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Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

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Inflammation word cloud on a black background.

Inflammation in your body can serve a useful purpose.

It’s your body’s first line of defense. But in some instances, inflammation can stick around longer than needed and may be contributing to certain medical problems. Fortunately, adjusting your diet may help decrease inflammation and improve health.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harm, such as an infection or injury. Cells travel to the area of injury or infection. Inflammatory cells heal the injured tissue or trap the harmful substance, such as bacteria. The cells release chemicals that activate proteins, which further protect the body.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. The problem with inflammation is when it occurs chronically, it can have a negative effect on the body.

There are two types of inflammation including acute and chronic. Acute inflammation occurs in instances, such as if you get an infection or if you cut yourself. The inflammatory response helps protect your body and help it heal. Acute inflammation is short-term.

Chronic inflammation is different. Chronic inflammation involves your body sending an inflammatory response even when one is not required. When your body is in a high state of alert, and the inflammatory process goes on too long, it might damage your organs.

Diseases Associated with Inflammation  

When inflammation persists and becomes chronic, it can damage tissues of the body. The link between chronic inflammation and certain diseases is relatively new. Researchers are still learning how exactly the inflammatory response negatively affects the body.

Currently, studies have indicated that inflammation is associated with the following conditions:

Heart disease: The American Heart Association has been researching how chronic inflammation contributes to heart disease, and there does appear to be a link. One large study conducted at Stanford University indicated chronic inflammation leads to swollen or inflamed blood vessels, which may contribute to blocked arteries. 

Lung problems: Chronic inflammation may lead to breathing problems, especially for those who already have lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD. Inflammation causes fluid to accumulate in the tissues, which narrows the airway making getting air in and out more difficult.

Joint pain: Inflammation can lead to scarring or thickening of the connective tissue, which may increase pain and stiffness in the joints.

Depression: It appears that chronic inflammation may increase a person’s chances of developing depression. In 2015, a study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal indicated that those who reported symptoms of depression had higher levels of inflammation in their bloodstream than those who were not depressed.

Diabetes: People with chronic inflammation may be more likely to develop diabetes. Cytokines, which are released by the immune system as part of the inflammatory process, may affect insulin production and lead to blood sugar spikes.

Nutritional Guidelines for Decreasing Inflammation

An anti-inflammatory diet may help decrease chronic inflammation. Also, an anti-inflammatory diet is high in important nutrients and low in sugar and saturated fat, which makes it a good overall nutritional plan.

Before starting an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s best to have nutritional counseling. A nutritionist can provide you with specific dietary recommendations for your age, weight, and nutritional goals.

Before are general nutritional recommendations to decrease chronic inflammation.

Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against the damage of chronic inflammation. Foods that are high in omega-3 include fish, such as mackerel, salmon, and herring. Walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans are also good sources.

Recipe: Green Goddess Salmon Cobb Salad

Spice things up: Spices, such as cayenne, ginger, and turmeric, contain anti-inflammatory compounds, which may decrease the negative effects of chronic inflammation.

Consider supplements: Taking certain supplements may also help decrease inflammation in the body. For instance, in some studies, people who took magnesium supplements had lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood, which is an indicator of inflammation. Curcumin may also be a useful supplement for people with inflammation, as it is thought to curb inflammation in the body.

Eat the colors of the rainbow: Fiber-filled veggies and fruits are helpful to decrease inflammation. Foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries, and grapes are good choices. Cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli contain nutrients that also combat inflammation.

Choose grains wisely: Stick to complex grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Limit foods high in simple carbohydrates, which increase inflammation.

Lifestyle Do’s and Don’ts to Curb Chronic Inflammation

In addition to the nutritional recommendations listed above, there are useful lifestyle do’s and don’ts including:

  • Do have a nutritional consultation.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Do exercise on most days of the week.
  • Don’t eat foods high in sugar, such as cookies, candy, and cake.
  • Do drink plenty of water each day.
  • Don’t eat large amounts of foods high in saturated fat, such as fried foods.
  • Do eat a varity of fresh veggies and fruits.
  • Don’t overdo your alcohol intake.
  • Do practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing daily.
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