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Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet (AI Diet) is designed to fight inflammation. The diet has been recognized by the likes of Harvard Medical School and the Arthritis Foundation. It is no surprise that the foods we eat are significant contributors to the inflammatory process because the body hasn’t evolved to process some of the foods we now consume. But, there are also foods you can eat to help reduce or prevent inflammation. If you want to know how to reduce inflammation with your diet, you need to know HOW to eat right for an AI Diet to work. (Nutrition in Clinical Practice)

Packed into the Anti-Inflammatory Diet are foods rich in omega fatty acids, lean proteins, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, and a wealth of antioxidants, like those in superfood drink NingXia Red. Making the simplest of changes to your diet and lifestyle habits can have an impressive effect on inflammation.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system. This response is intended to fight toxic compounds, pathogens, and damaged cells. It affects the health and functioning of everything from tissues to organs, including the brain. (Oncotarget)

When this happens, the immune system stimulates the production of cells, such as white blood cells, and proteins to help eliminate the threat posed to the body’s natural process and balance, often referred to as homeostasis. These cells will help to reduce the risk of an outside invader or help to repair any damaged tissue.

The process begins with chemical mediators called cytokines. These act as signals to recruit other parts of the immune system to come help with the healing that is needed. When the body sustains an injury or faces an invader such as a bacteria or virus, swelling is helpful and the body’s natural system for solving the problem. Swelling is a part of the healing process. The remarkable thing is that it begins within a millisecond of the damage. (Essays in Biochemistry)

How Does Chronic Inflammation Start?

While some people seem to have a genetic tendency to develop chronic swelling, exposure to certain substances may help reduce your risk of developing chronic inflammation. This applies whether you are in a high-risk group or not.

If you want to know how to reduce inflammation, you have to start with what you choose to put in your body. The typical American diet, which is full of inflammation-inducing foods, significantly increases everyone’s risk for the development of chronic inflammation. Let’s take a look at this connection.

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are chemical compounds that are present in most animal products. The presence of these type compounds is tied to the development of chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and certain metabolic and degenerative diseases — grilling, frying, and barbecuing increase the amount of AGEs in food. Anti-Inflammatory Diet guidelines suggest reducing the number of AGEs in your diet by reducing the total amount of red meat. They especially warn against using cooking methods that increase overall amounts of these compounds in the food. (Current Diabetes Reports)

How to Prevent AGEs

Whether you are in a high-risk group or not, and you consume the typical American diet, which is full of inflammation-inducing foods, you may be wondering how to reduce inflammation risk.

Cooking food using high, dry heat significantly raises the number of AGEs in the food. You might try cooking your food more slowly on low heat. This can be a great excuse to expand your culinary range and experiment with cooking methods such as stewing, poaching, and braising.

However, meat cooked with high heat is not the only source of AGE compounds. They can also be caused by tobacco smoking. It is pretty common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health and contributes to the development and exacerbation of a slew of diseases. But researchers have recently developed a functional theory as to why smoking is so closely related to so many inflammatory conditions.

Nicotine is part of the inflammatory process because it activates a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. These are typically protective factors. Still, they cause tissue damage in the inflammatory process when there are too many of them active. (Medical Hypotheses)

Another factor in the formation of the inflammatory process is the ionization or irradiation of food during industrial processes and stress. Improving the way you and your brain cope with stress can help the inflammatory process in your body calm down as well. Contact with radiation of any kind has been shown to increase inflammation drastically. (Military Medical Research)

There has been quite a bit of press about avoiding the consumption of foods cooked on charcoal grills. However, many people do not know that the food industry considers AGEs to be highly desirable because of the flavor that they add to meats and, if cooked together, vegetables, fruits, and starches. The more flavorful the food, the more likely you are to eat it. Anti-inflammatory eating means avoiding processed foods as much as possible. (Current Diabetes Reports)

Your body does not have the ability to process AGEs quickly once they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Both human and animal studies found that they remain in the bloodstream for as much as 72 hours, which is plenty of time to promote oxidative stress and cause potential tissue injury. This is how the foods that you consume and how you cook your meals can contribute to the development of inflammation. (Journal of Periodontology)

Anti-inflammatory eating means eating in a way that does not promote oxidative stress and tissue damage on the body. The connection between oxidative stress and the development of chronic health problems is well-established.

Of even more significant concern is the potential for AGEs to be passed from the mother to the unborn infant. In one study, serum levels in mothers matched closely with those of their newborns. These high levels of AGE compounds in the newborns have a greater effect on the babies than on the mothers and has the potential to create oxidative stress and higher levels in a body that has not developed the ability to cope with it. AGEs have been positively linked to blood sugar-related disorders. (Diabetes Care)

It has been found that reducing external oxidants is more effective in reducing the inflammatory process than by adding antioxidant supplements to combat it. The bottom line is that if you want to reduce the inflammatory process and prevent the development of certain chronic health concerns, it is essential to follow the Anti-Inflammatory Diet guidelines.

