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Anti-Inflammation Diets - Is there a way to simplify it all?

There is an enormous amount of interest in anti-inflammation diets out there and rightfully so. Chronic inflammation is very common and is tied to a large list of serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancers, auto-immune conditions, and heart disease to name a few but it is also a common cause of musculoskeletal concerns like muscle, joint, tendon, spinal disc or nerve pain.

Acute inflammation is what we consider to be ‘good inflammation’ since this is simply the immune system responding to some damage to the body, like a cut or infection. After the body recovers, the inflammation goes away.

Chronic inflammation is where the immune system sticks around long after it has infection or injury and can remain for months or years. This issue can lead to more serious illness over time or pain and discomfort continuously.

So what can we do about chronic inflammation?

There are medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. These have been shown to be effective but come with them various side effects which become more noticeable when you have them longer term. Main ones being irritable bowel, reflux and stomach ulcers. In some cases there can be nausea and dizziness which would increase risk of injury particularly in older age groups.

What if instead of needing medication to alleviate symptoms of chronic inflammation, we actually eliminated the inflammation altogether? Wouldn’t that be a goal that everyone should strive for!? Just like a lot of chronic health issues, diet, exercise and lifestyle can be the key!

There are many anti-inflammatory foods out there and the list is too long to go into. I’m sure if you are interested in this topic you may have at least once done an internet search. The question remains though - what is the most practical dietary pattern that can get a noticeable result? This is where it gets more tricky.

Rather than focusing on all the possible anti-inflammatory foods let’s look at a dietary pattern that will have enough of an impact to get a clinical difference. In other words – what gives you ‘best bang for your buck’.

  1. If you have excess weight – reduce it:

Excess weight is associated with inflammation but why? One of the key features is that fat cells release these proteins called cytokines. These are used by cells to signal to each other. However the more fat cells we have, the more cytokines get produced and high amounts seem to lead to chronic inflammation.

  1. Carbohydrate:

The human body can use 3 primary fuels, glucose (from carbs), ketones (from fat) and alcohols. Provided you don’t drink alcohol or not drink too often, the body will always use carbs first and fat second. The ketones however when we are fat burning. The ketones we produce when fat burning have one of the most potent anti-inflammatory effects we know of. You can achieve this not by necessarily weight loss but, by being in ‘nutritional ketosis’ - fat burning not by cutting calories but by changing the composition of your diet to reducing carbs

  1. Getting your unsaturated fat ratios right

Unsaturated fats are considered to be ‘healthy fats’ but there are 2 different types; poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated. Both have great benefits however it has been studied that a poor ratio of too much poly and not enough mono is directly linked to inflammation. Examples of poly-unsaturated foods are sunflower oil, canola oil, salmon, walnut. Examples of mono-unsaturated fats are olive oil, almonds and avocado.

  1. Gut health

With approximately 70% of your immune cells present around your gut it is no wonder that gut health plays a major part in chronic inflammation. If you have gut dysfunction symptoms or diagnosed IBS it is important to get this treated. The next important element is the quality of your microbiome which is the types of bacteria in your gut and having the right foods and fermented foods can help here. Finally the strength of your gut mucosa is a key component to reducing chronic inflammation. The gut mucosa is a thin barrier that lines your small intestine. If this is weakened then bacteria or toxins can pass through and into the bloodstream. This of course results in a hyperactive immune system and leads to general bodily inflammation.

Notable mentions:

Some foods have great natural anti-inflammatory properties such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, pepper and green tea.

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