Every day, researchers learn more about the effects of inflammation on the human body. It is often destructive, causing people pain, limiting their movements, and ravaging their bodies from the inside out. Fortunately, scientists are discovering better ways for controlling inflammation, such as eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is a reaction from the immune system when it is trying to protect the body. When a foreign substance, like a virus or infection, enters the body, the immune system attacks it to help get rid of it.
While trying to protect the body, and keep it from getting sick, white blood cell levels are elevated and produce more protective substances. Inflammation is part of this reaction and, if it didn’t exist, viruses or infections would result in immediate death.
Types of Inflammation
There are two types of inflammation the body produces, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is temporary, and the symptoms only last for a few days. For instance, if you have a cut on your hand or a sore on your leg, it can become inflamed if not properly treated.
Chronic inflammation, which is the result of degenerative diseases, is a long-term issue. People with arthritis have chronic inflammation that further damages their body. Acute inflammation is good because it is part of the body’s reaction to help heal a wound, while chronic inflammation further damages the body.
It is easy to tell if you have inflammation, whether it is acute or chronic because it has certain symptoms. If you have inflammation, then the area will have some redness, it will feel warm, there may be swelling and pain. These symptoms can occur on the outside of the body if you have acute inflammation due to a sore or they can occur internally with chronic inflammation.
Consequences of Chronic Inflammation
Although inflammation has an important function in your body as part of the immune system, it can also be bad for your health. When inflammation occurs in the body, chemicals called cytokines are released to help the body heal.
However, they can destructive to normal cells, and irritate the body when someone has chronic inflammation. They can wear down cartilage, body tissues, and cause other inflammatory reactions. Chronic inflammation has links to many degenerative diseases like:
- Heart Disease
- Musculoskeletal Conditions
- Digestive Disorders
- Mental and Emotional Imbalances
Inflammation can be controlled with medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, but they only provide temporary relief. In addition, taking NSAIDs on a long-term basis can also adversely affect your health. The best way to treat inflammation is to change your diet.
How Diet Affects Inflammation
There are some foods that trigger inflammation and others that can reduce it, so it is important to learn how foods affect your body if you have chronic disease arthritis or diabetes. Going on an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce symptoms and, in some cases, help heal chronic diseases.
Scientists have found that a major contributor to chronic inflammation is the foods we consume. When you start dieting to reduce inflammation, there are several inflammatory and anti-inflammatory diet foods to avoid. Most of the foods on the avoid list are the same ones we’ve been warned about for years that cause weight gain and contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
Some of the main foods that trigger inflammation include:
- Vegetable Oil
- Saturated Fats
- Chemicals in Foods
When you eat too much sugar in your diet, it can increase the levels of destructive cytokines in your body. Sugar also suppresses the immune system by blocking the effectiveness of the white blood cells ability to kill germs.
Vegetable oils like soy, corn, safflower, or palm oil, contain high levels of inflammatory fat, called omega-6s, and not enough omega-3s, which is low in inflammatory fat. Americans eat so many foods cooked in vegetable oil that the ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s is 20 to 1 when the ratio should be 1 to 1.
Food cooked at high temperatures in vegetable oil, such as fried, barbequed, or grilled foods, have high levels of advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which can trigger inflammatory reactions. Researchers have found that when people reduce eating processed and fried foods, both of which have high levels of AGEs, the symptoms of inflammation were diminished.
Although some dairy products can be good for your body, such as yogurt, consuming it can increase inflammation because it contains saturated fats. Also, full-fat milk and other dairy products can reduce the number of probiotics in your gut, which are important for reducing inflammation.
About one in four adults have reactions to eating dairy, such as lactose intolerance or reactions to the casein they contain. When these reactions occur in the body, the immune system can have an inflammatory reaction and release histamines. So, if you feel bloated after eating dairy, consider reducing or eliminating it from your diet.
Many studies have found a connection to saturated fats and white adipose tissue inflammation. This white fat tissue is the type that stores energy in the body instead of burning it. As more saturated fat is stored in the body, then it can trigger inflammatory agents that promote systemic inflammation.
The chemicals found in foods that sweeten them or add color to food can trigger our immune system into attacking them because it considers those chemicals foreign invaders. Studies have also found that chemicals that make foods thick, called emulsifiers, can cause reduce the good bacteria in the gut. Artificial sweeteners can trigger the same reaction and lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
There are several foods that can trigger inflammatory responses and harm the body, but it is also important to know which foods can help reduce inflammation.
There are also several foods that reduce inflammation in the body. So, if you have chronic inflammation caused by diseases like arthritis, you should consider eating an anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis to reduce symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the body.
Some of the foods and spices that can help reduce inflammation include:
- Fatty Fish
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Dark Chocolate
Most of the anti-inflammatory foods contain a high level of antioxidants that can prevent free radicals from further affecting the body. Antioxidants protect the cells from harm, whether they are skin cells or cells within your organs.
For instance, dark chocolate contains polyphenols that provide antioxidant protection. However, the amount you eat should be limited and a certain type consumed. With dark chocolate, you would want to eat dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao and eat it sparingly.
When eating anti-inflammatory produce like green leafy vegetables or berries, organically grown foods are preferable. That will keep chemicals out of your body that can cause inflammatory reactions. So, when you go shopping, look for a label indicating the food was organically grown. If you go to a farmer’s market, ask the people at the stand if the food is organic because it probably won’t be labeled.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Reduce Chronic Pain
If you have arthritis or other inflammatory diseases that cause chronic pain, you can make dietary adjustments like eating foods to reduce pain caused by these diseases. Even though pain pills can provide some relief, they don’t completely resolve it, and there are side effects that can harm your body.
Approximately a third of the population in the United States, about 116 million people, experiences chronic pain. Fortunately, most people can reduce their pain or others can avoid it by learning anti-inflammatory diet recipes. Some of the foods you should be eating if you’re affected by chronic pain include:
- Cranberry Juice
- Salmon, Sardines, or Herring
- Hot Peppers
Many of these foods can reduce the pain people with arthritis experience, but it may not eliminate it. However, eating anti-inflammatory foods coupled with avoiding foods that trigger inflammation can go a long way in ending your suffering. Also, it can prevent diseases that are caused by inflammation, like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
There are other ways to fight inflammation along with changing your eating habits. Getting acupuncture treatments can help to relieve chronic pain and reduce inflammation. Also, especially if you have arthritis, exercising by doing gentle movements can help reduce inflammation and keep your body limber.
Some of the exercises that you can do include Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga. Swimming is also good for keeping your body moving and strengthening your cardiovascular system.
Being under stress can cause inflammatory reactions, like triggering the release of cytokines, and it is one of the most contributory factors in developing chronic degenerative diseases. Finding ways to relieve stress can reduce inflammation.
Along with eating an anti-inflammatory diet, you can do yoga, meditate, or do gentle exercises to help reduce stress and keep the body moving to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.