Quick Recap: Certain foods and specific food-preparing processes increase Advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs cause an inflammatory response. By eliminating or reducing your intake of certain foods, like red meat, and high-heat cooking processes, you can reduce AGEs, and thus reduce inflammation.

Lifestyle Habits and Inflammation

A host of studies support that Anti-Inflammatory Diets promote a reduction in inflammation and help prevent the development of chronic long-term diseases. Preventing the inflammatory process and the development of long-term chronic diseases requires some serious lifestyle changes. (Journal of Restorative Medicine) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31179163

As supported by the research thus far, the most important healthy lifestyle habits are:

  • Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
  • Avoid consuming a high-fat diet
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Get enough sleep

Anti-Inflammatory Diets promote a reduction in inflammation, but only if you stick to them. They should include large quantities of fruits and vegetables, as little processed food as possible, and rely on meats that are cooked at low temperatures. You cannot achieve reduced inflammation if you consume the typical American diet, which is full of inflammation-inducing foods. It is possible to have an effect on the short-term inflammatory process and on the quality of life that you will experience later on as a result of your habits today.

When is Inflammation Problematic?

Though the process of inflammation is a natural result of some threat to the body, prolonged inflammation, such as that associated with certain medical conditions, and obesity, can influence the body’s reaction to bacteria and the disease process, in many cases. (Informed Health)

Going a bit deeper into the inflammatory effect of obesity, we can see that reducing weight, which is promoted by eating healthy anti-inflammatory foods, inhibits the body’s inflammatory reaction, thus reducing the impact on homeostasis and development of certain health conditions. (Archives of Medical Science)

How is Inflammation Measured?

If you have low-level inflammation, you may not have visible signs or symptoms. Whenever you have inflammation in any part of your body, extra proteins are often released from the inflammation site. These circulate in your bloodstream and can be detected using laboratory tests. If your physician feels that you may have inflammation, there are several tests that they may order. Here are a few of them.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR): This test involves placing a blood sample in a test tube that contains a substance that will stop the blood from clotting. This tube is left in an upright position. The red blood cells (erythrocytes) are heavy and will sink to the bottom. This leaves the clear plasma at the top. The separation rate is measured in millimeters per hour by measuring the clear liquid at the top of the blood sample. When proteins stick to the red blood cells, they are heavier and will fall at any faster rate.

C-Reactive Protein (CRP): This protein increases when you have certain inflammatory diseases. This only measures one specific protein, as opposed to the ESR, that measures many different proteins.

Plasma Viscosity (PV): This test is similar to the ESR, but it is more difficult to perform and is not used as often.

These tests can tell the physician that levels of inflammatory produced proteins are at high levels in the blood system; however, they cannot tell them what type of disease or process is causing them. They are only one part of the diagnostic procedure. Once the physician knows that there is inflammation in the body, the next step is running tests to determine the disease state that is causing it.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Most people recognize swelling as the main symptom of inflammation. Still, chronic inflammation tends to affect more than a specific area of the body. Symptoms can affect the:

  • Immune system
  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine system
  • Reproductive system

But how does inflammation affect these systems?

The inflammation that causes your ankle to swell when sprained occurs inside the body, especially as a reaction to obesity. The swelling that comes along with inflammation is part of the immune system response. Still, when it happens internally, you can’t exactly ice it to reduce
that swelling. The result is tissue damage. (Journal of Obesity)

The body’s reaction to tissue damage can take two to six weeks to resolve, but that’s in response to an immediate threat, such as spraining your ankle. When the threat is consistent, such as with obesity, the body simply can’t keep up, and chronic inflammation results. (StatPearls)

Swelling in the body can also make it difficult to lose weight, as your body tries to retain fluid in an attempt to heal itself. An inflammatory response can also cause your body to release a hormone called cortisol, which puts your body in fight or flight mode. This hormone can cause you to retain additional weight.

Another symptom of chronic inflammation, which the body can perceive as chronic stress, is pain. This is common in obesity with reactions such as joint pain. There’s also a connection between chronic stress and an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol promotes the collection of fat in the midsection. (Physical Therapy)

Quick Recap: When the body sends out an inflammatory response when there is no need to do so, as is the case with chronic inflammation, the white blood cells still swarm to the location, but they have nothing to do. Because they have nothing to do, this is when they start attacking internal organs or other cells within the body.

It is possible for someone to have a persistent inflammatory response and not even feel or experience any clear symptoms of side effects. These types of persistent inflammatory responses can lead to a variety of disease conditions. It is this type of low-grade, persistent inflammatory response that physicians hope to alleviate by suggesting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

Foods and Inflammation

Nutrition-based inflammation is common in the American Diet, if only because so many processed foods are readily available and cheap.

Now that we know what inflammation is, and how it can affect the body, what foods can you eat, as part of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, that naturally work to fight inflammation?

