What is inflammation?
Do you hear about inflammation from your doctor or in the news, but not exactly sure what it means for your health? Acute inflammation is your body’s natural response to an injury (a cut or break) or an infection (a virus or bacteria). This inflammatory response is crucial for your body to heal. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is inflammation that persists over a longer period of time and plays a role in heart disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, some types of cancer and obesity.
Think of acute inflammation like a storm that hit your neighborhood. Some damage occurred, there is clean up to be done, things will get resolved and you will move on. Chronic inflammation is like that storm hitting your neighborhood 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year. There is never an opportunity to clean up and move on.
Putting out the fire of inflammation
We can’t always control the impact our environment has on our body. But we can make choices each and every day to reduce the inflammation that the body is experiencing.
1. Avoid highly processed foods. The Standard American Diet is not serving us well in the fight against inflammation. Food is fuel and provides important vitamins and minerals for the body to function at it’s best. When food is highly processed it may be depleted of many of those important nutrients. In addition, it may be rich in added sugars and types of fats that increase the inflammatory response in the body.
2. Determine which foods are bad for you. Have you ever thought a specific food wasn’t “agreeing” with you? I am not talking about food allergies that may lead to a rash, itchy skin, diarrhea or as severe as anyphylaxis within minutes to hours of consuming the food. But symptoms that may be happening more chronically, possibly due to regular exposure to a food or foods that create an inflammatory response in your body. Symptoms may include joint or muscle pain, headaches, brain fog or diarrhea.
It can be challenging to determine specific foods that may be creating inflammation for you as each individual is different. Testing, such as the mediator release test (MRT) is available to help find out answers. A first step may be to try to eliminate a food that you think makes you sick. Eliminate that food for 2 weeks, then reintroduce it one day and see if within 3 days you have any increased symptoms. If you felt better without it and you had a symptom when you ate it again, that food may not be nourishing your body well and it may be creating inflammation.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple. There may be many foods creating inflammation. In addition, you must consider the impact stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or excess exercise may be having on chronic inflammation as well.
3. Choose foods that nourish. If you haven’t determined any specific foods causing symptoms, you can continue to make choices that will provide highly nourishing foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory. Fruits and vegetables are great choices. Look for those vibrant in color including blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, spinach and kale. Cruciferous vegetables are also a great choice: cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts. Also, include fats that reduce inflammation such as those found in fatty fish including salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines. Choose virgin olive oil and nuts such as walnuts and almonds. And remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. These foods do provide important nutrients, but for some individuals they may not be a perfect fit for their body.
Good food that nourishes your body will go a long way to promoting good health. Consider, however, that all aspects of a healthy lifestyle – sleep, stress management, physical activity and diet – are also important to achieve your best health.
There is no one size fits all approach to nutrition and healthy living. Recommendations given are not intended to replace the personalized guidance of a health professional.
Lynda Binius Enright, MS, RDN, LD, CLT
Be Well Nutritional Consulting
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