Inflammation – The Basics
The terms Inflammation and anti-inflammatory diet are being tossed around lately and I thought this would be a great time to share some information on these topics. So let’s delve into what these things mean, who would benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet and how to go about it.
What is Inflammation?
The word inflammation is a widely misunderstood term considered to be something that causes harm to our body. The truth is, inflammation is an essential pathway of your immune system to protect your body from something as simple as a small cut to fighting a severe infection. The process of inflammation includes increased blood flow at the site of injury/infection, dilation of capillaries, white blood cell infiltration, and production of chemical mediators to manage the condition.
While inflammation is a natural process that aids the body in certain conditions, it can occur too little causing it to go unnoticed by us before it’s too late (e.x., diabetes, cardiovascular disease) or too much causing a bad reaction (e.x., autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis).
What triggers inflammation?
The most common trigger for inflammation is when your body is responding to a stimulus either in the form of a foreign body such as a bacterial infection or when it’s repairing an injury. However, there are certain factors that have the ability to trigger inflammation.
Diet – Various food groups such as sugars, trans fats and refined products have been linked to promoting inflammatory reactions in the body.
Stress – Multiple studies have shown that chronic stress has a pro-inflammatory response as the hormone cortisol (more commonly known as the stress hormone) is also involved in regulating inflammation.
Excess weight – Although excess weight gain is listed as a trigger for inflammation, this is a bit of a conundrum as inflammation can also lead to weight gain. Different pathways have been linked to show that overeating and excess fat in the body can trigger inflammation.
Alcohol Consumption – While maintaining your limits while consuming alcohol is advisable, drinking too much impairs liver function and may even cause build up of toxic byproducts triggering inflammatory reactions in your body.
Smoking – Multiple studies conducted among smokers has indicated a clear increase in various inflammatory markers. Also there is a clear decline in these markers after they quit smoking indicating a correlation between the two.
What are some of the foods that trigger inflammation?
Various studies have concluded that certain food groups tend to induce or cause an inflammatory reaction leading to adverse effects. Some of them are listed below:
- Sugars and Fructose – Studies conducted in animal models and human trials have been shown to induce inflammatory reactions leading to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, etc., What’s more, the high concentration of fructose in refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup plays an adverse role in developing these diseases.
- Trans Fats – Trans fats are one of the unhealthiest food options out there and are mostly found in fried fast food items. It is shown that there is a spike in inflammatory markers such as C-Reactive Protein when consuming a diet high in Trans Fats
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
A prolonged inflammation in the body is characterised by oxidative stress and altered glucose and lipid metabolism in our fat (adipose) cells, muscle, and liver. Making dietary changes can aid in managing oxidative stress and inflammatory pathways.
Anti-inflammatory diets are rich in antioxidants, plant polyphenols and other components that help reduce inflammatory responses. The usual prescription for an anti-inflammatory diet includes foods low in refined carbohydrates, high in soluble fiber, high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
The mediteranian diet is considered a good example of an anti-inflammatory diet as it is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. The advantage here is that it not only helps reduce inflammation in your body but substitutes your diet with healthier options leading to a better overall health.
Some of the commonly prescribed foods for an anti-inflammatory diet are Berries(rich in antioxidants), Fatty Fish(rich in omega-3 fatty acids), Avocados(high in fiber), Turmeric(contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound).
Who would benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet is usually prescribed for people suffering from an inflammation based condition such as:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Hashimoto’s Disease
In addition to this, it might help manage lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Although staying on this diet might help reduce the occurrence of inflammation, it may not be the ultimate solution. It is important to consult your physician and continue any medication prescribed.
It is also considered to be a healthy diet in general as it incorporates a diet high in the major macronutrients and excludes highly processed and refined foods.
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