Inflammation has become quite the buzzword lately, touted as the cause of everything from acne to Alzheimer’s and from digestive issues to obesity. And while new research continues to support that theory, it’s important to remember that inflammation can actually be a good thing. When the body detects injury or illness, the immune system jumps into high gear, sending T cells, white blood cells, and lymphatic fluid to the scene. Water and blood also flood in to remove toxins and flush the area. This onslaught of antibodies causes increased circulation, swelling, even pain—all of which actually help the body defend itself against illness and infection. Inflammation happens externally, in response to bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scratches, and it happens internally, to fight infections and disease.
This type of inflammation—also known as acute inflammation—is a quick immune response that ends as soon as the injury has healed. So what does it have to do with food? Research suggests that eating the wrong kinds of foods also causes inflammation, not the acute variety, but the chronic kind—and that, by definition, doesn’t go away. Over time, chronically inflamed organs and tissues start to degenerate, toxins build up, and our organs are depleted of vital nutrients. All of this eventually takes its toll, potentially damaging the intestines, heart, kidneys, pancreas, joints, skin, and bones.
“A diet that’s high in inflammatory foods causes a constant, low-grade inflammation in the body,” says Elson Haas, MD, author of The False Fat Diet (Ballantine Books, 2001). “If the immune system is preoccupied fighting this constant inflammation, it’s not as able to help protect the body against other things that can pop up, such as abnormal cells in breast or prostate tissue.” According to Haas, “modern diseases are merely symptoms of the underlying issue of inflammation, which is just the body trying to heal itself; the question is, ‘from what?’”
The Diet That Does a Harm to the Body
Mainly, the food choices we make dictate whether our bodies remain in a constant state of disease. Our fast, high-stress Western lifestyles have led many of us to eat fast foods or packaged goods lacking in vital nutrients and high in pro-inflammatory ingredients, like trans-fats, sugars, refined starches, processed meats, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners. A steady diet of these inflammation-provoking foods spikes blood sugar and can also cause the body to stop responding to fat-regulating hormones.
But even those of us who stay away from junk food and unhealthy fats may still need to pay attention to the ratio of good fats we eat. By now, we’ve all heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Since omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, too much of them can cause low-grade inflammation in the body. Adding omega-3s helps counteract the damage omega-6s do and may prevent that oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Other Inflammation Triggers
Inflammation can also be caused by an immune reaction or allergy to a number of different foods. You might be eating healthy foods, but if your body has an allergic reaction to one of these, an immune response will cause inflammation usually signaled by gas, bloating, and pain. For instance, some dietitians believe the nightshade family of plants – potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant may actually make inflammation worse. If you’ve experienced this sort of pain, don’t eat these vegetables for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.
Foods to Calm Inflammation
Fortunately, we all have access to the perfect antidote for inflammation: anti-inflammatory foods. These foods not only reduce chronic inflammation in the body, they also provide the essential building blocks for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and having more energy.
- Hot peppers
Serrano, jalapeno, capsaicin found in cayenne and all the hot chills are one natural alternative to anti- inflammatory drugs. Capsaicin inhibits the COX- 2 enzyme, known cause of inflammation in arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
- Apples and onions
Contain quercetin which is natural histamine inhibitor that can help in many allergies which are considered as cause of inflammation. Remember that quercetin is present in the peel of apples so make sure to buy always organic ones and consume them all.
Tropical fruit which contains many anti-inflammatory compound – bromelain which contains enzymes that suppress inflammation and pain in the body by minimizing swelling. If it is heated it losesits anti- inflammatory properties so, consume it fresh and whole. Ignore the heat- processed canned version of it.
- Dark, Leafy, Green Vegetables
You need to consume them due to their compounds alpha- linoleic acid and omega 3 that is similar as the omega 3 which can be found in fish.
- Flax seeds, Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds
Also like the dark and leafy vegetables these seeds and nuts contain omega 3s. Ignore toasted nuts, their roast temperature destroys omega 3. Consume the raw version of them. If you want “toasted” taste, soak in water few nuts, leave them overnight and use dehydrator for giving them crunchy bite.
- Oily, Cold- Water Fish
Fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega 3s which are reduce the production of pro- inflammatory hormones in the body. Always choose Pacific or Alaskan salmon, organic and sustainable farm- raised varieties which are in lowest mercury levels.
Make sure also to eat the whole fish, with skin and everything that comes with it because most of the omega 3 fats are present in the brown fat around their skin. For keeping the omega 3s intact, gentle poaching and quick searing are one of the best cooking methods.
- Olives and Olive Oil
Olives and olive oil, contain oleic acid which contains omega 9 fatty acids which help the omega 3s to do their inflammatory job. Always go for strong, green and unrefined version of olive oil and ignore its light version. Raw olive oil has the most anti- inflammatory properties because heating can lessen its nutritional benefits, remember that.
Foods To Avoid:
- Baked Goods
- Fried Food
- Snack Food
- Hard Cheese