Are you suffering from common diseases like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis? Did you know that inflammation is the leading cause of most of these diseases and that there are certain foods that you should be eating to reduce inflammation?
In this article, I will discuss the causes and symptoms of inflammation. Next, I will cover foods that promote inflammation followed by eight foods that help reduce inflammation.
Causes of Inflammation
If you cut or bruise yourself, inflammation is a healthy and natural bodily response to prevent infection and promote healing. Your body’s lymphatic or immune system responds to an injury by sending white blood cells to the affected area through increased blood flow. Your body’s response to the injury also brings swelling, pain, and redness to the affected area.
Your immune system, however, can overreact and attack healthy tissues, which can cause inflammation in otherwise healthy parts of your body. This is referred to as an autoimmune disorder and occurs in diseases like arthritis, celiac, and fibromyalgia. In cases where autoimmune dysfunction is not the cause, inflammation can happen when your body attempts to heal itself. For example, people with asthma often have airways in their lungs that are inflamed and swollen. Indeed, many common diseases like arthritis, diabetes, depression, cancer, and Alzheimer’s are associated with chronic inflammation.
Symptoms of Inflammation
The symptoms of inflammation include reddening, pain, and swelling of the tissues in your body due to your immune system responding to an infection or injury. Inflammation is a common condition that almost everyone has or will experience in some form or another.
Inflammation can impact different areas of the body depending on the cause. For example, common symptoms of arthritis include inflamed and swollen arm, finger, or leg joints. Arthritis occurs when the tissues in your joints wear out, causing bare bones to move against each other. Your body attempts to heal itself by increasing blood flow to the affected area, which causes inflammation and pain.
Although inflammation can cause much discomfort and suffering, many experts say that it is part of the natural healing process your body must go through, and it should not be eliminated. However, some types of inflammation, such as those caused by arthritis, never heal and become chronic.
Foods That Increase Inflammation
The traditional treatment for inflammation is to use over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, but these drugs often have side effects such as dizziness, rashes, and nausea. Also, certain individuals cannot take them such as people with heart problems, pregnant women, and those with high blood pressure.
What is the best way to control inflammation? The answer is to eat fewer foods that tend to increase inflammation and eat more foods that reduce inflammation.
Foods that increase inflammation include those high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. Other inflammation-promoting foods include carbonated beverages, red meat, and processed meats. To reduce inflammation, limit eating the following foods:
- Carbonated beverages (soda) and other sugar-sweetened drinks
- Refined carbohydrates like pastries and white bread
- French fries
- Margarine, lard, and shortening
- Red meat like hamburgers and steaks
- Processed meat like hot dogs
Foods That Help Reduce Inflammation
Foods that help reduce inflammation include those found in the Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet consists primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, foods high in omega-3s, and foods lacking in red meat, chemicals, or additives. Foods in the Mediterranean diet come from three food categories that are known to lower inflammation: antioxidant foods, minerals, and essential fatty acids. The following are foods found in the Mediterranean diet:
- Dark green vegetables – Research studies have found that vitamin E might help to protect your body from cytokines, which are molecules that promote inflammation. Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale contain significant amounts of cytokines. Compared to lighter-colored vegetables, dark green vegetables also have large quantities of vitamins and minerals that are good for your body.
- Fatty fish – Eat oily fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel. They contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and help to lower inflammation. To get the most benefits, you should eat oily fish at least a couple of times per week, and you should cook it by baking or boiling it. If you are not too fond of fish, you can take fish-oil supplements. Hemp oil inflammation products also have amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. (We covered this extensively in our article “What is Linoleic Acid?”)
- Whole grains – Whole grains contain more fiber, and studies have shown that more fiber in your diet can lower inflammation. Eat more whole grains and fewer foods made from refined grains such as rice, pasta, and white bread. However, when looking for whole grain foods, make sure that whole grain is the first ingredient as some products labeled as “whole grain” lack sufficient amounts of the substance.
- Nuts – A major component of the Mediterranean diet, nuts contain high amounts of calcium, fiber, vitamin E, and antioxidants. Studies have shown these ingredients to help reduce inflammation and slow the aging process.
- Low-fat dairy – Dairy products contain casein, which has been shown to cause inflammation for people with low tolerance to it. However, for individuals who can ingest casein, low-fat dairy products are an excellent source of nutrients and probiotics, which can lower inflammation in your digestive system.
- Soy – Soy and soy products contain isoflavones, which have been found to decrease inflammation in women. Additionally, an animal study from 2007 found that isoflavones reduced inflammation in the bones and hearts of mice. When choosing soy, try to avoid highly processed soy and, instead, eat more tofu, soy milk, and boiled soybeans.
- Ginger – Commonly used in Asian and Indian foods, ginger is a vegetable that has high anti-inflammatory properties. It also has been shown to boost your body’s immune system and help cleanse your body of toxins. Ginger can be taken as a supplement as well as in a dried or fresh form.
- Garlic – Garlic is a powerful immune-boosting vegetable that acts like pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen. It works by closing pathways in your body that promote inflammation. It is also available as a supplement or capsule for those who want to avoid bad breath after eating garlic.
Inflammation is the result of typical responses of your body in fighting off infection and promoting healing after an injury or sickness. However, autoimmune and chronic inflammation are not healthy, and what you eat can either contribute to inflammation or reduce it.
Have you ever had inflammation because of a poor diet? Did you reduce your inflammation by eating some of the foods discussed in this article? Let me know in the comments.