Tips On How Your Diet Can Reduce Chronic Inflammation
We have all heard the adage “food is medicine,” but there is more evidence to that saying than we give credit to, especially if you suffer from chronic pain symptoms. The caveat is that diet alone is not the most effective way to reduce inflammation. A combination of diet, exercises, and stress control are what make up an effective pain management regimen (we will get more into this in a bit). For now, understand that, unlike fad diets that have their own set of rigid rules and regulations, a diet that reduces inflammation isn’t even really a diet at all. It is more of a lifestyle, or rather an improvement to your overall eating habits. So even though we will use the word diet throughout this article, do your best not to associate it with self-deprecating regimens that fitness gurus preach.
There is strong evidence that diets high in inflammatory foods (e.g. vegan and Mediterranean diets) have been shown to greatly reduce pain symptoms associated with chronic illnesses; for example fibromyalgia, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Thus we would like to give you a quick overview as to what inflammation is as well as provide a few tips that have been shown to reduce a prolonged, or rather abnormal inflammatory response.
What Is Inflammation & How Can A Diet Reduce Inflammation?
Inflammation is a biological response that our body’s produce as a protective measure against pathogens, irritants, or damaged cells. The goal of an inflammatory response is to eliminate the cause of the damage, initiate cell repair, and remove the immune system’s mediators responsible for the initial inflammatory response. Most everyone is familiar with the symptoms of inflammation. Symptoms can range from swelling, tenderness, redness, and mild pain. However, when circumstances become abnormal, as in many chronic illnesses, the body’s immune response does not return to normal and an inflammatory response can be exacerbated where severe pain and chronic conditions are triggered. For example, congestive heart failure or atherosclerosis can be caused by high cholesterol, diabetic neuropathy can be caused by hyperglycemia, and rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by autoimmune attacks. All of these examples have in common an abnormal situation that produced severe inflammation, ironically causing more damage to the tissue.
When Drugs Alone Don’t Work
There is a broad range of treatments that can treat chronic diseases, from pharmaceuticals to homeopathic alternatives. However, both of those examples just mentioned do not work for everyone, and they too have their fair share of side effects. Along that spectrum is a treatment that may not only reduce the symptoms associated with chronic pain; it is also one of the more organically natural approaches available. That approach would be an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet takes on both aspects of a vegan and a Mediterranean diet where these foods work by reducing cholesterol, blood sugar levels, insulin levels, cortisol levels, and other irritants that can lead to chronic inflammation.
Tips For Reducing Inflammation
As we mentioned above, although this is termed an anti-inflammatory diet, the tips below are easy changes to add to your daily regimen; thus do not look at these tips as rules; look at them as a lifestyle change. Do your best to implement some, if not all of these tips after you have consulted with your healthcare provider:
Reduce Red Meat: Red meat is high in saturated fat as well as some traces of trans fats. Both of these fats trigger fat tissue inflammation, which is not only an indicator for heart disease but it also worsens arthritis inflammation. Try to eat plant-based, chicken, or fish as your main dish. Certain types of fish are packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids so try to add in fish a couple times a week.
Cut Out The Sugar: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. Thus it would be wise to cut sugar out of your lifestyle.
Reduce The Refined Carbohydrates: White flour products (breads, rolls, crackers) white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, French fries) and many cereals are all known to be refined carbohydrates. A study done by the Scientific American, found that processed carbohydrates are more readily used over fats as the main cause of obesity and other chronic conditions. To keep things short, refined carbohydrates have been shown to directly stimulate inflammation. Opt for whole grains, including barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt and wheat.
Eat Specific Types of Fruits: Cherries, berries, watermelon, and grapes each have their own level of antioxidants; for example, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), anthocyanins and carotenoids. These antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals that promote inflammation. These fruits high in antioxidants have also been shown to help prevent heart disease and certain cancers as well. Try your best to add a couple of servings of these fruits into your day.
Eat The Right Kinds of Vegetables: Consume eight to nine servings of vegetables each day — make a couple of those servings fruit, if you like. The best vegetables that promote anti-inflammation are cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), soybeans, bell peppers, carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes for they are all high in vitamins and antioxidants that are responsible for eliminating free radicals; a major pro-inflammatory irritant.
We must stress how important it is to consult your doctor before implementing any of the above tips into your daily meal plan. Your healthcare provider can help you pick and choose which anti-inflammatory foods will work best for you. We hope this quick overview of what inflammation is and how diet can reverse its effects will be beneficial for you. It is worth noting specific foods can promote or shut down the inflammatory cycle. For instance, simple carbohydrates promote it, while vegetables shut it down. So remember although there are no magic foods, putting the right combination of foods into your daily lifestyle can produce remarkable results.
What foods are included in your anti-inflammation diet? Please let us know!
Tags: chronic inflammation, chronic pain, dairy, fibromyalgia, fruits and vegetables, healthy diet, inflammation, joint pain, Mediterranean diet, red meat, whole grains
- Esposito K, Chiodini P, Maiorino MI, Bellastella G, Panagiotakos D, Giugliano D. Which diet for prevention of type 2 diabetes? A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Endocrine 2014;47:107–116
- Esposito K, Maiorino MI, Petrizzo M, Bellastella G, Giugliano D. The effects of a Mediterranean diet on the need for diabetes drugs and remission of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes: follow-up of a randomized trial. Diabetes Care 2014;37:1824–1830
- Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, et al.; PREDIMED Study Investigators. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med 2013;368:1279–1290
- Li S, Shin HJ, Ding EL, van Dam RM. Adiponectin levels and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 2009;302:179–188
- Wang X, Bao W, Liu J, et al. Inflammatory markers and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Care 2013;36:166–175