by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
When you cut your finger, it becomes red and inflamed, right? When you fall and hurt your foot, it gets swollen and inflamed, correct? But what, exactly, does inflammation mean for our body? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing?
In this article, we will look at what inflammation is, how an anti-inflammatory diet can be helpful, and if this type of diet is something worth trying.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural response of the body to harmful stimuli. It can be thought of as an alarm that tells your body to start healing itself. But sometimes, it can cause damage without any obvious reason.
Inflammation on its own is not a disease, but it can lead to many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. It is also associated with pain and loss of function for many conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, and obesity-related conditions.
Chronic inflammation can happen due to various illnesses, such as asthma, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. There is proof that dietary choices and supplements (think along the lines of glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil) may help manage inflammation.
What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet is a type of nutrition plan that aims to reduce inflammation in the body. Food can help or hurt your body’s ability to fight inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on foods that promote good health and reduce inflammation.
Inflammation can be caused by many things, including injury and infection. But it also occurs when cells become overactive and produce substances that cause pain and swelling. This type of chronic inflammation can lead to more serious diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
People who want to improve their health may find that an anti-inflammatory diet helps them achieve their goals — whether they are trying to lose weight or lower their risk for heart disease and other conditions associated with chronic inflammation.
What Are the Different Types of Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
There are two main types of anti-inflammatory diets:
1. The Mediterranean Diet
This is a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. The Mediterranean Diet is also low in red meat, poultry, and dairy products. It’s not just about food choices though, it’s also about enjoying meals with family and friends at the table instead of eating alone or skipping meals altogether.
It’s thought that this type of lifestyle can help lower blood pressure levels and reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. In fact, studies have found that people who follow this type of diet have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the body.
2. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet
The DASH Diet is a diet that has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure. This diet was developed by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as a way to reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The DASH Diet includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein sources such as chicken or fish. It also limits saturated fats like butter or fatty meats like bacon or sausage because they can increase inflammation levels in your body.
Who Should Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Diet and lifestyle are the two most important factors in controlling inflammation. Not everyone needs to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. There are, however, certain groups of people who can benefit greatly from it.
Below are some of the reasons you may wish to utilize an anti-inflammatory diet:
People with Chronic Pain or Inflammation
If you have chronic pain or inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce your symptoms. It’s especially effective at controlling symptoms associated with arthritis, autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
People with Asthma, Allergies, or Seasonal Allergies
If you have asthma or allergies, an anti-inflammatory diet may help control your symptoms. It’s especially effective at controlling nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies.
Foods You Should Eat on the Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet should have a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients, contain healthy fat, and provides a range of antioxidants.
Foods that may help manage inflammation are:
- Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (hormones). They also help regulate the immune system and improve its activity against bacteria and viruses.
- Garlic contains allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in your gut. Garlic also contains flavonoids that lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and prevent blood clotting due to its antioxidant properties
- Vegetables such as broccoli and kale
- Whole grains like oats and brown rice
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives and olive oil
According to a 2017 article, these are also recommended:
- Some herbs
- Prebiotics and probiotics
- Raw or moderately cooked veggies
- Legumes, such as lentils
- Spices, such as turmeric and ginger