green tea and/or water
- Grilled salmon on a bed of mixed greens with olive oil and vinegar
- 1 cup (125 grams) of raspberries, topped with plain Greek yogurt and chopped pecans
- Unsweetened iced tea, water
- Bell pepper strips with guacamole
- Chicken curry with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli
- Red wine (5–10 ounces or 140–280 ml)
- 1 ounce (30 grams) of dark chocolate (preferably at least 80% cocoa)
Other Helpful Tips
Once you have your healthy menu organized, make sure you incorporate these other good habits of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
- Supplements: Certain supplements may reduce inflammation, including fish oil and curcumin.
- Regular exercise: Exercise can decrease inflammatory markers and your risk of chronic disease.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is extremely important. Researchers have found that a poor night’s sleep increases inflammation.
Rewards of an Improved Lifestyle
An anti-inflammatory diet, along with exercise and good sleep, may provide many benefits:
- Improvement of symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders
- Decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, and other diseases
- Reduction in inflammatory markers in your blood.
- Better blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
- Improvement in energy and mood
Chronic inflammation is unhealthy and can lead to disease.
In many cases, your diet and lifestyle drive inflammation or worsen it.
You should aim to choose anti-inflammatory foods for optimal health and well-being, lowering your risk of disease and improving your quality of life.
This article was brought to you by the Proactive Health Management Plan in partnership with Healthline.