Alleviating Inflammation Through Your Diet
When inflammation occurs, chemicals from our white blood cells enter our blood or tissues to protect us from invaders, like viruses. That effect increases blood flow to the area of infection or injury. This is a healthy, normal process.
However, when inflammation is ongoing or chronic, it can cause a lot of health issues.
Some of the conditions we think of us being inevitably associated with aging, such as dementia and cognitive decline, don’t necessarily have to happen. Reducing inflammation can combat some of the common signs of aging and help reverse chronic illnesses.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include stomach issues like constipation or diarrhea, weight gain or loss, persistent infections, body pain, and fatigue. Depression and anxiety can also occur due to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation puts you at risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.
One of the best ways to reduce chronic inflammation is through your diet, and the following are things to know.
The Effects of Diet On Inflammation
While there are different theories as to what makes for an effective anti-inflammatory diet, your focus should primarily be on eating nutrient-dense, whole foods. You want to avoid processed foods.
Choosing foods high in antioxidants can help reduce your body’s level of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules created as part of your metabolism, but when they get out of control, they can lead to inflammation.
A good diet that’s focused on relieving inflammation will have a balance of protein, carbs, and fat at every meal.
You also need to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber.
Foods That Increase the Risk of Inflammation
A diet that’s anti-inflammatory is as much about what you don’t eat as what you do.
The things you should either cut back on significantly or avoid altogether if inflammation is an issue for you include:
- Processed meats like hot dogs and sausage
- Sugary drinks including fruit juice
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta
- Processed snack foods like crackers and chips
- Certain types of oil, including seed and vegetable oils
- Trans fats
- Excessive alcohol
Some people also find it’s beneficial to limit their intake of:
- Gluten—even in someone without celiac disease, it’s possible to experience an inflammatory reaction when consuming gluten. Some people aren’t sure whether or not gluten triggers negative symptoms for them, so they eliminate it for a period of time to see if symptoms improve.
- Nightshades—these are plants that include peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes. For some people, they may trigger an inflammatory response.
- Carbs—there’s evidence that, at least for some, a diet high in carbs may trigger inflammation.
Tips for An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
If you’re trying to reduce your inflammation through diet, there are some general tips to keep in mind.
First, replace any sodas or sugary drinks you have with water. You should try to replace fast food items with homecooked meals. You should also try to mix up your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants.
Specific anti-inflammatory foods include fruits like blueberries and cherries and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Nuts including walnuts and almonds are anti-inflammatory, as are green, leafy vegetables.
Types of Anti-Inflammatory Diets
There are certain diets that are designed to combat inflammation. If you’re okay with having a structure in how you eat, following these diets can have benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is one that’s extremely popular for people who want anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits. This heart-healthy diet is based on the traditional ways of eating found in Greece, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries.
Central to the Mediterranean diet are whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, and herbs and spices. Olive oil is the key source of fat, and fish, dairy, and seafood are used in moderation. Sweets and red meat are only occasionally eaten.
Some research indicates that following ketogenic diets can also help reduce inflammation, including in the brain. Ketogenic or keto diets are very low in carbohydrates and high in certain types of fat.
The keto diet changes how the body uses energy. You create a shortage of sugars from carbs, so then your body breaks down fat into ketones, which are alternative sources of fuel.
In animal studies, keto diets and general calorie restriction reduce inflammation and can even extend lifespan.
There is still more research that needs to be done, but the idea of the keto diet modulating inflammation does show promise.