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Inflammation is painful and is something that I struggle with almost every day. With my recent weight gain, it has become far more debilitating. Did you know that certain foods can reduce or increase inflammation? I didn’t until just a few months ago. Here is how you can start using diet to fight inflammation.
What causes Inflammation?
The body’s response to infection or injury. It tells the body to defend itself against foreign invaders like viruses or heal itself from injury like a sprain. Inflammation has 5 major signs. Redness, heat, pain, swelling and sometimes loss of joint function. The body has messenger cells called cytokines that signal the body to send white blood cells to heal or protect the part of the body that is damaged or being attacked.
The Science Behind Using Diet to Fight Inflammation
Some of the common terms/ components of using diet to fight inflammation are markers for inflammation in blood. Namely, C-Reactive Protein, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and plasma viscosity. Fiber lowers the c-reactive protein levels in blood. Everyone has heard of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals by giving electrons to free radicals to neutralize them which, in turn, protects and/or delays cell damage from the free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that harm cell structures. Food that contain lots of sugar cause inflammation because sugar releases cytokines which are also known as pro inflammatory chemicals. You want more anti-inflammatory chemicals and less pro inflammatory chemicals.
Foods to avoid
There are several kinds of foods you should avoid if you want to stay away from inflammation and chronic pain. These include the following:
- Saturated Fats – Scientific research has shown saturated fats to trigger adipose or fat tissue inflammation, which is known to make arthritis inflammation worse. Pizza, cheese, ice cream, red met, full-fat dairy, pasta, and desserts made with white flour are major sources of saturated fats. Any kind of vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils that are used for frying foods should also be avoided. Frying turns these vegetable oils into bad fats that are inflammatory to your system.
- Sugar – Sugar comes from sugar cane but it is far from being a natural food. Sugar is highly inflammatory and lacks in any kind of valuable nutrition. Molasses is a form of sugar that has some redeeming qualities (it provides you with iron) but is still inflammatory to your system. Sugar is also addicting so you should avoid it, especially white sugar or cane sugar, which is highly processed.
- Alcohol – Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, and it places a heavy burden upon this organ that weakens its functioning and therefore disrupts other multi-organ interactions to cause inflammation.
- Too Much Omega 6 Fatty Acids – Omega 6 fatty acids are necessary for the body’s growth and development, but it is only effective when intake is balanced with omega-3 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids produces pro-inflammation chemicals in the body. Ex. Soybean oil, processed foods, sunflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil
- Refined Carbohydrates (Grains) – This includes white bread, pizza crust, pie, cookies, and baked goods made with white flour. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates are a greater cause of obesity than any other food. These high-glycemic index foods promote the production of advanced glycation end products that simulate inflammation inside the body.
- MSG – MSG or Mono-sodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer added to food, and widely used in Asian cooking as well as added to many processed foods, like deli meats and canned soup. MSG may trigger two pathways of chronic inflammation, and it also affects liver health.
- Grain Fed Meat – contains unlevel amounts of omega 6 to omega 3, chemicals are used. Use grass fed meat is high in Omega 3
- High Sugar Fruit – Fruit contains a form of sugar known as fructose, and while unlike table sugar, fruits provide nutrients, the body still registers the sugar in fruit in the same way that it does table sugar and eating too much fruit and high sugar fruits can cause inflammation in the body and exacerbate pain. High sugar fruit include oranges, mangoes, and pineapples.
Foods to Eat
There are several foods you can eat that have the opposite effect of the foods described above. These anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation in the body:
- Fresh Whole Vegetables – These foods contain the cells of plant material that are effective in reducing inflammation in the body. Choose dark, leafy green vegetables that contain substances that reduce the inflammation of diabetes. Also, choose root vegetables for their anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a popular spice you can use to reduce inflammation. For more information on turmeric, check out 10 Health Benefits and Uses for Turmeric Curcumin Supplements by Lyfe Botanicals.com. Onions contain flavonoids that mimic the effects of ibuprofen, a man-made anti-inflammatory medication. Shallots and yellow and red onions also contain high amounts of pain fighting chemicals. Mushrooms are high in protein and protect the immune system.
- Herbs – Herbs are plant foods and can be eaten fresh or dried for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Healthy Fats –This includes coconut oil, ghee, avocados, and olive oil. They are known to have anti-inflammatory effects, which explain why they are protective against heart disease.
- Grass Feed Beef – You should be eating meat from organic, grass-fed animals because the meat is less inflammatory and contains far fewer chemicals than grain-fed meat. Organic poultry is anti-inflammatory as well.
- Fresh Fish – Fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have known anti-inflammatory effects and also help prevent the ingestion of too many omega-6 fatty acids.
- Soy– Soy helps reduce inflammation in women but be sure to use unprocessed soy like edamame or soy milk.
- Berries – Like raspberry, blueberries, and blackberries are high in fiber and antioxidants which makes them a powerful anti-inflammatory.
- Grapes – These have high antioxidants.
- Nuts – Like almonds are high in omega 3 and antioxidants.
- Green tea – Green tea is high in antioxidants especially Matcha. It is also a good source of EGCG epigallocatechin 3 gallate, a anti-inflammatory chemical.
- Whole grains –Whole grains have high fiber which reduce levels of C-Reactive protein.
What it All Boils Down To
Eating a healthy balanced diet is how to reduce inflammation. Eat out less and switch foods to a healthier option and don’t forget the green tea (with Matcha if you don’t want to drink 5 cups a day). Avoiding the junk food and choosing healthy food options low in salt is how to start using diet to fight inflammation. For more information, check out the Anti-Inflammatory Diet book.
What food are you going to struggle to let go of? Leave a comment below.