There are various categories of foods that work to reduce inflammation, including fruits and vegetables, superfoods, alliums, phytonutrients, crucifers, beans, omega fatty acids, and beans – among others.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are one of our most important defenses against the development of inflammation. This is perhaps the most important of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet tips. A serving is approximately ½ cup of a cooked vegetable or fruit and about one cup of raw vegetables. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Alliums

Plants in the allium family include garlic, scallions, onions, Chinese chive, and leeks. These anti-inflammatory foods have been shown, in clinical studies, to work against certain diseases, inflammation, obesity, and more. (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Crucifers

Crucifers such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts are another important anti-inflammatory superfood choice. All of these vegetables have powerful antioxidant properties and antioxidants help fight one of the processes that cause inflammation. (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Phytonutrients

Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with important phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been shown to work against inflammation, and, as a bonus, they also help the body fight oxidative stress. When choosing fruits and vegetables, you should always go for as much color as possible. In order to naturally sweeten your meals, try adding apples, apricots, berries, beets, and even carrots as an alternative to sugar. (Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity)

Beans

Beans are another good choice for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection. They are also a low-cost source of protein, fiber, folic acid, and important minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. It is recommended that you have at least one cup twice a week. Some options include black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans.

Healthy Fats

When looking for healthy fats, try to stick with olive oil, avocados, nuts, chia seeds, fatty fish (which we’ll touch on in greater detail in a bit), and full-fat yogurt. These healthy fats include fatty acids that research shows can fight inflammation. These foods actually work to fight the immune response that causes inflammation. (Advances in Nutrition)

When choosing olive oil, note that not all olive oil is the same. The best for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet is extra virgin olive oil because it is less refined and processed. This allows it to retain more nutrients than standard olive oil varieties. It is important to make certain that the olive oil is packaged in dark bottles for optimum freshness and quality. Also, you should choose one where the harvest date is as close to the purchase date as possible. To ensure its quality, you should choose a brand that has a certification or seal such as COCC, North American Olive Oil seal, or DOP. This is the best way to make certain that you get maximum benefits from your olive oil.

Eat Fish

The omega fatty acids found in certain fish species work wonders in fighting inflammation. The best sources of omega fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna, and herring. While fatty fish are higher in calories, you don’t need huge amounts to reap the benefits. If you eat about 3.5 ounces of fatty fish, two times per week, your body will notice the difference. (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, American Heart Association)

More Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Spices

The topic of natural inflammatory foods that increase the body’s inflammatory response is a good guide to understanding what foods to avoid if you wish to decrease pain caused by inflammation. However, just as there are foods that are natural inflammatory agents, there are also foods that reduce inflammation and can have a similar effect to conventional inflammatory medication.

Chili Pepper

Chili pepper is one of the most widely studied and important natural ingredients worth mentioning for its anti-inflammatory properties. The chemical that is responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of chili pepper is capsaicin. This chemical makes up about 12 percent of the chili pepper. It intercepts inflammatory pathways, much in the same way as NSAIDs. This causes a numbing effect and reduces inflammation. (Pharmacognosy Magazine)

Turmeric

Turmeric is another anti-inflammatory herb that has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation in the body. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is also useful for treating wounds, infections, and the common cold. (Foods)

Ginger

Ginger is a favorite spice used in many foods around the world. It is used for many conditions, including an upset stomach, headaches, and some infections. Still, it is also one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs. (Journal of Medicinal Food)

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not only one of the most popular spices for cookies, bread, and baked goodies; it is also one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory spices. Studies have confirmed that cinnamon can ease pain and swelling. (Biochemical Pharmacology)

Quick Recap: Anti-inflammatory foods to incorporate into your diet include:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Dark red grapes
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mustard greens
  • Cabbage
  • Scallions
  • Leeks
  • Broccoli
  • Beans of all types
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Green tea
  • Red wine in moderation
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Olives
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Dark chocolate
  • Fish rich in omega fatty acids
  • Spices

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

The connection between food and the inflammatory response is well-established. However, just as there are foods that you should consume with an AI Diet, there are also inflammatory foods to avoid if you wish to head off long-term problems.

Inflammatory foods harm the body by causing the body to increase cytokines, which is the beginning of the inflammatory process. The body treats foods that cause inflammation, such as refined starches or saturated fat as a foreign invader. This triggers the immune response to attack it as if it is a virus or bacteria. This is a mechanism behind the inflammatory response to foods. (Journal of Restorative Medicine)

Some foods known to cause inflammation include:

  • Simple starches: sugar and white flour-based foods like pasta and white bread
  • Refined foods: highly processed foods
  • Unhealthy fats: saturated and trans fats

Research into Inflammation and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

There is a wealth of research showing just how effective an Anti-Inflammatory Diet can be, both on overall health and weight loss and how inflammation affects a variety of body processes.

