3 Nutrition Tips to Help Fight Inflammation
You’ve likely heard the word inflammation related to health and diet but do you actually know what it means? And more importantly, what causes it and how you can help to keep it under control?
Inflammation is a blanket term that describes the body’s natural response to injury. Acute inflammation is the normal immune response that the immune system launches in response to any type of tissue damage. It’s most often short-lived and involves showing up in the body as redness, pain, heat and swelling.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation is caused by persistent acute inflammation or some type of autoimmune reaction or condition. This chronic and systemic inflammation in the body can have several damaging, degenerative effects on the body and is often known by ailments ending in ‘itis. Chronic inflammation is also the root cause of many chronic diseases including and has also been linked to weight gain. Moreover, there is a huge connection between underlying inflammation in the gut and links to other health conditions (beyond digestive concerns) including skin health, brain health and joint pain to name a few.
Getting both acute and chronic inflammation under control is a very important part of living optimally. Thankfully diet plays a huge role in helping to do so!
Here are 3 tips to help to manage inflammation in the body through your diet…
- Add Anti-Inflammatory foods
Certain foods and nutrients can help the body to reduce inflammation on it’s own which is a great alternative to the side-effects laden pharmaceuticals that are often recommended. Best foods to consider include:
- Vitamin C Rich Foods: In one study, high blood Vitamin C showed a reduction in the levels of inflammation by 45%. In another study, high fruit intake specifically was linked to a 25% reduced risk of inflammation*. Focus on fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, cherries, berries amongst other colourful fruits and veggies. Ensure a minimum of 5-7 servings per day, with at least half of those servings being raw.
- Turmeric Root & Ginger Root are two examples of spices that help the body to reduce inflammatory markers at the cellular level due to their active ingredients. Ground powders will still work although using the actual root (which can be purchased at most grocery stores) will have a more significant impact. Ways to incorporate them into your daily routine include adding a thumb-sized chunk (peeled) to your smoothie, slicing thinly and adding to stir-frys or making tea by simply boiling the root.
- Omega3 Rich Foods: flaxseed (ground), walnuts, salmon and trout are all great sources that most of us don’t get enough of. If these foods aren’t in your regular repertoire, I also recommend considering an Omega3 supplement. Look for a fish oil with at least 2000mg of EPA fish oil to help reduce inflammation specifically – this is a great one.
2. Remove Inflammatory Foods
Reducing inflammation in the body goes beyond just adding in foods to help inflammation. An even bigger focus is to remove the foods that increase inflammation within the body in the first place – including the many foods that you may not even realize may contribute to inflammation.
- Sugar: is an obvious unhealthy food that most of us know we can benefit from remvoing. It not only robs our bodies of precious minerals and nutrients, it actually causes us to become inflamed at a cellular level. If you have a sweet tooth and can’t see yourself fully nixing the sweet stuff (like me!), it’s best to switch to natural, less processed sweetners such as raw organic honey and maple syrup and try to use them minimally. Steevia is another alternative herbal sweetner that can also be used without the negative effects of processed sugars.
- Dairy: although commonly touted as healthy, conventional dairy is a highly processed, inflammatory food. Eating small amounts of organic dairy can be beneficial for some, but for those living with chronic inflammation or pain it can be beneficial to remove dairy for at least a period of a few weeks to months to see the effect. If dairy is consumed, goat and sheep dairy tend to be easier to digest, and organic is always recommended (as animals store their toxins within their fat cells).
- Gluten: Over the past several years gluten has gotten quite the reputation! There are arguments as to whether ‘gluten sensitivity’ is even a thing, but simply put, it is a mixture of two proteins found in several grains that causes certain people to have an inflammatory reaction. The reaction can be different for everyone, and can range from severe to very moderate (if there is a reaction at all). However, what I have found, time and time again with clients is that they feel better when they remove, or at least cut back on the gluten – less bloated, less sluggish and less brain fog. The good news is that there are so many amazing whole foods without gluten that despite what you may think, it is actually not very hard to eat gluten free! Most of my recipes found on this blog are gluten free and all of the recipes in the new Nourish and Glow site that I am working on will be gluten free as well – sign up here if you want to learn more about the new gluten free meal planning site that’s launching soon!
Here’s an overview of the gluten containing grains to avoid and the gluten free grains to focus on:
Gluten containing grains:
- And more..
Gluten free grains:
3. Heal & Support the Gut
The third step to reducing inflammation in the body is healing and supporting the gut. With more and more research being conducted on the gut and it’s connection to the rest of the body, there is not doubt that improving digestive health has profound benefits to the body – beyond those that are related to the digestive system. In fact, improving the health of the gut has been known to improve conditions related to the skin, the brain and many auto-immune disorders.
Supporting the gut begins with the introduction of probiotics in the diet from a variety of sources.
Adding fermented foods to the daily diet provides the body with much needed living sources of bacteria that help to balance out the micro-flora. Kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha and organic yogurt and kefir (if well tolerated) are great sources to add to daily meals.
Adding a daily probiotic can also be extremely beneficial for helping to rebalance the microflora in the gut. When the microflora is balanced and working optimally it will help the body to manufacture certain vitamins, help to transport nutrients, support the immune system (over 70% of the immune system is found in the gut), and will help with the successful elimination of toxins in the body. Speaking with a nutritionist to help you to determine which probiotic is best for you is always a good idea.
*2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.