We are bombarded with all kinds of toxins in our food, allergens in our environment and stress in our daily lives. The incidence of inflammation and inflammatory disease is on the rise. Everyone has a unique response to the stressors in their life. Some of that unique response is determined by genetics, but a lot of it is within our control — if we understand how our choices affect our health.
Inflammation is at the root of innumerable diseases. Just to name a few: arthritis, asthma, heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, chronic peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, sinusitis, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, fibromyalgia, lupus, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, allergies, and the list goes on.
There are literally hundreds of autoimmune diseases, and nearly all of them have inflammation as one of the signs.
What is inflammation? Inflammation helps wounds heal. It is the body’s natural response towards protecting itself. The body tries to heal itself by getting rid of the foreign stimuli or irritant. Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal.
What is acute inflammation? Starts rapidly and becomes severe. Examples are, a scratch or cut on the skin, a blow, appendicitis, tonsillitis.
What is chronic inflammation? Sometimes inflammation can cause further inflammation; it can become self-perpetuating. More inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions.
Cause of chronic inflammation: non-degradable pathogens that cause persistent inflammation, infection with some types of viruses, persistent foreign bodies, overactive immune system reactions.
The outcome: the destruction of tissue, thickening and scarring of connective tissue (fibrosis), death of cells or tissues (necrosis).
Inflammation and auto immune disease: An autoimmune disease is one where the body initiates an immune response to healthy tissues, mistaking them for harmful pathogens. The immune response triggers an inflammatory response too.
What causes chronic inflammation? Genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, exercise, eating and sleeping patterns, all combine to form disease in the body. Being overweight puts one at greater risk. The seeds of chronic inflammation (and a lot of other health issues) start with the gut.
Our ancestors ate a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1. Our current ratio is anywhere between 10:1 and 25:1! Our diet today is loaded with animal fats (such as corn-fed beef) and corn products, and low in seafood, seeds, and nuts. Making it worse are processed, packaged food, fast foods, and fried foods.
Omega-3 soothes inflammation, and omega-6 exacerbates it. A balance between the two is necessary.
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most celebrated dietary essentials among people who live a health conscious lifestyle. Omega-3s are found in rich supply in coldwater fish, such as mackerel, herring, salmon; phytoplankton, and flaxseed.
Other foods that are anti inflammatory are:
Ginger – good for all problems related to the gastrointestinal tract.
Turmeric – comes from the ginger family. It can be added to a smoothie or juice, or sprinkled over food.
Green tea – known to increase bone health and reduce inflammation.
Cherries – A team, from Oregon Health & Science University have found that tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food!
Dark leafy greens – spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals—like calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals—than those with lighter-colored leaves.
Almonds & Walnuts – high in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat.
Beets – fiber and antioxidant rich, these can be juiced.
Garlic and Onion
Extra virgin olive oil
Some foods that must be avoided are:
Dairy products – Contrary to popular belief and advertisement, bone strength does not come from consuming milk and other dairy products but from plant foods. In fact, dairy is a highly inflammatory food for most people.
Sugar – note that sugar has many names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup and sucrose. Sugar is more addictive than heroin and cocaine.
Grain fed meat – Animal fats have been linked to inflammation in a number of studies.Gut bacteria changes after eating saturated fats can trigger an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage, as per Scientific American.
Trans fats and vegetable oils – corn, soy, canola oils all should be avoided. These contain very high omega-6 fatty acids and dismally low omega-3 fats.
White bread and pasta – incites the same response as sugar, in the body.
Alcohol – an excess can fan inflammation.
For long term health, our choices make the difference between sickness and wellness.