The Anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation is a natural process that occurs in the body. It is triggered by the immune system and is part of the healing process if there is damage within the body and a protective mechanism.
However there are times when this natural process can become over-active or under-active, thereby increasing inflammation or failing to respond at all. Both interrupt the healing process and leave the body vulnerable to the development of inflammatory conditions. At the crux of many health conditions is this disrupted pattern of inflammation and it is therefore key to re-establish equilibrium so that the body’s healing abilities can work optimally. This helps to reduce existing inflammation as well as prevent further inflammation from development.
Lifestyle factors that interrupt healthy inflammation:
- Stress – physical, emotional & mental (from any of the below)
- Excess exercise
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Eating a low nutrient diet
- Consuming a high sugar & stimulant diet
- Consuming a diet high in trans fat
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Compromised digestive health
- Food allergies or intolerances
Equally, unhealthy inflammation can also create the latter two factors.
Lifestyle & nutritional factors than can regulate inflammation:
- Approach stress mindfully – look at your ‘stressors’ and work out what can be avoided and what cannot. Avoid those that can be and work on ways to find some calm amongst those factors that cannot. Exercise, especially more flowing methods such as yoga, dance, swimming or walking can be enormously helpful. Also think about those things in your life that help you to unwind – this could be reading or setting the world to right with a mate. Think whether it is your mindset or the factor itself that is causing the stress. If you would like some more pointers on stress management, let me know as I know some fantastic practitioners that may be able to help with this.
- Eat plenty of omega 3 fats – seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), nuts (brazil, walnuts, almonds), cold-water oily fish (mackerel, sardines, trout, salmon, anchovies & herring). Oils such as flaxseed oil or hemp oil are excellent to use for salad dressings
- A rainbow of fruit & vegetables per day – this provides a healthy cross section of nutrients called antioxidants (flavonoids, anthocyanidins to name a few) that are needed to support the function of the immune system (and therefore its control of inflammation) as well as aiding the repair of ‘inflamed areas’ around the body.
- Choose caffeinated drinks such as coffee & tea as little as possible – ideally once per day or less! Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones that can exacerbate inflammation over time.
- Take steps to quit smoking or at the very least reduce smoking – inhalation of smoke uses up vital nutrient stores used by the immune system to regulate inflammation. This also triggers the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands as well as increase exposure to toxic metals.
- Choose wisely when it comes to sugar & alcohol – High sugar intake can increase the process of inflammation, reduce immune function (thereby increasing inflammation) and use up important nutrients needed to reduce inflammation. A high sugar intake comes from confectionary, pastries, white flour products such as white pasta & bread. Alcohol can trigger this same reaction. Always eat something when drinking alcohol and drink mindfully.
- Choose lean proteins to eat with every meal – poultry, fish, pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans, nuts, seeds or yoghurt are all great sources of protein. This helps to balance the glucose levels in your blood and reduce the unnecessary release of stress hormones that can trigger inflammation.
- Eat regularly – Every 3-4 hours. I.e three smaller meals with 2 snacks throughout the day. Again this stabilized blood glucose and supports the adrenal glands.
- Reduce intake of trans fats – These can be found in processed foods such as biscuits and fried foods. These produce increase the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body and can inhibit the body’s use of beneficial fats.
- Increase whole-grains – This includes brown rice, barley, quinoa, rye, whole-wheat. A great source of fibre and key vitamins such as magnesium, zinc and the B vitamin family, as well as important trace minerals needed by the immune system to regulate inflammation. These foods also supply the blood stream with an even source of glucose so that the adrenal glands do not need to release unnecessary stress hormones (which can increase inflammation).
Other posts you may find of interest related to this topic: 'Understanding sugar' and 'Our top tips for maintaining blood sugar balance'.