Dr. Michael Smith, Michael Smith

April 19, 2012

2 Min Read
Manage Inflammation by Eating the Right Foods

Inflammation is your body’s response to a problem. It involves increasing blood flow to an area of injury or infection. The blood itself carries immune cells and repair proteins into the problem area. Once the problem is addressed and fixed, the inflammation subsides and everything returns to normal.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Here’s the problem: Aging Americans never fully turn off inflammation. This leads to a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation. The consequences of this heightened state of inflammation are organ and tissue damage. The development of age-related disease, like heart disease and cancer, is not far behind.

So what causes chronic inflammation? Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins are all common culprits. However, there’s another major cause that’s often overlooked: the foods you put into your body. Below, we’ll examine this in detail.

Americans Love Pro-Inflammatory Foods

The typical American diet is rich in animal protein, which is a source of arachidonic acid —a polyunsaturated omega-6 fat that can increase inflammation. Arachidonic acid generates a number of potent inflammatory compounds and proteins.

It’s really important that people predisposed to inflammation or those afflicted with it do everything they can to avoid increasing arachidonic acid levels in their body. Below is a short list of foods to limit or even avoid entirely:

·         Red Meat — Especially fatty red meat

·         White Meat — Chicken, duck, and wild fowl

·         Dairy — Any animal milk

·         Eggs — Avoid the yolk

·         Cheeses — Especially hard cheeses

·         Certain fish — Tilapia, catfish, and yellowtail

Please note that a healthy diet usually contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and some omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation.

Which Foods are Anti-Inflammatory?

Fortunately, nature offers us plenty of foods that can help ease inflammation. Even better, these foods work without producing side effects; they supply us with essential vitamins and minerals that can boost our overall health. Following is a brief list of anti-inflammatory foods:

·         Oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies

·         Olive, canola, walnut, and grape seed oils

·         Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts

·         Quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, oats, and rye

·         Tart cherries and dark berries

Is Your Diet Pro-Inflammatory?

Want to measure your diet as it relates to inflammation? Try this: Keep a food diary for one week. Create a table with five columns — meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains. Place a checkmark or "X" in the appropriate column every time you eat a serving of food from that category. At the end of the week, simply tally your checkmarks to see where you land.

Here’s a sample diary:

 

 

Meats

Dairy

Fruits

Whole Grains

Vegetables

Sunday

XXX

XXXX

XX

X

X

Monday

XXX

XXX

X

X

XX

Tuesday

XXXX

XXXX

XXX

XX

X

Wednesday

XX

XX

XX

X

XX

Thursday

XXX

XXX

XX

XXX

X

Friday

XXX

XXXX

X

X

X

Saturday

XXXX

XXXX

XX

XX

X

WEEK TOTAL

22

24

13

11

9

 

This person is eating a pro-inflammatory diet. Most of his or her points come from meats and dairy. Shifting the diet toward the right will ease inflammation and lower the risk for age-related disease. 

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