Inflammation is useful except when it does not go away. It is an important part of our immune response. For example, when you catch a cold and your immune system triggers a fever. Or you twist your ankle and quickly blush and swell your skin. It is called acute inflammation.
Chronic low-grade inflammation is unhealthy because it persists. When your immune system is in a state of constant attack, inflammation begins to damage cells and tissues. Over time, it can cause a wide range of problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and depression.
“Think of inflammation as the point where your body can no longer tolerate the strain of stress, junk food, poor sleep, etc., which all lead to the turning point,” says the registered dietitian nutritionist Kylene Bogden, MS, RDN, CSSD, CLT, IFNCP, a performance dietitian for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and operations manager for FWDfuel Sports Nutrition. “When your body can no longer cope with this overload of toxins and stress, this is where you will begin to see joint pain, headaches, inability to lose weight and significant medical problems.”
Do you have chronic inflammation? Only a doctor’s blood test can detect the markers, but you can balance the chances of having some level of inflammation if you have one or more of these symptoms: you are overweight with much of your excess carried around the middle you eat. a lot of packaged, processed foods, you are sedentary, you smoke, drink excess alcohol or feel stressed most of the time. You can learn a lot more about the causes of inflammation and how to reverse it through our book The 14-day anti-inflammatory diet.
But do not wait for the book to come. Start lowering your inflammation right now with these suggestions from nutritionists. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, do not miss 7 healthiest foods to eat right now.
Eating lots of foods that come packaged and heavily processed with sodium and preservatives creates two problems: 1. They often contain inflammatory additives and 2. Eating these foods displaces more nutritious foods in the diet, says Rachel Dyckman, MS, RDN, CDN, owner of Rachel Dyckman Nutrition.
Avoid foods like bacon, hot dogs, sausages and delicacies that have been linked to colon cancer and are considered a group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization, she says. “Also limit artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, which have been linked to health problems associated with inflammation, including diabetes and obesity.”
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Fatty fish such as salmon are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and are known for their ability to reduce inflammation, according to Arika Hoscheit, RDN LDN, a registered dietitian with Paloma Health, an online medical practice focusing on the treatment of hypothyroidism. “Their high content of anti-inflammatory PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) allows them to support the body by reducing the risk of heart disease, supporting intestinal health, relieving intestinal diseases among other things,” she says.
“Omega 3 fatty acids inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which produces hormones that trigger inflammation,” adds Daniel Boyer, MD, a researcher at the Farr Institute, a publisher of medical information.
“Blackberries, raspberries and other berries have a high content of anti-inflammatory compounds such as anthocyanins and are known for their disease-fighting capacity,” says Hoscheit.
“In general, any light-colored, beautiful fruit and vegetable will help fight inflammation,” Bogden says. When it comes to peppers, choose red from the three paprika colors. Red peppers have the highest amount of anti-inflammatory vitamin C together with the bioflavonoids beta-carotene, quercetin and luteolin according to research in Journal of Food Science. Luteolin has been shown to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation. A study in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism showed that the more alcohol the person drank, the higher their C-reactive protein or CRP increased; CRP is an inflammatory marker measured by a blood test. “People who drink too much alcohol can experience a condition called leaky gut, which is when bacterial toxins move out of the colon and into the rest of the body, causing widespread inflammation,” says Swedish nutritionist Marie Salbuvik, MS, a nutritionist with shopgiejo.com.
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Fill with beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. These foods are rich in fiber and antioxidants, both of which are key components of an anti-inflammatory diet, says Dyckman “Fiber promotes stable blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, optimizes digestion to help eliminate toxins, and helps us “Maintain a healthy weight by keeping us full. Antioxidants protect against inflammatory free radicals.”
It can be bitter. It may take some time to get used to. But it’s worth a place on our grocery list because kale is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, Hoscheit says. “It is extremely high in phytochemicals, which help reduce inflammation and fight disease,” she says. It is also high in fiber, which can help you feel full longer. Try one of these 15+ best health kale recipes for weight loss.
Trans fats in the diet promote inflammation. Fats such as shortening and margarine contain them, but they can also be found in many fast foods, especially those that are dipped and fried, and red meat, says Dr. Boyer. “A double cheeseburger with fries can cause inflammatory markers to appear in our blood plasma within minutes of eating it,” says Salbuvik. “This can take up to six hours.”
“Participating in regular physical activity helps reduce a type of inflammatory body fat, called visceral fat,” says Dyckman. “It also increases the production of certain anti-inflammatory proteins in the body and helps our cells use the sugar in our blood for fuel and lowers insulin levels.”
The best news is that it does not require much exercise to have influence. “Gentle exercise such as walking can help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism and help lower overall inflammation,” says Samantha Presicci, RD, LD, CPT, a dietitian nutritionist at FOND Bone Broth. A study in the journal Brain, behavior and immunity showed that only 20 minutes of moderate exercise suppressed inflammatory markers.
“A good way for people to eat to improve inflammatory problems is to include anti-inflammatory herbs and seeds like ginger, turmeric, guggul, ashwagandha, mustard seeds and holy basil,” says the nutritionist. Poornima Sharma, Ph.D., a health trainer at the Art of Living Retreat Center.
Ginger is especially beneficial and easy to add to your diet. Researchers attribute ginger’s health benefits to gingerols, key compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-disease. According to many studies, these compounds block several genes and enzymes in the body that promote inflammation.
Numerous studies have linked “intestinal dysbiosis”, in other words an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, to inflammatory diseases. “One of the best things you can drink for intestinal healing support against systemic inflammation is bone soup,” says dietitian Presicci.
“Bone broth contains micronutrients and healing amino acids such as glutamine, glycine and proline.” Dr. Sharma also recommends improving your gut microbiome by adding fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi and 35 to 50 grams of fiber to your diet.
It’s a fact: People who are overweight have more inflammation than people of normal weight, says the Farr Institute’s Dr. Boyer. But “you can control and even reverse inflammation by adopting a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle,” he says. Here is a summary of how to do it:
- Include more whole foods in your diet such as fruits, vegetables and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
- Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods such as processed, refined foods, red meat, fried foods and anything that has trans fats, e.g. biscuits and shelf-resistant baked goods.
- Avoid excessive alcohol.
- Check your blood sugar. Avoid added sugar, refined foods or anything else with high fructose corn syrup.
- Eat more high-fiber foods. Foods with a high fiber content reduce body weight and are also beneficial for the ‘good bacteria in the gut, which release substances that lower inflammation levels.
- Exercise regularly. “Physical activity helps reduce inflammation by preventing the accumulation of visceral fats and disabling inflammatory pathways,” says Boyer.
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