Discussions about chronic inflammation and anti-inflammatory diets have been gaining more popularity recently. But why is that? How does inflammation affect our body? Is inflammation good or bad? These are the questions we are tackling today in this post, and by the end you will have a better understanding. So let’s dive in!

Fact 1: Inflammation is Natural

Inflammation is the term used to describe the natural defense mechanism of your body to things like injury and illness, triggering responses to aid in healing. Simply put, when your body senses any type of insult on your system, it immediately sends blood cells to the site to repair the damage. This is a GOOD response and helps us heal sprained ankles and upper respiratory infections!

However there are certain conditions that trigger chronic inflammation. This is the type of inflammation that is harmful. You can think of this as your body constantly trying to heal itself but never getting ahead…and when your body doesn’t get a chance to rest, it is susceptible to a whole slew of chronic medical diseases.

What you need to focus on are ways to minimize generalized, chronic inflammation in your body to decrease your personal risk of future medical diseases.

Fact 2: Lifestyle Choices Impact Chronic Inflammation

There are choices we make that can stress our body and significantly contribute to a chronic level of inflammation. One good place to start is to evaluate your family medical history. The diseases most commonly linked with chronic inflammation include coronary artery disease (heart disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia), cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. If any of these run in your family, you may want to consider an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

Some complaints of patients with chronic inflammation include low energy, bloating and irregular bowel movements, central obesity, and medical conditions related to injured blood vessels (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes). When you look at each symptom, you can understand what is happening in your body and why those symptoms occur!

Low Energy

Low energy is most often related to high fluctuations in blood sugar when we are talking about inflammation. A “sugar high” gained by eating a sugary snack hits our system very quickly, but does not last since this form of sugar is used up very quickly. What you are left with then is a quick “crash” that makes you feel sluggish. Inflammation occurs when we have fluctuation of sugar levels in our blood stream

GI Disruption

The recommended amount of fiber daily is 30 grams….the American diet is typically only 5 grams! Increased fiber helps regulate bowel movements, decreases bloating, and binds to additional “wasted” material from what we eat, moving it through our GI track. Our body senses inflammation when we have substances that are just sitting in our GI tract that are not broken down or expelled.

Injured Blood vessels

When we eat certain foods that are high in fat and sugar, these molecules “knick” blood vessels and cause injury. Our bodies try to heal these injuries by swelling and depositing material on the inside of the vessels. This injury and healing process can lead to narrowed vessels, which causes diseases such as high blood pressure.

Central Obesity

With inflammatory foods that are high in calorie and low in nutrition, our bodies take the extra calories and store them as fat! Unfortunately, they get stored in areas of our body that we don’t like, like our middle! The reason this is dangerous is that the fat not only deposits in the “muffin top” distribution, but also around our organs. This causes inflammation and can lead to chronic medical diseases.

Other significant contributing factors include:

  • Sleep deprivation: Try to develop a Sleep health routine
  • Smoking: Decreasing smoking is very difficult to do, but is so beneficial in the long term. For more information, refer to the post that includes Tips to Quit Smoking.
  • Lack of Exercise: Incorporating daily exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. Finding time to even go for a walk can improve your inflammation. Read more tips about Tricking your Body to Exercise.
  • Poor food choices: the top 3 inflammatory food triggers are refined sugars (including artificial sweeteners), processed carbohydrates, and fried foods. The next section reviews a more detailed list, but eliminating the “Big Three” is a great place to start.

Fact 3: Foods can Trigger Inflammation within the Body

Chronic inflammation in the body can be a result of food choices. Here is a basic list of foods that are difficult on your body. This is a guideline for you to find your own balanced diet that your body tolerates. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the closer the food looks to its natural form (when harvested from the ground), the more nutrients it contains. Each step that processes an ingredient before entering your mouth, removes nutrients.

  • Sugar, High fructose corn syrup, and Artificial sweeteners: These less nutrient-dense foods promote inflammatory symptoms such as weight gain and elevated blood glucose and lipid levels.
  • Artificial trans fats & fried foods: This includes prepackaged baked goods, flavored coffee creams (liquid and powder), some brands of shelf-stable peanut butter, and chocolate- or yogurt-coated snacks. There is no safe level of trans fat. It decreases good cholesterol and not only raises bad cholesterol (considered pro-inflammatory) but recycles and reuses it.
  • Refined/Processed Carbohydrates: Easily digested but carry mostly empty calories. This can cause you to become hungry again and over-eat.
  • Excessive Alcohol: The recommended alcohol allowance is no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week for women. And for men, it is no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. 
  • Processed meat: choose organic grass-fed over grain fed animal meat
  • Limit caffeine, Limit Gluten
  • Limit Saturated fat: This includes butter, whole milk, cheese, high-fat red meat and skin on poultry. Our bodies only require a small amount; therefore, daily excess intake will exacerbate the inflammatory response.
  • Some sources say to limit tropical fruits (papaya, mango, banana, pineapple), but these are great ways to naturally sweeten healthy meals! I suggest using these in small amounts.

Fact 4: Anti-inflammatory Foods can Help you Heal

When changing your diet and mindset, try saying “I don’t eat…” rather than “I can’t eat…” This tricks your mind into approaching your anti-inflammatory diet as a choice that you have made rather than a restriction or something you are not “allowed” to do. Read more about ways to Trick your Tastebuds in this previous post.

Many of these foods are recommended by the National Arthritis Organization so you can check out their site for more information.

Incorporating these foods at each meal for just one month can help you increase energy, lose weight, decrease bloating, improve skin and hair vitality, and improve digestive health. Keeping a food diary and symptom tracker can help you stay motivated!

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil: 2-3 tablespoons per day. *Extra virgin olive oil is less refined and retains more nutrients than standard olive oil. 
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: 2 cups at each meal
  • Nuts like walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds: 1.5 oz daily (about a small handful)
  • Fatty, Cold-water fish: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines: 3-4 oz, twice per week
  • Fruits: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges 1-2 cups of fruit at each meal
  • Beans: black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 1 cup, twice per week
  • Onions: full of antioxidants and easy to incoroporate into meals
  • When possible, choose fresh foods instead of Canned foods, Frozen vegetables over canned vegetables
  • Gluten free pastas and carbs, Choose grains over pasta

Fact 5: You can boost your health by using Anti-inflammatory Supplements

So what supplements are best used to help fight chronic inflammation? Supplements are most effective when added to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

There are other supplements that have been shown to have an effect on chronic inflammation, but these 3 are a great way to start and have studies showing their health benefits!

Knowing these facts can help you take charge of your health! By realizing that chronic inflammation can harm the body, you can choose to make lifestyle and food choices that help your body heal. Any questions? I’d love to hear from you!

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Sarah
Hello! My name is Sarah and I am a Wellness Coach and Healthcare Provider with 15 years of experience. I am passionate about intentional, balanced living and created this blog to help others live a mindful life focussed on Self Care! Here you will find resources covering topics from health, finance, self-discovery, psychology, to balance, mindfulness, and intentional living. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

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