Individuals suffering from a number of chronic illnesses might find some relief from a change to their diets. Many diseases are contributed to by inflammation and diet plays a big part in the existence of inflammation.
If someone has chronic inflammation, their immune system is always activated. This triggers a series of potentially negative health outcomes. Further, a person's energy levels and sense of wellbeing are diminished.
One way to curb the onset of inflammation and its effects is to take on an anti-inflammation diet. Different types of anti-inflammatory diets can improve your gut health, protect against disease, and leave an individual with a better life.
We're going to take a look at the anti-inflammatory diet today, giving you some insight into what it is, how it works, and why it might be the right option for you.
It was once believed that all diseases originated in the gut. That idea was put forward by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago, and it has held up relatively well.
While we know that there are plenty of diseases that stem outside of the gut (in our genes or through our mental health, for example), there's a significant number contributed to by gut health.
Things like chronic inflammation, diabetes, obesity, allergies, and mental illnesses have a close interplay with the status of an individual's gut. The gut microbiota is the vast and complex community of bacteria that live in the stomach. The state of that community has massive health implications.
Gut bacteria contribute to immune system regulation, metabolism, resilience to infectious disease, and more.
A healthy community of bacteria contributes positively to a variety of health metrics. Certain bacteria, on the other hand, contribute to inflammation throughout the body. Our gut biome is fueled by the foods we take in, so the best way to start improving the quality of your gut health is to make changes to the diet.
It's possible that you will notice profound improvements to your health when your gut biome shifts in a healthier direction. Chronic conditions or pains that you've had for years might start to recede and make way for wellness.
History of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Changing one's diet to improve health is a practice that's existed for a very long time. The advent of processed and extremely unhealthy foods generated a lot of diseases, sickness, and general unwellness. The root of those issues tends to come from the diet, so the solution lies there as well.
Even before there was packaged or processed food on planet earth, though, people looked to food to treat different ailments they were having. Take Hippocrates' thoughts above, for example.
The history of the anti-inflammatory diet is a difficult one to pinpoint because inflammation is at the root of so many illnesses, and diet has always been a source of medicine. It's also the case that an "anti-inflammation" diet doesn't fit into the categories of normal diets.
We'll get to that in a moment.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body's response to potential threats or harm. When you reach back for your pen and slam your elbow on the corner of the desk, your body sends a swarm of white blood cells to protect and heal the area. The same is true for pesky things like pimples, scrapes, and more.
Inflammation, in other words, is a protective response from the body. It's supposed to be temporary and it's supposed to address legitimate issues. When inflammation works in a temporary way that it's supposed to, it's called acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a little different. Chronic inflammation is a constant or persistent inflammatory response to perceived threats. The difficulty is that there are a lot of behavioural things we can do to trigger the immune system and cause inflammation.
Poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, smoking, diseases, and a laundry list of other things can cause chronic inflammation.
What Is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet is more of a shift than a specific diet.
It's not the same as the Atkins or keto diets, for example. Generally speaking, anti-inflammatory dieting is an approach to food that avoids processed foods, seeks out whole foods, and supplements certain points of the diet with specific foods.
The more natural we get with our diet, the more that the body tends to agree with it.
Types of Anti-Inflammatory Diets
While anti-inflammatory dieting doesn't come with a specific routine, there are a few tried-and-true diet plans that encompass the principles and show results.
For example, the Mediterranean diet is thought to be one of the more effective anti-inflammatory plans. This diet consists of a healthy blend of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and oils. That list happens to be stuffed with doctor-recommended anti-inflammatory foods.
Individuals with a Mediterranean diet have lower likelihoods of disease and longer lifespans.
Another effective diet is what's known as the "DASH" diet. It means "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," but it works for inflammation as well. The diet avoids foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol. It also introduces a large amount of fruits nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.
You'll notice that whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and oils are common throughout anti-inflammatory lists. These are the foods that naturally contribute to a healthy gut biome.
What Are the Health Benefits of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet can provide a number of benefits to your health. The most notable thing that these diets can do is relieve symptoms of inflammation-based issues that you're having.
This seems like an obvious consequence of less inflammation, but it's important to note. Heart disease, lung disease, asthma, bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, and even Alzheimer's disease are worsened by chronic inflammation.
So, taking on an anti-inflammatory diet helps to reduce the symptoms of those ailments. Another important thing to note about this diet is that inflammation isn't the only thing that it can improve.
You might notice weight loss, improved energy, strengthened immunity, better digestion, improved mood, and even whiter teeth. Eating a good, natural diet is provides an almost comprehensive set of benefits to a person's life.
Who Can the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help?
Generally speaking, everybody could stand to gain from anti-inflammatory changes to their diet. It's important to consult with your doctor if you have any pre-existing health conditions that might be worsened by particular foods, though.
