Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune system. Healing isn’t possible without inflammation, and it is a process that is pain-free when things are working as they should. When the immune system becomes over-activated, however, painful inflammation can occur that causes fatigue, joint pain, damage to blood vessels, and other health problems. Anti-inflammatory medicine can help, but there are potential side effects to the medication, including liver toxicity and internal bleeding. The good news is that it’s possible to treat inflammation with the more natural approach of eating certain foods and avoiding others.
Did You Know?
The foods we eat contribute more than almost anything else to inflammation, whether to reduce it or increase it. That may have something to do with the fact that 70% of immune system cells are located in the gastrointestinal tract. There are beneficial bacteria in our intestinal lining which rely on consumption of complex carbohydrates to do the work that helps prevent inflammation. A daily dose of probiotics are recommended for people who suffer with inflammation. A probiotic is a dietary supplement or dairy food with live bacteria that benefit or replace the friendly bacteria in the lining of our intestine.
Foods that Trigger Inflammation
Sugar is one of the worst foods you can eat if you want to reduce inflammation in your body. Medical research shows that sugar triggers the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. When looking at labels, watch for ingredients that end with “ose” because they contain sugar, such as sucrose and fructose. It may seem difficult to think of giving up favorite desserts and candies. The good news is that the body learns to crave what we feed it. Once you change your eating habits, your cravings will change.
According to some studies, fat tissue inflammation is triggered and worsened when you eat saturated fats. In the average diet in the U.S., cheese and pizza are the most common sources of saturated fats.
When you see “partially hydrogenated oils” on an ingredient label, it’s best to avoid that food because it contains trans fats, which trigger systematic inflammation. Common foods which have trans fats include: fried products such as fast foods, cookies, donuts, most stick margarines, and frozen breakfast meals.
While omega-3 fatty acids are recommended for a healthy diet, excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can trigger the production in the body of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Common foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids include various oils such as corn, sunflower, vegetable, and peanut; mayonnaise; and many varieties of salad dressing.
Foods with refined carbohydrates stimulate inflammation. It is best to avoid products which contain white flour, such as crackers and white bread; white potatoes; white rice; and cereals which contain refined carbs.
Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive that enhances flavor but that also can trigger chronic inflammation. MSG is commonly found in soy sauce and Asian food as well as many other products, including some fast foods, soup mixes, deli meats, and salad dressing.
Foods that Reduce Inflammation
Whole grains are complex carbs that contribute to a healthy immune system. Examples of whole grains that are recommended to help reduce inflammation include: beans, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, whole-grain barley, and whole wheat bread. Experts urge shoppers to watch labels to be sure that, first, whole grain is the first ingredient listed and, second, that there are no added sugars.
Oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon have been proven by researchers to reduce inflammation when prepared in healthy ways and when consumed several times each week. If you don’t enjoy eating fish, you can take fish-oil supplements to reap the same benefits.
The vitamin E present in dark leafy green vegetables can protect the body from painful inflammation. Kale, broccoli, spinach, and collard greens are excellent sources of vitamin E. The rich concentration of minerals and vitamins in dark leafy greens also supplies the body with needed iron and calcium.
Nuts which contain healthy fats are also good at fighting inflammation. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, and fiber. Walnuts contain a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are rich with antioxidants, which help to repair the damage caused by inflammation.
Beets are extremely beneficial to the body, with tremendous antioxidant properties. According to researchers, eating beets can also reduce inflammation.
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