What to eat to beat inflammation

In essence, various “instigators” cause your immune system to not shut down – instead, it releases a continuous stream of inflammatory responses that spread throughout the body, damaging cells and tissues. “What makes ‘silent’ inflammation deadly is that it can go on silent for years before it manifests itself as heart disease or a stroke,” says Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Womens in Boston and co-author of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Guide.

The more the medical community explores chronic inflammation, the more it has been linked to diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases like lupus. In a report published in the Journal of Epidemiology last year, researchers found that out of more than 80 people studied, those who developed cancer had significantly higher levels of C-reactive protein, a compound in the blood that signals the presence of inflammation. than their disease-free counterparts. Hay fever, skin allergies, acne, and asthma have also been linked to chronic inflammation.

What fuels this inflammation?

Several factors, including aging, weight gain and stress. “But the main player is a diet that is more pro-inflammatory than anti-inflammatory,” says Monika Reinagel, author of The Inflammation-Free Diet. When you overdo it with pro-inflammatory foods, your immune system can increase the production of pro-inflammatory compounds. “Inflammation is one of the immune system’s tools, but while a hammer is useful when you need to drive a nail in, just walking around the house swinging it around is likely to do more harm than good,” says Reinagel.

While we can’t change factors like age, we can cool the fire by making smart decisions about what we put in our grocery basket. “Your daily diet is one of the most effective ways to fight inflammation,” says Cannon.

Tracey Wilchek, a Miami-based nutritionist, is optimistic about a plant-based, whole-food diet that is low in saturated fats, refined grains, and added sugars. “The anti-inflammatory effects of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and other whole foods are likely the result of the synergy of their nutrients and their frequent replacement of pro-inflammatory, processed foods in the diet,” she says.

Plant food

The vaunted Mediterranean diet, rich in plant foods and seasoned with olive oil, is a useful model that fits that description. A study published in 2010 in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that participants who followed a Mediterranean diet had lower levels of inflammation.

Part of the anti-inflammatory effect may be due to the high antioxidant content of plant foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables. “Antioxidants can reduce oxidative damage caused by inflammation, which is caused by free radicals that roam the body,” Reinagel says. A Greek study published in 2010 found that a diet high in antioxidants increased blood levels of the anti-inflammatory compound adiponectin.

The low-calorie, nutritious nature of a plant-based diet often leads to weight loss, which can also help suppress inflammation. “Fat cells produce inflammation-causing compounds like cytokines, a big factor in why inflammation is such a common problem in America,” Cannon notes. For this reason, it is not surprising that the risk of developing almost all chronic diseases is increased when you are overweight. “Losing as little as 5-10% of your excess weight through a combination of healthy eating and exercise can have a huge impact on reducing inflammation,” says Cannon.

Fat balance

A diet rich in saturated or trans fats and a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 are thought to contribute to inflammation. The body uses fatty acids to produce prostaglandins, hormones that control inflammation. “Fatty acids from the omega-6 family are converted into inflammatory prostaglandins, while fatty acids from the omega-3 family are used to make anti-inflammatory. So when you eat too little omega-3 fats compared to omega-6 fats, you run the risk of causing inflammation in the body,” Wilczek says.

Ancient people probably consumed an almost balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. People today, however, often take in 10 to 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. Why? First, an abundance of cheap vegetable oils rich in omega-6s, predominantly soy and corn oils, have made their way into packaged processed foods and restaurant kitchens. “Ironically, the well-meaning advice to replace saturated fats like butter with unsaturated fats like vegetable oils often increases your omega-6 intake,” notes Reinagel.

Watch your sensitivity

Ignoring an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, lactose, or other substances can also exacerbate chronic inflammation. “When the body recognizes these elements as hostile, the immune system kicks in and increases the circulation of inflammatory compounds,” says Reinagel. She adds that foods that are pro-inflammatory for one person may be benign or even anti-inflammatory for another: “For example, plants in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes and peppers, are considered anti-inflammatory due to their high antioxidant content. But in people with sensitivity to solanine (an alkaloid in nightshade), they can cause inflammation and joint pain.”

If you suspect that you are sensitive to a certain substance, such as gluten or lactose, try eliminating it from your diet for at least two weeks to see if you notice a difference in symptoms such as reduced bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue.

Less purified and refined

Refined grains, starches, and sweets that quickly raise blood sugar can also cause an inflammatory response. “A vegan who avoids fatty meats but still has processed foods and baked goods on the menu can create an internal environment for inflammation,” Wilczek says.

Start by swapping refined grains for high-fiber whole grains and eating them with healthy fats like olive oil and proteins like tofu to slow down digestion.

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