How Diet Can Prevent Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s attempt to heal itself after an injury, defend itself against foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria, and repair damaged tissue. It’s an important part of our immune system as it prevents wounds from festering and infections from becoming deadly.

But inflammation can also be a problem.

The two types of inflammation are acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a good thing. It occurs after an abrasion to the surface of the skin, a sprained ankle, acute bronchitis, an infected ingrown nail, a sore throat or appendicitis. It is short-term and here to help.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the effect of “wear and tear” conditions, including allergies, asthma, osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease. Chronic inflammation may also be caused by habitual or environmental factors, such as poor oral health, lack of exercise, poor diet, excess weight, stress, smoking, pollution, and excessive alcohol consumption. It is long-lasting and perceived as the “bad” kind of inflammation.

Why is chronic inflammation a problem?

Chronic inflammation occurs when the body sends an inflammatory response to a perceived internal threat that does not require an inflammatory response. White blood cells swarm to the area, only to find there is nothing to do and no germs, damaged cells, or foreign bodies to attack. Lost for something to do, these white blood cells may start attacking internal organs or other necessary tissues and cells.

Persistent inflammation can become a significant problem. Many major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, have been linked to chronic inflammation.

How do you stop chronic inflammation?

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes from food. Studies suggest that components of certain foods and beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects. Simply choosing the right foods can help to reduce your risk of illness caused by chronic inflammation.

The Mediterranean diet, for example, has shown to be a fantastic approach to reducing inflammation. It includes plenty of fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils. Omega 3 fats have also been found to help reduce inflammation associated with some forms of arthritis, with oily fish, linseed, canola and flaxseed oil, walnuts and some fish oil supplements proving helpful. There’s even research suggesting that coffee can protect us against chronic inflammation!

Why should you follow an anti-inflammatory diet?

Chronic inflammation is unfortunately one of those things that comes with age. The older we get, the more at risk we become. Poor diet, weight gain, low sex hormones, smoking, periodontal disease, sleep disorders, stress and other factors also play a part in chronic inflammation. These risk factors make an anti-inflammatory diet essential, but almost anyone can benefit from making small changes to their diet in a bid to prevent inflammation.

If you’re looking to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, you should add these to your grocery list:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds (particularly walnuts and almonds)
  • Oily fish (salmon, fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel)
  • Colourful fruits and vegetables (particularly berries)
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Fiber (oat bran and barley)
  • Red wine (in moderation)

Foods to avoid adding to your grocery list:

  • Refined carbohydrates (white bread and pastries)
  • Fried foods
  • Soda and other sweetened beverages
  • Red meat
  • Processed meat (hot dogs and sausages)
  • Margarine
  • Salt

In general, aim for an overall healthy diet. Your plate should be colourful – a sign that you’re getting the variety of vitamins and minerals you need. You may also like to avoid cooking at high temperatures, as foods typically cooked at high temperatures, like meats, may exacerbate inflammation. This doesn’t mean you have to become vegetarian, but you might like to consider methods of cooking that use a lower temperature such as steaming, simmering, or braising.

Fiber, found in foods like lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, oat bran and barley, as well as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, is important, as studies have suggested that people who eat diets high in fiber have lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in their blood. CRP is a sign of inflammation that’s been linked to diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

A fiber-rich diet can help reduce inflammation by lowering body weight. High-fiber foods also feed beneficial bacteria living in the gut, which then release substances that promote lower levels of inflammation body-wide.

After you start your new diet

If you are experiencing joint pain and inflammation and you have already incorporated “good foods” into your diet and eliminated the “bad foods”, you may also want to take a look at the link between gluten and inflammation. While doctors are still debating this link, there is some evidence to suggest that a sensitivity to gluten could be the root of some joint pain. Unlike other proteins, we don’t digest gluten properly, and for some people, the immune system sees gluten as the enemy and will unleash weapons to attack it. This in turn causes inflammation in the intestines, as well as other organs and tissues.

Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community well being, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.

All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.