Your body does all sorts of amazing things every day, including protecting itself from harm and healing itself when necessary. And that’s exactly the role of inflammation. Inflammation is a normal process that occurs in the body as part of the body’s immune response to infection or an injury. Inflammation can either be classified as acute or chronic.
Acute inflammation occurs when the body tries to protect and heal itself after a physical injury or infection. The classic signs of acute inflammation are skin redness, warmth, swelling and sometimes pain. It usually develops quickly, and symptoms may last for a few days.
Chronic inflammation is a slow, long-term form of inflammation that lasts for several months to years. It is not normal and means your body is consistently in a state of high alert. This can cause the immune system to go into overdrive and attack healthy tissues. Chronic inflammation can be the result of a more serious infection, an environmental irritant or can be an indicator of a more serious condition.
The good news is there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of harmful inflammation. In this article, we discuss the “anti-inflammatory” diet and other tips you can use to maintain a healthy immune system.
Is There Any Truth Behind the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
The answer is, possibly. The “anti-inflammatory” diet is an eating plan to help prevent or reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory diet closely resembles the Mediterranean diet which emphasizes the importance of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
Here are a few suggestions on how to change your diet and fill it with “anti-inflammatory” foods:
- Fill your plate with colorful vegetables and fruits every day. Aim for 5-7 servings daily and choose ones that are deep orange, green, yellow and purple in color. Try a baked sweet potato over the normal white potato. Add a few slices of tomato to your sandwich at lunch or to your eggs at breakfast. Have a cup of berries for a tasty and satisfyingly sweet dessert.
- Add fish to your weekly meal choices. Aim to eat a good source of fatty fish 2-3 times per week. Good choices are salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, and sardines. If you are not a fish eater consider taking a fish oil supplement.
- Choose whole grains whenever possible. Try oatmeal for breakfast, whole grain bread for your sandwiches and switch out your white rice with brown for dinner.
- Incorporate some beans or lentils into your weekly meal plan. Try one of these tasty black bean and rice recipes as a side to your dinner tonight.
- Snack on a small handful of walnuts or other nuts. Nuts provide fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids. A “handful” is an ounce, which is the approximately 23 almonds or 14 walnut halves.
- Switch to olive oil. The polyphenols in olives may lower inflammatory markers in the body. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over hot pasta and whole grains, and add olives to salads, pizza and grain dishes.
- Drink water over sweetened drinks. Add wedges of lemon, lime or oranges for flavor.
- Think ginger. Studies have shown that ginger offers anti-inflammatory benefits. Grate some fresh ginger over your cooked salmon, or steep in hot water to make a soothing tea.
Lifestyle Tips for Inflammation
In addition to adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, there are other steps you can take to keep your body healthy.
Achieve or Maintain a Healthy Weight
Achieving a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being. Being overweight can increase your risk of chronic inflammation. If that excess weight is in your stomach area, you are at an even greater risk. While the mechanism is not exactly clear, adipose (fat) tissue may secrete inflammatory factors call adipokines. These adipokines may contribute to the inflammation process.
Start today and work with your healthcare team to determine what lifestyle changes you can realistically make to get you to a healthy weight. Most importantly, don’t give up. Weight loss is not easy. Ask the help of your family and friends to keep you motivated.
We have all heard about the benefits of exercise, but did you know that moderate exercise can actually help suppress inflammation in the body. One study found that as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily can stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory response. Moderate exercises include going for a brisk walk or bicycle ride.
Start today and take every opportunity to increase the number of steps you take in a day. Break up long periods of working at your desk or sitting in front of the TV with a short walk, even if it’s just a lap around your office or living room. If you need motivation, wear a pedometer or fitness tracker and ask a work colleague to join you for a lap.
Nutritional Support for Inflammation
Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight are the first steps towards keeping healthy. In some cases, getting additional support from certain nutrients may be beneficial as well.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats that your body needs, but cannot make, and therefore it is important to get these through food or supplements. Several studies have concluded that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, found in fish, have anti-inflammatory effects that can benefit many people, including those who participate in high-intensity exercise.
If you do not eat fatty fish more than twice a week, consider taking an omega-3 (fish oil) supplement. Studies suggest 500–1000 mg of supplemental EPA/DHA per day may be beneficial, and for those with inflammatory conditions or other health concerns, higher doses of 2000 to 4000 mg of supplemental EPA/DHA may be recommended.
Turmeric is a spice common in Asian food that comes from the root of the turmeric plant. One of the active ingredients in turmeric is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies have concluded that curcumin is beneficial for reducing inflammation in several health conditions.
You could add a teaspoon of ground turmeric to your soups and smoothies, and eat curry, but most studies have used more concentrated supplemental doses between 100–500 mg daily. Doses up to 10 grams per day are likely safe but note this level of curcumin may cause stomach upset in some people.
Delicious, tart cherries are a rich source of plant nutrients (polyphenols) and vitamin C, which both offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that drinking 20 ounces of tart cherry juice every day for 21 days showed a significant reduction in C-reactive protein, an important blood marker of inflammation. Another study in athletes who supplemented with 480 mg of tart cherry powder, starting 7 days before an event and continuing until 2 days after competing, had less sport-induced inflammatory markers and experienced a speedier recovery. Adding 20 ounces of cherry juice to your diet plan may not be the best option for everyone, as that is a lot of natural sugar. However, consider adding a small glass of tart cherry juice to your breakfast, or sprinkle dried tart cherries over your morning cereal or yogurt.
Quercetin is a flavonoid present in foods such as onions, apples, berries, teas, and red wine. Flavonoids offer anti-inflammatory benefits due to their ability to reduce inflammatory-producing enzymes (such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins) in your body. Some studies have found supplemental quercetin to be helpful in athletes for reducing inflammation and muscle damage associated with long, intense exercise.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in the health of our bones. Research over the last decade has revealed that it also has a key role in the levels of inflammatory markers in our body. One study concluded that vitamin D supplementation decreases inflammation by reducing the level of inflammation markers, such as C-reactive protein. Before deciding to add a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine, speak with your healthcare provider to determine what dose of vitamin D might be appropriate for you.
Start today by adding some “anti-inflammatory” foods into your meal routine, increasing your daily activity level, and working towards achieving a healthy weight for your optimal immune health.For more information, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Theralogix! Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.