You may be familiar with anti-inflammatory medications, but have you heard of anti-inflammatory foods? The foods you eat have everything to do with how you feel.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is defined as a localized reaction of tissue to irritation, injury, or infection. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, swelling, at times red coloration in the area, and sometimes loss of movement or function. We commonly think of inflammation as the painful component of arthritis. Inflammation is also a component of many; even most, chronic diseases such as heart disease, strokes, and premature aging in general.
Medical Anti-Inflammatory Treatments
Common medical anti-inflammatory treatments include rest, light exercise, weight maintenance, stretching, and medications designed to reduce the inflammation and control the pain. These medications include Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), steroid medications, and perhaps ultimately, joint replacement surgery. The NSAIDs are widely used as the initial form of therapy.
*The Well: Experimental studies have shown that NSAID use is associated with acceleration of osteoarthritis and joint destruction. NSAIDS appear to suppress the symptoms but accelerate the progression of osteoarthritis.
For the most part NSAIDs are tolerated fairly well, although they can irritate the stomach and lead to ulcers. In some instances, long term use can lead to kidney problems. Tylenol [acetaminophen] and its generic versions, while not known to cause digestive tract damage, needs to be used carefully due to liver-damaging potential.
The Well: Ask us for information about proven safe and effective, natural, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements.
Avoid Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase pain from the inflammation and may also raise the risk for chronic disease. Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, sugarand fast foods will increase inflammation in your body. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and saturated fats. Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease.
The Well: We carry hot dogs, sausages and bacon which are not “cured”, & contain no antibiotics, nitrates or nitrites.
Saturated fats are also found in meats, dairy products and eggs. While all of these foods are important source of minerals and vitamins, you don't need the extra saturated fat. These foods also also contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for your health, too much arachidonic acid in the diet may make your inflammation worse. Be sure to choose low fat milk and cheese and lean cuts of meat, which will not promote inflammation.
The Well: ALL animal products, whether meats or dairy – in fact, excess protein in general – promote inflammation. If you do consume these products, it is crucial that they be certified organic. Beef needs to be exclusively “grass-fed”. Americans eat far more protein than is needed already; so consider eating less, but make sure it is “clean” of chemicals; hormones.
Diets high in sugar have also been associated with inflammation, obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes. Eliminate high sugar foods such as sodas, soft drinks, pastries, presweetened cereals and candy.
The Well: Stevia is a NATURAL sweetener which is safe; even for diabetics. We carry plain and flavored ones.
Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants. Whole fruits and vegetables are important to eat for their vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants. However, some vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant may actually make pain from inflammation worse. These vegetables are part of the nightshade family of plants and contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine. Solanine can trigger pain in some people. While there are no formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, you can avoid them for a few weeks to see if your pain and symptoms of inflammation improve.
*The Well: while wheat is not mentioned above, many find they have less pain if they avoid wheat.
Choose Anti-inflammatory Foods
Adding foods that reduce inflammation will improve how you feel and help to decrease your risk for chronic diseases. Here are some suggestions.
Fats and Oils
The right types of fats in your diet will impact pain and inflammation in a positive way. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They are found in cold water oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. Adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements from flax oil or fish oil may also help reduce inflammation; just be sure to speak with a doctor or nutritionist before taking larger, therapeutic doses of any supplement, or follow label instructions.
Olive oil is another type of oil that will reduce inflammation. In fact, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and can help to reduce pain. Other healthy oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil, coconut and walnut oil.
Your body needs protein to build healthy body tissues. Good protein sources include lean poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, legumes and seeds. Red meats may trigger inflammation, so cut back on fatty red meats. When you do eat red meat, choose lean cuts of bison, venison and other game meats, or the lowest-fat cuts of beef, preferably grass-fed beef.
Soybeans, tofu, and soy milk are three great sources of soy proteins that may help to reduce your pain and inflammation.
*The Well: We question the amounts of soy foods consumed today, due to the fact that soy is perhaps the MOST abused crop in this country. Soy foods in particular need to be certified organic in order to avoid the heavy chemicals used in its production, as well as the fact it is virtually all genetically engineered [prior term, “genetically modified”]. In addition, soy has a high content of plant estrogens; not necessarily beneficial for either sex - and certainly not for infants and children. IF you choose to consume soy, try to stick with the most natural forms: edamame [fresh green soy beans similar to limas but higher in protein], tofu, etc. Soy supplements are especially suspect in their effects due to having been focused and enhanced, therefore more “potent”.
There are safer forms of vegetarian protein and nutrition.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Most of your carbohydrates should come from whole grains, vegetables and fruits. The bread, cereal and pasta in your diet should be mostly 100% whole grain products. Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, and a high fiber diet will reduce your inflammation.
*The Well: The average “whole grain” product in your supermarket is anything but. Go to your local health food store for actual whole grain foods, and also learn how to prepare and enjoy real whole grains. *Again: Try avoiding WHEAT for a while and see how you feel.
Choose green leafy vegetables, green and brightly colored vegetables and lots of fresh whole fruits. You should eat at least five and preferably more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Green vegetables and whole fruits are also important as sources of dietary fiber.
Berries are also a great food choice, especially blueberries and strawberries which are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. The pigments in brightly colored fruits, vegetables and berries contain many phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. One example is quercetin, which is found in apple and red onion skins and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Your body needs water in the form of foods and beverages every day. The simplest and maybe best form of water is fresh drinking water. Other good fluid sources include 100% fruit juices, herbal teas, vegetable juices and low fat milk. About 20% of the water you need every day will come from the foods you eat.
The Well: Chemically-treated water from a public water supply does not qualify as “fresh drinking water”. Get a filter.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips:
Over all, when you are choosing anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce your inflammation and pain, choose fresh foods instead of heavily processed foods. Here are some tips:
Breakfast could be oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts, with a cup of almond or rice milk.
Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables throughout the day instead of cookies and candy.
Eat more [WILD-CAUGHT] fish and less fatty red meat.
Stay away from fried foods; especially deep fried, and bake or stir-fry your meals instead.
Choose green, orange, and yellow vegetables for your side dishes.
Drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day, fresh 100% fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas and green tea.
*The Well:An additional MUST is to avoid certain food additives known as “neurotoxins”, the most dangerous of which [as proven currently] are MSG [monosodium glutamate] and aspartame [artificial sweetener used in virtually every sugar-free food and beverage. It’s marketed in the U.S. as Equaland NutraSweetand as of early 2010 its largest manufacturer has changed its name to “AminoSweet” to deceive consumers who have learned to avoid it by previous names. These chemicals are shown through clinical study to exacerbate symptoms of fibromyalgia, for example.