For example, individuals on some blood thinners might have adverse effects as a result of these dietary changes. That said, eating healthy foods and avoiding processed foods puts us in touch with the diet that humans have enjoyed forever.
For tens of thousands of years, the only things we had to eat were natural and unprocessed. Going back in that direction typically improves individual health.
If you're looking to use anti-inflammatory dieting as a complement to treatment, though, the following ailments might be benefited:
Conditions to Treat
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that's worsened by inflammation. It's typically signified by dry, red, and painful skin patches. Psoriatic arthritis is another potential ailment that's also benefited by anti-inflammatory dieting.
There are medications that improve symptoms, and those should be taken along with dietary changes.
Crohn's Disease and Colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases that can be painful and life-altering. As the issue exists in the digestive system, there's a close connection between gut health and the severity of symptoms.
Reducing inflammation is a great way to ease symptoms and improve the efficacy of other treatments you might be taking. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory issue that can impact your blood vessels, heart, lungs, skin, and joints.
Lupus is another autoimmune disorder that causes damage to your brain, heart, lungs, skin, kidneys, and joints. These happen because the immune system mistakenly attacks different elements of the body. The result of that process is inflammation, which is the key driver of lupus symptoms.
Asthma is a condition where the lungs are inflamed and restrict the breathing pathways. Those symptoms are made much worse if a person's diet consists of inflammatory foods.
Eosinophilic Esophagitis is a chronic condition in which eosinophil (a type of white blood cell) builds up in the lining of the esophagus, causing inflammation. This is a result of food, or acid reflux which can make it difficult to swallow.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland. This condition tends to be hereditary.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease or commonly known as IBS, is the inflammation of the large intestine. This can cause cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation - perhaps even both.
Metabolic syndrome is a complex set of issues that tie together. Those issues tend to be hypertension, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and excess stomach fat.
All of the above issues might be benefitted from an anti-inflammatory diet. There are a number of additional inflammatory and autoimmune disorders that are affected by diet as well.
Foods to Eat
There are a few specific foods to target at the grocery store when you're looking to reduce inflammation.
One notable piece of the diet is oily fish such as tuna, salmon, and anchovies. These fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation. Further, it's difficult to get Omega-3 fatty acids from sources other than fish.
One such acid, alpha-linolenic acid, is also found in things like nuts, flaxseeds, and vegetable oil.
It's also important to focus on a healthy variety of vegetables. Dark, leafy greens are a must, as they're packed with vitamins and minerals that fight inflammation. Some additional options to note are ginger, turmeric, beets, onions, garlic, and carrots.
Olives are key points of the Mediterranean diet and fight inflammation with compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. You should also seek out probiotics like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, and more.
Those foods help to promote healthy bacteria in the gut. The more good bacteria you have in the gut, the better your chances are of warding off various ailments.
You can also seek out teas that are anti-inflammatory. A lot of the anti-inflammatory elements of different foods are stripped down into tea, producing similar effects.
Common teas like green tea and chamomile are known to produce anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, chamomile is called herbal aspirin because of its ability to reduce swelling and pain.
Foods to Rarely Eat
It would be difficult to tell someone to avoid all foods that might produce some inflammation. For example, foods with added salt and sugar can lead to inflammation, but most of the foods on the market include those ingredients.
The truly important thing is to make those foods the exception and not the rule. If you avoid processed and unhealthy foods, for the most part, you'll be on the right track. The occasional candy bar isn't going to cause chronic inflammation.
Two candy bars every day of your life might, though.
It's important to know what you're watching out for, though. As we mentioned, the most important thing to stay away from is processed foods. Generally speaking, these are foods that come in packages and consist of more than one ingredient.
Even lunch meats and hot dogs are processed foods to avoid. The same goes for anything that is enhanced with salt or sugar. Further, look out for unhealthy oils like partially hydrogenated oils.
Processed Carbs and Nightshades
Another big thing to look out for is processed carbs. We need carbohydrates in our diet, but the unfortunate thing is that processed carbs are everywhere. One of the common ones is refined grains.
White bread and white rice, for example, are refined grains. They don't pose any nutritional value and they do harm if eaten often. The same is true for baked goods and sweet treats.
It's important to limit the number of carbohydrates you take in throughout the day because excess carbs of any kind might lead to inflammation.
Nightshades are another food group that tend to have inflammatory effects. Things like ashwagandha, curry powder, bush tomatoes, hot sauce, red peppers, and more are among the list.
Of course, eating a red pepper won't give you inflammation. If you eat a steady stream of nightshades throughout your life, though, you might see increased inflammation.
Allow Your Body to Be at Ease with Anti-Inflammatory Friendly Foods
Hopefully, our look at the anti-inflammatory diet was helpful to you. There's a lot to learn about this diet if you want to carry it out by the book. It's worth the effort, though, as the health benefits are vast and profound.
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