Inflammation, Mood and Mental Health

The effect of inflammation on the body, including pain, can cause a detrimental change to mood. With inflammation, we see an increase in cytokines and proteins associated with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. (Current Neuropharmacology)

The inflammatory response that causes the change in mood results from physical changes in the brain. The response can be strong enough to negate the effects of mood-affecting medications, thus leading to stress, weight gain, and an even greater inflammatory response. Reducing inflammation naturally, using healthy food choices, inevitably affects all symptoms of inflammation, including changes in mood. Eat healthier, and your mood could just improve. (Nature Reviews Immunology)

We also see a connection between various memory disorders and inflammation. Though research hasn’t proven the exact connection between the two, we know the effect occurs in the brain via the brain immune response. (Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

Inflammation and Stress

There’s a cyclical connection between inflammation and stress. Stress, and changes in mood, affect the food choices we make. In many cases, simple starches and processed foods are what people turn to in times of stress because they evoke a feeling of calm and, often, security and familiarity. So, stress causes poor food choices, which can lead to weight gain and more inflammation. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet reduces the impact of stress on the body. Still, you also need to work on reducing stress, and weight, in order to get the most out of your diet to fight inflammation. (Psychosomatic Medicine)

Inflammation and Degenerative Diseases

Degenerative diseases, like malnutrition, bone loss, and muscle wasting, are all associated with inflammation. When inflammation is not treated or reduced, problems with various chronic inflammatory diseases can result. These include diseases that can be life-long. (Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health)

Inflammation and Obesity

“Obesity is characterized by a chronic, low-grade inflammatory state which is suggested to play a critical role in the development of obesity-related diseases.” How exactly are obesity and inflammation connected? (Genes and Nutrition)

One of the most heavily studied effects of chronic inflammation is obesity. The trouble with obesity is that stress and inflammation promote weight gain, and obesity causes stress and inflammation. “Obesity is, thus, an underlying condition for inflammatory and metabolic diseases.” (PGHN)

Obesity actually promotes the inflammatory response. Once fat tissue can no longer develop enough to store the extra energy, fat is stored in organs, such as the liver. This storage of fat around organs causes oxidative stress, and yes, inflammation. This oxidative stress causes weight gain, as well. Again, we see the cyclical connection between inflammation and obesity. (Mediators of Inflammation)

Metabolic syndrome is often associated with obesity. “Data currently suggest that alterations in the dietary composition may be the most effective lifestyle change” for the “improvement of inflammatory biomarkers” in people with metabolic syndrome. (Frontiers in Bioscience)

Good Fats on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Reducing the inflammatory process is not just about the amount of fat that you eat, but also depends on the types of fats that you consume. It is recommended that the upper limit of total calories from fat stays below about 35 percent per day. The reason for this is that diet high in fat runs the risk of weight gain. Weight gain is associated with higher concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers that have been connected to the development of chronic disease. (Advances in Nutrition)

However, it is not just about the total fats that you consume, but also the types of fats. Saturated fats have solid molecular bonds and are typically found in animal products such as beef, pork, and chicken. However, plant-based fats such as coconut oil and palm oil are also saturated fats.

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats have links between the molecules that can bend and move. These loose bonds make unsaturated fats liquid at room temperature. These include oils such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, canola oil, and avocado oil.

To reduce inflammation, it is suggested that you cut back on saturated fats and try to choose healthier unsaturated fats. You also need to consume as many foods that reduce inflammation as possible and watch out for hidden saturated fats in products such as ice cream, cheeses, sweets, fried foods, and other processed foods.

Bad Fats on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you plan to follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, you should avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fat comes in two forms. Some of them occur naturally, while others are made artificially. Trans fats are also known as hydrogenated oils.

Trans fats are made by taking vegetable oils and treating them with a process called hydrogenation. This is done to make them more solid. On the food label, this can appear as “partially hydrogenated oils” or may list the actual oils. Trans fats are made because they are more stable than unsaturated fats. When they are used in products, it helps them have a longer shelf life because the molecules will not break down and degenerate as they do with unsaturated fats.

The breaking down of the oils in products such as cookies, cakes, and many other types of processed foods is what causes them to go stale. The food industry uses trans fats to make the foods that they produce last longer, therefore reducing profit loss caused by unsellable goods.

In terms of health, saturated fats have been linked to the inflammatory process and high bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. They also tend to lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels. On an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, it is recommended that you avoid trans fats found in processed food that are made with partially hydrogenated oils. (Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry)

Believe it or not, both bad fats and good fats can exist together in “healthy” foods. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation, but omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation. These two fats are often found together naturally in foods. (Missouri Medicine)

Bad fats include hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and saturated fats. The direct connection to inflammation comes in the form of the C-reactive protein. When saturated fats are consumed, it promotes the release of this inflammatory protein. Research reviews have shown that reducing saturated fat intake can also reduce inflammation. (Nutrition Research)

Inflammation and Gut Health

A wealth of research has gone into studying the link between inflammation and gut health. The link, like obesity and inflammation, takes on a cyclical characteristic. Inflammation can negatively affect gut health, and poor gut health can cause inflammation. (Nutrients)

It has been shown that a poor gut microbiota actually leads to inflammation of the intestine, which affects how food is processed, and how nutrients are absorbed. (Microorganisms)

