Reducing chronic systemic inflammation can be achieved by eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Learn how to reduce inflammation naturally and see if an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you.
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Health Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is a naturally occurring process in the body following illness or trauma. While short bouts of inflammation are necessary for proper healing and indeed beneficial, chronic inflammation can trigger the occurrence of specific disease processes and lead to widespread organ damage.
Anti-inflammatory diets reduce the disease burden in individuals suffering from autoimmune conditions, chronic illnesses, food allergies, and sensitivities.
Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is a preventative and proactive measure that promotes health and well-being by decreasing intestinal permeability, repairing tissue damage, and restoring the vital functions of major organs.
What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet is a lifestyle modification that avoids foods that trigger or exacerbate inflammation within the body.
Two popular anti-inflammatory diets are the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. Both call for a heart-healthy approach to eating, focusing on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fish, healthy fats, legumes, and seeds.
Nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich foods are the staples of an anti-inflammatory diet, as they allow the body to self-regulate and achieve homeostasis.
Foods to Avoid
An easy rule of thumb when following an anti-inflammatory diet is to avoid any food not found in nature.
Processed foods are loaded with preservatives, salts, and other additives for maximum shelf-life and are, therefore, pro-inflammatory and should be avoided.
Examples of processed foods are frozen meals, sweetened breakfast cereals, hot dogs, artificial cheese products, fast food, most store-bought baked goods, and sugary beverages.
Saturated fats lead to high cholesterol and heart disease and should be avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Foods with a high concentration of saturated fats, such as red meat, sausage, bacon, cured meats, butter, processed cheese, ice cream, and pastries, should be avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Some foods high in saturated fats and processed foods mentioned above contain gluten and dairy.
Gluten should not be avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet. Whole grains that contain gluten contain anti-inflammatory properties and are a staple of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It is important to note that gluten can create health complications for Celiac Disease patients. Read more about the pros and cons of gluten here.
Dairy is not inherently pro-inflammatory; however, processed cheese products should be avoided following an anti-inflammatory diet due to the preservatives and fillers added to such products. Lactose-intolerant individuals might want to try alternatives to cow's milk, such as almond milk which is rich in antioxidants or, for nut-allergic people, oat milk. Click here for more information about which milk might be suitable for you.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are used by the body to create inflammation when it is necessary to heal from an illness or trauma. Too many Omega 6s are harmful and can lead to chronic inflammation attributed to systemic disease processes.
Foods that are rich in Omega 6 are sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil. Many processed foods such as chips, store-bought baked goods, and cured meats like bacon and pepperoni are also high in Omega 6.
Now that we've discussed gluten and the benefits of whole grains, let's look at refined carbohydrates. These foods are generally found in white bread, boxed pasta, and store-bought pastries. They are broken down into two categories: sugars and refined grains.
Most processed carbohydrates contain high amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Sugar disrupts the natural gut microbiota, disrupts reparative tissue and muscle processes, and can contribute to the onset of diabetes mellitus in adults and children, which is why it must be avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Refined grains are typically wheat-based products that have undergone removal of the nutrient-dense, fibrous aspects that naturally occur within them. Refined grains, also known as simple carbohydrates, are broken down into sugar and create pro-inflammatory processes within the body.
An anti-inflammatory diet calls for whole grains and eating the right carbohydrates to aid in proper healing, health, and wellness.
Check out some healthy carbohydrate breakfast ideas to start your day on the right track.
Studies have shown a causal link between the ingestion of alcohol and inflammation due to the creation of harmful gut bacteria that leads to gut dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth.
Alcohol releases endotoxins which trigger an inflammatory response that negatively affects the liver and increases intestinal permeability.
Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Right for You?
An anti-inflammatory diet might be right for you if you struggle with autoimmune disease, chronic illness, food allergies, or sensitivities.
Eating healthy fats, lean proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains are the hallmarks of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Avoiding processed foods, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol helps the body heal naturally by decreasing intestinal permeability, promoting a balanced gut microbiome, and restoring damaged tissue.