Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancers, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, dermatitis, arthritis and any other condition that ends in ‘itis’.
What characteristic do these diseases have in common? And how can the anti-inflammation diet help you both manage and prevent them?
Louise Comerford is currently completing a MSc in nutrition and she is keen to share her enthusiasm and knowledge with people. With her passion for food, science and the healthiness of body and mind, she hopes to inspire others to make small changes with huge benefits to their lives.
Chronic inflammation has been named and shamed as a culprit for increasing the risk in a large amount of devastating and increasingly common diseases. It has even been speculated to be one of the main factors behind early aging signs and why some people just can’t lose weight.
Unfortunately, it is not obvious if you have chronic inflammation levels in your body and you don’t have to be showing symptoms for it to be having a negative impact on your health.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a rush of blood and release of immune cells to an area of infection, damage or irritation. It didn’t evolve just to cause our body havoc; it originally evolved to help us fight infections and repair wounds.
Chronic inflammation is where our bodies become so overwhelmed from being bombarded by inflammatory triggers, that it is unable to switch off the process. We then remain in a constant state of inflammation, which has devastating effects on our health.
What can cause chronic inflammation?
– Lack of exercise
– Lack of sleep
– Exposure to pollution/ pesticides/ cleaning products
– Exposure to allergens
– Poor food choices
The Anti-inflammation diet
This isn’t a diet that promises to help you drop a dress size within a certain time frame (although it’s likely to help you lose weight!).
It isn’t a diet with strict meal plans and lots of rules.
It is a guide to help you choose anti-inflammatory foods which can improve your health, and avoid pro-inflammatory foods which can cause you harm.
Not only can it a help a healthy person to prevent disease, it can also help relieve symptoms for those with an inflammatory disease!
Chose anti-inflammatory foods
Omega 3 Fats
Famous for a reason, omega 3 is extremely good at reducing inflammation.
The best sources of omega 3 are fish and shellfish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel (buy organic to get the highest levels of omega 3 and avoid nasty toxins).
If you don’t eat fish, you can get omega 3 from vegan sources. The best vegan sources are found in walnuts and flax seeds, but it can also be found in some vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Read more about omega 3 here.
Fats found in olive oil, avocadoes, seeds and nuts are also known to reduce inflammation.
Organic and free-range animal products
Organic and free-range animals freely roam their land, eating lots of grass. They have lower levels of omega 6 and saturated fat in their meat than the animals bred in fed-lot farms, and are free from antibiotics and hormones.
A high omega-6: omega 3 ratio has a pro-inflammatory effect. Whilst we need a small amount of omega -6, it’s found in a lot of food and we often consume far too much of it. It is difficult to eat enough Omega 3 to balance the scale, so effort needs to be made to reduce omega 6 intakes.
Fruits and Vegetables
Rich in those wonderful antioxidants we hear so much about, fruits and vegetables are great for reducing inflammation. The key is to enjoy a variation of colours and ‘eat the rainbow’. Brilliant examples are blueberries, kiwis, oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and those dark leafy greens! Read more about antioxidants here.
Herbs and Spices
Not only do they give a kick of flavour to your food, they are also packed full of antioxidants. Herbs include rosemary, oregano, mint and herbal teas. Peppery spices like chillies and cayenne pepper are great, but you don’t have to like spicy food. Tumeric, ginger, and cinnamon are milder spices with just as much goodness.
Drink plenty of it!
Avoid pro-inflammatory foods
These are nasty fats, known to promote inflammation, obesity and resistance to insulin. They are found in hydrogenated oils, margarine and vegetable shortening. Deep fried is also usually fried in hydrogenated oil. They are also likely to be found in mass produced cakes, biscuits and pastries. So, check the labels of your food and watch out for these.
Vegetable cooking oils
Common vegetable oils such as corn oil and sunflower oil are very high in Omega-6. A great replacement is olive oil.
Peaks in blood sugar cause inflammation. Sugar has several titles including corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, and sucrose. So watch out for these on your food labels, they can creep up on a lot of unexpected items. Read more about sugar here.
Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white pasta, white rice, white bread all produce inflammatory peaks in blood sugar, and have also been depleted of vitamin B and fibre. It is best to stick to wholemeal bread and pasta, brown and wild rice, and try some other wholesome grains like oats, quinoa, rye and millet. Read more about carbohydrates here.
Research has shown that the link between processed meat and cancer is strong! This includes any meat that has been smoked, cured, salted or preserved chemically. Ham, sausage and salami are prime examples.
Anything that isn’t natural should ring alarm bells. Avoid artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavourings and preservatives.
Consuming food you are allergic to triggers inflammation. Food allergies and sensitivities often go ignored or undiscovered, common examples are lactose and gluten. If you suspect that you may have a food allergy, it is best to find out by eliminating the food from your diet, whilst ensuring you are still eating a balanced diet.
Although not a food, it is such an important factor that it is worth mentioning! Following this diet should help you be able to more effectively manage life’s little stresses. If there is something else you can do to reduce your stress and enjoy life a little more, do it. It will make an amazing difference to your health!