Believe it or not, there’s also a connection between inflammation, the gut microbiome, and mood. As we touched on earlier, mood is directly impacted by inflammation, but what is the connection with gut health? It is thought that the stress response caused by inflammation affects gut health, and vice versa, to ultimately change mood. (Journal of Neuroscience Research)

We also found evidence that gut microbiome can cause inflammation of the skin, which leads to conditions like acne and dermatitis. (Frontiers in Microbiology)

Inflammation and Allergies

The inflammatory process is often caused by the invasion of foreign substances, which are called antigens. Pollen is a common antigen that triggers allergies. In the case of food allergies, something in the food is an antigen. It causes your body to see it as an invader instead of a helpful nutrient. The process that the body initiates is similar to that which occurs when the offender is a foreign invader such as a bacteria or virus.

Hives and itching are simply a form of the inflammatory process and your body’s attempt to rid itself of the antigen. During the inflammatory response, the injury is repaired, and in the case of an allergy, the antigen is neutralized. As long as the antigen is present, for instance, if you continue to be exposed to pollen or eat foods that you are allergic to, the body will continually send this response.

How Does the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Come into Play?

Making healthy lifestyle changes is part of the successful adoption of the AI Diet. This includes taking care of various inflammatory conditions, such as allergic reactions. If you think of the body as a teacup, inflammation adds to the cup little by little, and eventually, the cup spills over, causing more drastic issues with inflammation. Chronic allergic inflammation can affect more than nasal passages, as is the case with sinus conditions; it can also cause inflammation of organs, including the bowel – thus connecting inflammation, again, to gut health through allergic response. (Allergy and Asthma Proceedings)

Quick Recap: Research into the impact of foods on inflammation and the impact of inflammation on obesity and the disease process has been on-going for decades. There’s little doubt that consuming an Anti-Inflammatory Diet that moderates carbohydrates and proteins while increasing healthy fats and phytonutrients, works wonders to fight inflammation.

What About Autoimmune Diseases and Inflammation

Obesity and inflammation go hand in hand, and one triggers the other in a vicious cycle. Excess body fat produces its own toxins. Then the immune system produces an immune response in an attempt to rid the body of them. This response then triggers more weight gain. Once someone is on the obesity and inflammation roller coaster, it can be hard to break.

Obesity is often a sign of chronic swelling. Because it develops into a self-feeding cycle, it can eventually trigger the body to develop an autoimmune disease. The inflammatory process is often the first sign of autoimmune diseases that affect many parts of the body.

Some people seem to be more at risk than others for developing autoimmune diseases. Scientists are still unsure of the reason for this, but certain groups of people tend to be more prone to their development. They tend to run in families and affect certain ethnic groups more than others.

It is typical for autoimmune diseases to have periods of flare ups where they get worse, followed by remission periods. During remissions, the symptoms may get better or disappear altogether. Reducing the inflammatory process is the primary goal of treatment plans for those with autoimmune diseases of any type. This is done by reducing the body’s immune response, which the Anti-Inflammatory Diet helps with.

At times, the body mistakes native tissues as being foreign, and thus a threat to the body. This results in an autoimmune reaction. The good news is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet works to reduce the inflammatory response, even in the case of autoimmune diseases. (Inflammatory Bowel Diseases)

Some autoimmune conditions that are affected by, and cause, inflammation include:

  • Various forms of arthritis
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Inflammatory bowel

Conventional Treatments for Inflammation

The best treatment for the inflammatory process is prevention. If you already have inflammation, an AI Diet can help to reduce it, but this can take some time. For those who already have inflammation, the first line of defense is typically pharmaceuticals to help reduce swelling and pain. Many people will turn to an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory first. Then, if that does not work, they may consult their physician for stronger prescription anti-inflammatory medication. Whether you choose an over the counter anti-inflammatory or prescription anti-inflammatory,
Following the Anti-Inflammation Diet will help them work better.

If you are wondering what to take for inflammation, NSAIDs are some of the most popular anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that work by reducing the production of enzymes called prostaglandins. These enzymes are responsible for promoting swelling, pain, and fever in response to an invading substance. They also protect the lining of the stomach from being damaged by its own acid. They promote blood clotting and normal kidney function. (The Eurasian Journal of Medicine)

NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, which reduces pain, swelling, and fever. To make prostaglandins, the body uses another set of enzymes called cyclooxygenases (COX). There are two types of these enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, both of which produce prostaglandins and swelling related symptoms. However, it is the COX-1 that produces platelets and protects the stomach lining.

There are different types of NSAIDs. Those that block both types of COX enzymes also reduce the protective factor of the stomach lining. This can lead to ulcers over a long period of use. When you ask your doctor what to take for inflammation, you need to ask about this risk factor. You also need to consider it when taking any type of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.

