Anti-Inflammatory Diet

What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Why do you recommend an “anti-inflammatory” diet?

At the foundation of all our nutritional recommendations is an anti-inflammatory diet. For most healthy individuals, a modified version of the plan is perfectly capable of preventing symptoms of inflammation and reducing risks of chronic disease, most of which are caused by chronic inflammation. However, we recommend a stricter version of our diet reserved for more acute situations.

What is inflammation and why is it a problem?

Inflammation is a natural and healthy response of the body’s immune system when faced with trauma, injury, or infection. It’s this inflammatory response that causes swelling, redness, and pain at an injury site. It often involves loss of movement or function. This is referred to as “acute inflammation”. It’s a protective, localized and temporary response that actually helps accelerate the healing process. In fact, the acute inflammatory response is integral to a healthy immune system, as well as to the body’s overall ability to heal itself.

This is very different from chronic inflammation. The word “chronic” means “present for a long time” — it is this prolonged inflammation that is so harmful. Unlike the very visible signs of acute inflammation, like redness and swelling, chronic inflammation is most often invisible, with no signs or symptoms other than those detectable through chemical tests.

Why should I be concerned about chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is at the very root of many serious and potentially debilitating diseases. Extensive research over the last decade has shown that inflammation plays a significant role in aging, obesity, and many of the chronic conditions and diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, strokes, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, Parkinson’s, and some types of cancer, to name a few. Because of its generally unrecognizable signs, chronic inflammation is particularly dangerous for your health.

What are the fundamental benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet?

First, it’s important to understand that our bodies naturally manufacture both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory chemicals. The foods we eat dictate, in part, how much of each type of chemical our body produces. Food actually provides the ingredients that drive the body toward a more anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory state. So, whether our inflammation is due to acute injury, or to the invisible chronic type, we can enjoy significant benefit from eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Of course, there are other factors that increase inflammation, such as overexposure to the sun, exposure to environmental toxins, and extended periods of stress, all of which should be controlled as much as possible.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet? What would I eat, and what would
I give up?

Let’s start by looking at what types of foods cause more inflammation. A diet that’s too low in fat or the wrong kinds of fat, or eating a diet that is high in sugar and carbohydrates or the wrong types of carbohydrates, all cause cells to produce more pro-inflammatory chemicals. What are the wrong kinds of fat? Trans-fatty acids like partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, lard and refined oils should be avoided at all costs. Although small amounts of saturated fat are necessary for health, excessive amounts drive up the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Both red meats and dairy foods are high in saturated fats. These foods also contain something called arachidonic acid, which plays a significant role in the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Sugars of all types, grains (because they are reduced to sugars quickly in the digestive process), and alcohol, also increase the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Eating these types of carbohydrates causes a rapid rise in blood sugar, resulting in elevated insulin levels. Insulin (although an important hormone for blood sugar control, energy usage, and storage) in excess has a very pro-inflammatory effect. So we see how eating a typical American diet can aggravate inflammation. In addition, hidden food allergies can contribute to a low-grade chronic inflammation as well.

An anti-inflammatory diet is based on getting fats from good essential fat sources like fish, olive oil, raw nuts, seeds, and avocado. Most of our carbohydrates sources should be fruits and vegetables rather than grains, sugars, and alcohol. Brightly colored fruits and veggies signal the presence of anti-oxidants, Nature’s natural anti-inflammatories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, representing all the colors of the rainbow, ensures we get a full spectrum of powerful anti-oxidants.

What specific benefits would I experience if I followed this type of food plan?

Those who have symptoms from acute inflammation, such as pain, injury, arthritic or joint pain, allergies, post-surgery recovery, some digestive disorders, as well as those with indicators of chronic inflammation, like blood test indicators or diseases, can all benefit from the strictest form of anti-inflammatory diet. Others can create a health and eating plan based upon a modified anti-inflammatory diet, which we call a “90/10” plan. This means that 90% of what we eat is derived from foods that contribute to anti-inflammatory chemical production in our bodies. In this plan, we can be more lenient with the other 10%, and still maintain a healthy diet.

It’s important to realize that many times an anti-inflammatory diet alone is all that’s needed to reduce or eliminate symptoms of acute inflammation. That means it’s possible to eliminate joint pain, allergy symptoms, weight gain, and inflammatory digestive disorders, to name a few, with diet alone! It’s also possible to improve or reverse a disease process that’s been negatively impacted by chronic inflammation.

What if my symptoms don’t go away by changing my diet alone?

When these kinds of dietary changes are simply not enough to completely reverse the inflammatory process, there are myriad supplements that act as co-factors and co-enzymes in our body’s process to produce more anti-inflammatory chemicals. The use of these supplements can enhance the affect of your anti-inflammatory diet and accelerate the reversal of an inflammatory condition in your body.

Let thy food be thy medicine, let thy medicine be thy food.”
~ Hippocrates, the father of medicine