Anti-Inflammation Diet

The Anti-Inflammation Diet

 by: Angela Hermes, RD

What is inflammation?

The Anti-Inflammation DietUnder most circumstances, inflammation is our friend. It works as a powerful defense mechanism within the body. Inflammation is our immune system’s first response when our body is dealing with infection or injury.  For example, if you were to sprain your ankle or accidentally cut yourself, white blood cells rush to the area of injury to begin the healing process. These cells work to surround the vicinity, preventing it from infection, and work on healing.

When can inflammation be a bad thing?

While inflammation can be very beneficial during the occasional illness or injury, regular exposure to toxins, such as smoking, saturated animal fats, and exposure to allergens can lead to chronic or long-term inflammation. This type of inflammation is not healthy for our bodies, and can lead to many degenerative illnesses including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, acne, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and age-related macular degeneration. In fact, recent research is showing that many of the things we attribute to the unavoidable forces of aging from wrinkles to hypertension are actually the result of chronic inflammation.

The anti-inflammation lifestyle

The anti-inflammation lifestyle seeks to remove foods that cause harm to our bodies, and replace them with healthful choices, which can help our bodies to heal and to stay healthy. In addition to healthy eating, exercise, drinking water and reducing our exposure to other toxins are also important. In general, the anti-inflammation lifestyle encompasses the following simple steps:

1) Eliminate potential allergens from your diet

If you have food sensitivities or allergies, it is important to avoid those foods. Eating them will lead to inflammation, which can manifest itself in virtually any place in your body. Many people cannot tolerate dairy products or gluten, which is a protein found in wheat. Other top allergens include soy, nuts, corn, yeast, eggs, and shellfish. Fortunately there is a simple blood test available that can identify whether you have a food sensitivity. Please speak with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor if you are interested in a food sensitivity test.

2) Eat a well balanced diet that is full of healthy foods

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure that your body will stay healthy for years to come. Diets that consist of many types of foods are more likely to include all of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat), as well as the vitamins, minerals, and Phytonutrients we need to function well. Bodies that are deficient in any one of these important nutrients can begin to suffer from a variety of ailments.

3) Eat healthy fats

We need fats in our diet for a variety of reasons. They help us to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K, and also help to keep our nervous systems healthy. However, eating the wrong types of fats can lead to obesity and inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease and hypertension. Getting your fats from unrefined plant sources is the best way to know that your fats are healthy. Avocados, olives, nuts (including coconuts), and seeds are our best fat sources. Look for vegetable oils such as olive oil and coconut oil that are cold-pressed and unrefined.

4) Get your protein from healthy sources

Our bodies need protein for keeping muscles healthy and for growth and repair. Animal based foods including meat, milk, and cheese have been touted as being the optimal source of protein. However, we now know that these foods are also high in fat and cholesterol. You can get all of the protein you need from consuming a plant based diet, without the health, environmental, and ethical consequences of eating animal products. Your best bet is to get your protein from whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.

5) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Including lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet is a key factor in keeping your body healthy. Not only low in fat and calories, fruits and veggies are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds that help to prevent inflammation.

6) Avoid refined and processed foods

Refined foods include things like white flour, white rice, and white sugar. These foods are full of empty calories, meaning they do not provide you with health promoting nutrients, but still require energy from your body to be broken down. Processed foods are full of refined foods, as well as fat, sugar, and salt. Examples of processed foods include frozen meals, prepackaged meals, fried foods, cakes and cookies that have been baked, sodas, and fruit juice with sugar added, and more. It is best to avoid these foods as much as possible.

7) Get plenty of exercise

It is clear that the benefits of regular exercise are without end. However, over half of American adults do get not enough exercise and 25% of adults do not include physical activity during their leisure time. It is so important to get a moderate amount of exercise. Exercise can help to prevent obesity and a myriad of illnesses. Plus, exercise can be fun and helps us to feel well. Try to exercise for 20-30 minutes at least 5 days a week. This can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood after dinner.

8) Avoid toxins such as cigarettes

We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad for us. However, smoking can be a very difficult habit to break. Even if we don’t smoke, others around us may, which can make it difficult to avoid being exposed to smoke. Long term exposure to smoke can lead to inflammation, so it is best to reduce your exposure as much as you can. If your significant other smokes, ask them to smoke outside. If you are a smoker, try to quit. If you are not ready to quit smoking, make an effort to reduce how many cigarettes you smoke each day. Even reducing the amount you smoke by a few cigarettes each day reduces your risk factors for long term health problems.

Long term inflammation can wreak havoc on our health, especially as we get older. Fortunately, we are the ones are in control of what we eat, whether we smoke, and how often we exercise. Making healthy choices throughout your life will help to prevent chronic inflammation, as well as a host of other unwanted ailments. Remember that the quest to prevent inflammation is not a diet; it is a way of life.

 

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References

Black, Jessica. The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book. Berkeley: Publishers Group West, 2006.

Cannon, Christopher and Elizabeth Vierck. The Anti-Inflammation Diet. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.

 


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