Anti-inflammatory medicine, both over-the-counter and by prescription, are meant for short-term use. They are meant for conditions such as headaches, coughs, colds, sports injuries, arthritis, menstrual cramps, and other conditions that should go away after a short time. (Age and Ageing)

Some popular NSAIDs include:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

One of the stranger characteristics of NSAIDs is that even though they have a similar mechanism, some individuals do not respond to certain ones. Still, they may respond to a different one. The reason for this is not well understood at this time.

Habits That Promote Inflammation

In addition to adopting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, you can also make healthy lifestyle changes that work against inflammation.

The connection between the inflammatory process and the development of chronic diseases has been documented many times over. Eating natural anti-inflammatory foods is one side of the equation in reducing inflammation. Still, you also need to reduce factors that are causing the inflammatory process in the first place.

One has to remember that the cause of the inflammatory process is a natural response from the body to an injury. We have been trained to treat symptoms in order to relieve the suffering caused by diseases. However, focusing on relieving the symptoms is not a permanent solution, and in the case of inflammation, it is not the key to avoiding the long-term damage caused by it.

Most causes of chronic low-level inflammation are due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. When many people think of an unhealthy lifestyle an image comes to mind of someone sitting in front of the television drinking beer and eating boxes of doughnuts, but even little things that we do add up. Some of the more subtle causes of the inflammatory process that we may miss include:

  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Minor food allergies
  • Lack of exercise

Changing your lifestyle and educating yourself about the things that you do to promote the inflammatory process is the best natural anti-inflammatory action that you can take. (Clinica Chimica Acta)

Research has also shown that poor lifestyle changes, which promote inflammation, can lead to negative effects on heart health. (Southern Medical Journal)

What’s more, high levels of reactive proteins, which promote inflammation, are associated with a lack of exercise and poor diet quality. This is another piece of proof that adopting a healthier diet, such as the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, may reduce inflammation and the effects therein. (Annals of Behavioral Medicine)

Additionally, in response to poor lifestyle habits, the body can force the immune system into a state of constant activity. This directly led to “chronic, unresolved inflammation and increased vulnerability for chronic disease.” (Nutrition and Metabolism)

Quick Recap: Inflammation can be caused by lifestyle choices, including smoking, eating a poor diet, and foregoing regular exercise. In addition, referring back to the cyclical nature of inflammation and body processes, poor lifestyle habits can lead to stress, which leads to weight gain then to inflammation.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices Fight Inflammation

Adopting healthier lifestyle choices, even small steps, drastically reduces inflammation. Research shows, “even small efforts to improve diet and physical activity can influence biomarkers” of inflammation. (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

So, picking up a 10-minute walk most days of the week and skipping processed foods is enough to reduce inflammation. This is hugely important when focusing on inflammation and obesity. As you lose weight through the adoption of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and exercise, your body reactions change and inflammation diminishes. These small changes inevitably lead to bigger changes over time.

Inflammation and Weight Loss

Because of the close, interweaving connection between obesity and inflammation, it goes without saying that weight loss would help reverse the effects. Over the past decade, extensive research has been completed, with results showing that even the smallest amount of weight loss can have a large impact on inflammation.

Studies and research have shown that reducing weight can have a significant impact on inflammation. Weight loss, thus, reduces low-grade inflammation to the point it can impact the risk of obesity-related diseases and conditions. (Scientific Reports)

When nearly 1000 studies were reviewed, the reduction in weight, which can occur with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, reduced the pro-inflammatory cytokines we talked about earlier. When the level of cytokines drops, so does the inflammatory reaction. (Clinical Nutrition ESPEN)

It’s also been shown that obesity, which “has a strong inflammatory component,” can be addressed with anti-inflammatory nutrition – the same nutrition promoted by the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. (Journal of Obesity)

Inflammation and Probiotics

Maintaining the microbiota of the gut is an important part of reducing the inflammatory process. Probiotics are necessary to help keep your gut biome healthy. Probiotics are good bacteria that help digestion. It is important to make certain that your gut has plenty of good bacteria and not many bad ones.

When gut bacteria are out of balance, it can lead to obesity, infection, and chronic disease. Even if you eat foods that reduce the inflammatory process on a regular basis, poor gut health, including lacking probiotics and prebiotics, can cause you to feel fewer positive effects of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. (Nutrients)

Up to 70 percent of your natural immune system is located in the digestive tract. This is why keeping it healthy is such an important part of controlling the inflammatory process. Your digestive tract contains approximately 100 trillion naturally-occurring good bacteria. Aside from eating foods that fight inflammation, you should also include a probiotic supplement as part of your inflammation diet plan. “Probiotics…are used to treat chronic disease, principally due to their role in immune system modulation and the anti-inflammatory response.” (Nutrients)

Inflammation and Sleep

Believe it or not, poor sleep habits can cause inflammation. When we lose sleep, it causes a state of stress that promotes the release of cortisol and reactive proteins that promote inflammation. In addition to causing or exacerbating inflammation, loss of sleep can cause weight gain and changes in mood. (Best Practice and Research – Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism)

Interestingly, it appears that disrupted sleep, not long or short sleep duration, is at the heart of increased inflammatory markers in the blood. (Biological Psychiatry)

Quick Recap: Weight loss, gut health, and inflammation are connected. With the right Anti-Inflammatory Diet and foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics, as well as other gut-benefiting foods, you can effectively reduce inflammation. You also need good sleep for many reasons, including the anti-inflammatory effects.

