Although acute inflammation, which occurs after an injury or due to an illness, can benefit you in several ways, chronic inflammation can wreak havoc throughout your body. In fact, there’s compelling evidence that chronic inflammation may be the root cause of all degenerative diseases. The anti-inflammation diet is designed to prevent and reverse those diseases.
What Is the Anti-Inflammation Diet?
Hippocrates said it best when he said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Over the last few decades, numerous studies have proven that the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and compounds found in the food you eat has a tremendous impact on your health. The anti-inflammation diet is a way of eating that is designed to avoid chronic inflammation and fight off its effects, including things like cardiovascular diseases, disorders ending in the suffix “-itis”, and even neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Per Russell Greenfield, an assistant professor of medicine at Chapel Hill’s University of North Carolina, the Western diet is too rich in omega-6 fatty acids. These are common in a variety of fast foods and processed foods. Along those same lines, the Western diet doesn’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids. When the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is broken, inflammation occurs. The anti-inflammation diet is designed to rebalance those fatty acids.
What Kind of Food Do You Eat?
Most physicians and nutritionists alike will agree that the anti-inflammation diet resembles the Mediterranean diet quite closely. Simply put, it’s a combination of low-fat proteins, carbs, fish oil, and monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart. There are many specific variances in the anti-inflammation diet, but for the most part, they all suggest:
- Consuming as few saturated and trans fats as possible;
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors;
- Enjoying multiple sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which include fish, walnuts, and fish oil supplements;
- Limiting your consumption of simple, refined carbs;
- Eating lean proteins like chicken and turkey breast;
- Increasing your consumption of whole grains; and
- Adding certain spices and herbs, like curry, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric, which have been clinically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Does it Really Work?
Although researchers, doctors, and nutritionists universally agree that the anti-inflammatory diet needs more clinical study, there’s plenty of research on the Mediterranean diet, which has proven to be successful in reducing chronic inflammation and improving cardiac outcomes. Balancing omega-3s and omega-6cs decreases levels of proteins called cytokines, which are the proteins known to trigger inflammation. What’s more, simply adding more omega-3s to your diet can relieve the stiffness and pain associated with tired or arthritic joints, too. Cinnamon and curry have also been shown to reduce inflammation, and they’re recommended components of the anti-inflammatory diet.
While it certainly takes longer for the anti-inflammatory diet to reduce inflammation than a pharmaceutical-grade drug would, it’s safer, and it comes with fewer side effects. In fact, the anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial in almost every way. It supports healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, weight management, mood, wellbeing, energy levels and more.
Added Note: Gluten & Lactose
As an added note, it’s important to have blood work done if you regularly suffer from inflammation. A couple of common sensitivites or intolerances that people have include gluten and lactose. These are found in a remarkable number of foods and can lead to inflammation due to the body releasing histamines. Gluten has also been linked to a number auto-immune disorders which is why some doctors are even suggesting cutting grains completely (many people are turning to Paleo diets for just this reason).