To fully resolve inflammation, the cause of inflammation must be identified with and dealt with but eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce inflammation.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
The basis of an anti-inflammatory diet is high in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats, and high in omega 3 fats which are anti-inflammatory fats.
To reduce inflammation by eating an anti-inflammatory diet it is also important to avoid food sensitivities and inflammatory processed foods such as trans fat, refined sugar, genetically modified soy and corn, luncheon meats, and common food allergens such as gluten, dairy, and soy.
Eggs can also be a common allergen for many people.
The best way to identify foods that may be causing inflammation is through food sensitivity testing. You can also start with just avoiding processed junk food and common food sensitivities such as gluten, dairy, and soy, but know that even “healthy” foods may be causing an inflammatory immune reaction in your body.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a healing response by the body that is stimulated by anything that causes injury to the body. The immune system creates inflammation when it is activated in response to foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, undigested food passing through a leaky gut or physical injuries such as a torn muscle, broken bone, or cut.
As a result of the immune system being activated reactive oxygen species and free radicals are produced which need to be neutralized and mopped up by anti-oxidants.
While acute inflammation is a necessary part of the healing reaction, inflammation becomes a problem when chronic low-grade inflammation is always present and the source of the injury or assault on the body is never dealt with.
Think of inflammation anytime you hear ‘itis’ on the end of any word such as arthritis, colitis, gastritis, appendicitis, etc which means inflammation to some part of the body depending on what tissue or organ is affected.
Inflammation can also contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats is something you can do today to take control of your health and reduce inflammation in the body!
Balancing fatty acids are a key component of an anti-inflammatory diet. Both saturated fats and the essential omega 6 fats can be converted into pro-inflammatory compounds in the body while the essential omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory.
The ideal ratio between omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats is 4:1 to 1:1. Due to the increased consumption of omega 6 oils in the western diet, the ratio between the fatty acids has been thrown out of balance.
The omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats are now in the 10-25:1 ratio lending towards inflammation.
Eating a diet low in saturated fats and omega 6 fats while focusing on eating anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats helps to restore optimal fatty acid balance.
Foods high in omega 3 fats include flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and fish which is the best source such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Fish oil has also been shown to prevent insulin resistance and reduce inflammation for weight loss.
Deeply colored fruits and vegetables the cornerstone to an ant-inflammatory as they are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that help to reduce inflammation and cleanse the liver.
Look for a variety of colors in vegetables such as beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potato, spinach, and green beans.
Berries that are deeply pigmented such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries (and huckleberries for anyone living in the mountains of British Columbia) are very high in anti-oxidants to counter inflammation.
Phytonutrients are simply non-traditional plant nutrients. Meaning everything except vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, what is leftover is phytonutrients.
While plants contain traditional nutrients, the phytonutrients outnumber traditional nutrients 10,000 to 1.
A huge benefit of eating a plant-based anti-inflammatory diet comes from the nutritional power of phytonutrients such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, chlorophylls, and thousands of other phytonutrients found in plants.
Nature has provided a powerhouse of nutrition in a synergistic blend that is impossible to recreate in a lab or supplement which is why an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals is more powerful than any single nutrient or pill.
Phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their color and taste depending on what phytonutrients are present. Eating the colors of the rainbow is the best way to obtain a wide variety of phytonutrients.
Many phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which are a key for an anti-inflammatory diet.
Some other key antioxidant nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin E, NADH, selenium, sulfur, carotenoids, lutein, NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine), lipoic acid, Co-enzyme Q10 and flavonoids such as quercetin, hesperidin, and rutin.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet full of antioxidants and nutrients to support the body’s endogenous production of antioxidants such as glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase is extremely beneficial to help reduce inflammation in the body.
To ensure that these anti-oxidant enzymes are functioning optimally they need specific vitamins and minerals as the co-factor.
Selenium and vitamin B2 are 2 nutrients required for the recycling of oxidized glutathione (used up glutathione) back into reduced glutathione so that the body can continue to break down excess hydrogen peroxide which is damaging to tissues.
The superoxide dismutase enzyme is critical for reducing inflammation caused by free radical damage as the SOD enzyme is responsible for converting the potent superoxide free radical into hydrogen peroxide which is less damaging.
Hydrogen peroxide is further broken down by glutathione into water. Excess hydrogen peroxide is one of the primary causes of grey hair.
You can see how important superoxide dismutase and glutathione are in reducing free radicals that cause inflammation.
The SOD enzymes require the minerals manganese, copper, and zinc to function.
Ginger, turmeric, and aloe are also are 3 powerful anti-inflammatory herbs to include in the diet to naturally reduce inflammation as well.
Aloe vera is very soothing to the skin and GI tract as aloe is cooling and contains the anti-inflammatory fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA)
Turmeric also contains the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin, which has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Ginger is a common culinary herb that can help to reduce inflammation by lowering the messaging molecules that trigger inflammation. Here is an amazing ginger root tea recipe.
By eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients to support the body’s own antioxidant enzymes inflammation can be lowered.
As inflammation is the silent killer underlying many chronic health conditions it is increasingly important to get back to a whole food anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits and vegetables, high in omega 3 fats and low in saturated fats.