The Difference Between Chronic and Acute Inflammation

We know that inflammation wreaks havoc on immunity, weight, mood, and overall health, but not all inflammation is bad. The Anti-Inflammatory Diet will not diminish certain types of inflammatory responses.

There are two types of inflammation. The first is acute inflammation, which is the body’s self-defense mechanism against injuries such as cuts or broken bones. It is also the body’s defense against infections, common colds, viruses, or other temporary conditions. In these cases, the injury or infection that’s caused inflammation tends to reduce over time.

This type of inflammation is good for you because, without it, your body would not be able to fight these invaders, and they would soon overrun the system. Acute inflammation is only supposed to be short-term. It is not supposed to last beyond the initial injury healing process.

Acute inflammation as a result of an injury is not the type that people are talking about when they mention the dangers of inflammation. What they really mean is chronic inflammation. This is inflammation that is not a response to an injury or infection. This is a constant, low-level inflammatory state that may put the body systems at risk. Inflammatory cells hanging out in your bloodstream can damage arteries and lead to heart disease. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet is meant to control chronic inflammation, rather than acute inflammation. (British Journal of Nutrition)

Diet alone may not be enough to control chronic inflammation. However, adopting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet is a good start. Other things such as cutting your sugar intake, cutting down on junk food and fast food, and throwing out stale food also help to reduce the inflammatory process.

Detailed Benefits of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet can help resolve many chronic issues within your body. Once you know what’s good for inflammation, you will be on your road to more energy and a healthier lifestyle. Some of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet pros are:

  • Keep the microorganisms in your gut healthy
  • Reduce your chances of developing many chronic diseases
  • Have more energy
  • Reduce chronic pain in many cases
  • Improve mental attitude
  • Relieve symptoms of depression
  • Get better sleep
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your quality of life

Quick Recap: Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips

Here are a few Anti-Inflammatory Diet dos and don’ts for helping you fight inflammation naturally.

  • If you drink alcohol, choose red wine and then only drink in moderation. A compound in red wine called resveratrol has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • If you have a craving for sweets, satisfy it by choosing dark chocolate, but also only in moderation. Remember dark chocolate isn’t as sweet as milk chocolate, but it’s packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals.
  • Eat foods that are high in antioxidants. These foods help reduce the damage that is caused by the inflammatory process, including damage on a cellular level.
  • Use natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and chili powder.
  • Fight inflammation naturally by consuming healthy fats and fat-rich fish, such as those high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Healthy carbohydrates such as beans and legumes will also help fight current inflammation and the inflammatory process.

What Does an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Look Like?

The 80/20 Rule

Whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, are the best foods to fight inflammation. Reducing inflammation in the body means sticking to a good healthy diet. However, sometimes it can be good for you to break the rules a little bit. After all, we are not machines, and food does play a critical role in cultural celebrations and life in many societies.

The 80-20 rule means that for 80 percent of the time, you follow a strict clean diet. The other 20 percent of the time, you are allowed to indulge in other foods you may want. Life is about balance, and the secret to living a long, healthy life is to do what’s good for inflammation control while managing to have a night out at a nice restaurant, which can reduce stress. Because stress also contributes to the inflammatory process, and weight gain, reducing it is also good.

This will also keep you motivated so that you will be more willing to do what’s good for reducing inflammation most of the time. If you know that there is a little reward at the end of the week for all of your hard work, it can help you to remain motivated.

Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Starting at the bottom of the pyramid with the foods you want to include most often and working toward the top we find:

  • Fruits (at least 3-4 a day)
  • Vegetables (at least 4-5 a day)
  • Whole Grains (3-5 a day)
  • Beans and Legumes (1-2 a day)
  • Healthy Fats (5-7 a day)
  • Fish and Shellfish (2-6 a week)
  • Lean Sources of Protein (1-2 a week)
  • Herbs and Spices (unlimited)
  • Red Wine (no more than 1-2 glasses a day)
  • Healthier Sweets – (sparingly)

It may be easiest to use this food pyramid to make changes to your current diet. Some simple replacements are enough to start the fight on the right foot. For instance:

Instead of having shrimp one evening, try salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

When eating rice, choose whole grain rice packed with healthy fiber.

Full-fat yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is the perfect replacement for sour cream in both recipes and as a food topping.

Drink green tea in place of traditional iced tea, hot tea, or sodas. Green tea is packed with antioxidants that fight inflammation.

Supplements can also play a role in fighting inflammation. The focus can be on antioxidant-rich supplements like vitamin C and vitamin E. Any other supplements may best be reviewed with your doctor, especially if you’re fighting inflammatory health conditions.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Vs.:

The DASH Diet

The DASH diet is similar to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. It emphasizes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean protein with minimal fat added. The DASH diet is used for people with high blood pressure. Still, it would also have many other beneficial effects, including the reduction in the inflammatory process due to the inclusion of healthy fats and phytonutrients.

The BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet is typically used in the medical setting to relieve nausea and vomiting. It stands for bananas, rice, apples, and toast, which are foods that are easy to digest and not likely to exacerbate the symptoms. The diet slowly introduces other foods until the person can tolerate a normal diet once again. It is not intended for the long-term, and it doesn’t provide complete nutrition. In terms of its anti-inflammatory properties, it contains simple carbohydrates like rice and bread, which may be processed foods. It does not qualify as an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet closely follows an Anti-Inflammatory Diet plan. It includes plenty of foods such as leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, olive oil, nuts, fruits, and fatty fish like salmon. The diet is high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which are protective components found in many plants. This is considered a good diet for the inflammatory process.

When researchers tested the impact of a Mediterranean diet on inflammation, they found that biomarkers (like C-reactive proteins) reduced significantly. (Mediators of Inflammation)

Research showing the opposite effect also exists. In this research, low adherence to the diet caused an increase in biomarkers for inflammation. (Nutrients)

Mediterranean diets have also been shown to reduce inflammation associated with obesity. (Endocrine, Metabolic, and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets)

The Average Western Diet

The average western diet is the worst diet for inflammation and the development of chronic disease. It is high in red meats that are typically cooked using methods that increase harmful substances that cause an inflammatory response. A diet high in processed foods, processed carbohydrates, sugars, and unsaturated fats that are typically on the Western plate are likely to contribute to the development of chronic inflammation and the beginning of the disease process.

The western diet is packed with inflammatory foods like processed carbohydrates and saturated fats while providing little in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. (Cardiology Research and Practice)

Quick Recap: The average western diet is the least friendly when it comes to inflammation. At the top of the list of best Anti-Inflammatory Diets is the Mediterranean diet.

If one diet were to embody the idea behind reducing inflammation, it would have to be the Mediterranean diet.

Final Word on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The amount of information out there supporting the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is amazing. From research into sleep and food choices, to exercise and lifestyle changes, you have the opportunity to help your body fight inflammation naturally and nutritionally.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a restrictive diet. Instead, it focuses on healthy fats, lean proteins, and fruits and vegetables. Changes in your diet can be made over time – there’s no need to dump everything in your pantry and restock. Change out flour-based pasta with spiralized vegetables a couple of times a week. Leave behind the white rice in favor of wild and whole-grain options.

Following a healthy diet will not prevent you from occasional bouts of acute inflammation due to disease or injury. These are a part of life that all of us have to live with, no matter what diet we follow. However, if you eat right for the long-term, your body will be better prepared to handle these bouts of acute inflammation as they occur, so you heal faster and get back to your life of reduced inflammation.

If you take care of your body, it will take care of you in the end. Eating a diet that is full of healthy fruits and vegetables, while limiting red meats and avoiding exposure to substances that contribute to the inflammatory process is the best way to ensure a long and healthy life.

You may find you don’t achieve optimum health if you continue to eat the typical American diet, which is full of inflammation-inducing foods. There are many positive effects of following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, exercising, reducing stress, and taking measures to take care of yourself. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet should be part of an overall plan for improving and keeping your health, and body, in balance.

Questions and Answers (QA)

Q: Are eggs an inflammatory?
A: Eggs are inflammatory foods, especially when laid by chickens who are fed soy-based meal. Eggs are rich in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid.

Q: What foods are bad for inflammation?
A: Some food to avoid if you’re trying to reduce inflammation include sugar, processed meats, excessive alcohol intake, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates are bad for inflammation.

Q: Is cheese inflammatory?
A: The saturated fats found in cheese do cause inflammation. However, other dairy products tend to offer some health benefits.

Q: Is oatmeal anti-inflammatory?
A: Research has shown that the fiber in oatmeal is good for fighting inflammation.

Q: Are tomatoes inflammatory?
A: Tomatoes are on the top of many lists of ANTI-inflammatory foods. The fruit is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene.

Q: What are the 5 classic signs of inflammation?
A: The most common, classic signs of inflammation are pain, swelling, heat, redness, and difficulty moving the affected area.

Q: Does rice cause inflammation?
A: Whole-grain, wild, and brown rice have anti-inflammatory properties, often contributed to the fiber content.

Q: Is peanut butter inflammatory?
A: Peanut butter is on the list of possible inflammatory foods. The butter supplies omega 6 fatty acids, which have been associated with inflammation.

Q: What tea is good for inflammation?
A: Green tea is at the top of the list of anti-inflammatory teas, if only because the health benefit reach far beyond inflammation. Other teas with anti-inflammatory properties include chamomile, black tea, peppermint tea, and ginger tea.

Q: Are oranges anti-inflammatory?
A: Oranges are actually on the anti-inflammatory list of fruits. The vitamin C is packed with antioxidant properties that fight inflammation.

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