If you’ve ever heard that you should eat certain foods because they have anti-inflammatory effects on your body, you might have wondered why these are so important and how they work.
What, exactly, is inflammation? When your immune system is activated, inflammatory cells are sent out to heal damaged tissue or attack bacteria. But sometimes your body releases these cells when you’re not experiencing an injury or sickness.
Inflammation is a common symptom of various chronic health conditions, such as arthritis. When you constantly have inflammation in the body, it wears down your cells and organs.
To reduce and prevent inflammation in the body, you have to make smart food choices. Here’s what to know.
What Are The Two Types Of Inflammation?
There are two kinds of inflammation. These are:
- Acute inflammation: This is when you experience sudden damage or injury, such as in the form of a cut, and your body sends inflammatory cells to heal your body.
- Chronic inflammation: This is when your body continues to send inflammatory cells to an area of the body even when this isn’t required. Chronic inflammation is usually a side effect of health conditions such as untreated acute inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
The danger of having low-grade and chronic inflammation in your body is that it can lead to various health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cance.
What Causes Inflammation?
Lifestyle factors can encourage inflammation in the body. Here are some common causes of inflammation.
- Consuming a lot of sugar: The danger of consuming too much sugar is that it can cause insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes.
- Eating too many carbs and trans fats: Adding too many refined carbs to your diet, such as white bread, contributes to inflammation. In addition, eating processed or packaged foods that contain trans fats also boost inflammation. Studies have found that eating trans fats elevated inflammatory markers in the body, especially in people who had increased body fat.
- Drinking too much alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption causes systemic inflammation by disrupting the body’s natural defense against gut microbiota. Regular, chronic alcohol use impairs the balance of gut microflora, the liver’s detoxing ability, and the gut barrier function, which causes inflammation to run riot.
- Being overweight: When you overeat, this boosts your body’s immune response, which then makes the body produce more inflammation. This is why being overweight or obese is a risk factor for a variety of chronic illnesses.
- Chronic stress: When you’re suffering from chronic stress, the inflammatory substances in the body stay in your system instead of going away, and this repeats a cycle of stress and the body’s inflammatory response so it becomes a habit.
- Smoking: Research has found that heavy smokers contain an elevated level of white blood cells in the body. This increases inflammation.
Other things that can cause chronic inflammation include long-term exposure to pollution and other irritants, an autoimmune disorder that involves the immune system, and an acute inflammation that wasn’t treated properly.
What Are The Symptoms Of Inflammation?
So, how do you know if you’re experiencing inflammation? There are some important symptoms to look out for when it comes to chronic inflammation.
Unlike with acute inflammation that causes easy-to-spot symptoms, such as swelling, bruising, and pain, chronic inflammation can be difficult to spot.
It can include symptoms such as body pain, depression, fatigue, weight loss or weight gain, regular infections, and gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation or diarrhea.
There are also symptoms to look out for that are signs of health conditions caused by inflammation, so keeping an eye out for these is important to ensure you can better manage your inflammation.
High blood pressure, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, and various types of cancer are examples of health conditions that can arise from high levels of inflammation in the body.
What Are Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
To help you manage and treat inflammation, you should follow a diet that’s filled with anti-inflammatory foods. Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your eating plan.
Foods high in antioxidants and polyphenols.These compounds are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and they can be found in foods such the following:
In a study, people who consumed 50ml of olive oil every day for 12 months were found to have a reduced level of CRP (C-Reactive Protein) and other inflammatory markers in the body.
In addition, olive oil contains an antioxidant called oleocanthal, which is similar to anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
Berries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants. They can therefore protect your body against oxidative damage and reduce your risk of various diseases.
In a study, when people consumed blueberry powder daily, they experienced more natural killer cells in the body, which maintain the strength of the immune system, than those who didn’t consume the powder.
Fatty fish, such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel, contains omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) while being a valuable source of protein.
These fatty acids decrease inflammation. They are metabolized by the body so that they become resolvins and protectins, two compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties.
This green vegetable is packed with an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which reduces molecules in the body that trigger inflammation.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, along with kale and cauliflower, so eating it can help to reduce your risk of health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
This delicious fruit contains antioxidants such as tocopherols and carotenoids that can reduce your risk of health conditions, but it also reduces inflammatory markers.
In one study, adults who were overweight and ate avocado for 12 weeks experienced lower inflammatory markers interleukin 1 beta and CRP.
If you want to drink a healthy beverage, opt for green tea. This has been linked to a lower risk of health conditions such as heart disease and cancer, and that’s because it contains a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
This is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation by lowering pro-inflammatory cytokine production and the damage inflammation causes to the cells.
If you’re craving something chocolatey to eat after dinner, reach for dark chocolate. It contains flavanols that are known for being anti-inflammatory.
They help to maintain the endothelial cells that line the arteries so that they remain healthy. Just make sure you choose chocolate that contains at least 70 percent of cocoa as this ensures you get the most anti-inflammatory benefits.
Tomatoes are one of the healthiest types of foods you can eat. They contain Vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene.
This is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties because it triggers programmed cell death in activated immune cells.
Foods To Avoid For Inflammation
While you want to include the previous foods we’ve mentioned in your anti-inflammatory diet plan, you need to reduce your consumption of foods that boost your inflammation. Here are some foods to avoid.
There are many foods that contain added sugars, such as cakes, candy, pies, and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you have too much sugar in your body, insulin tries to store it in fat cells.
Over a period of time, this can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance that’s linked to other metabolic conditions.
Foods such as processed meats, frozen foods, and fast foods, have been linked to higher blood levels of inflammatory markers such as CRP.
Research has found that eating processed meats specifically is linked to health conditions such as heart disease and cancer, as these are associated with inflammation.
Foods Containing Trans Fats
Research has found that these fats are linked to increased inflammatory markers in people who have excess body fat. Trans fats are bad news because they do a lot of unhealthy things to your body.
They increase your body’s LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower its HDL (good) cholesterol, which puts you at greater risk of health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Foods that are considered refined carbs include crackers, bread, cereals containing sugar, and white rice. They increase inflammation because they enter the bloodstream really quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike.
This causes your body to try to eliminate the sugar quickly, which stimulates the production of inflammation.
You shouldn’t completely eliminate your intake of omega-6s. These fatty acids are found in foods such as soybeans, nuts, seeds, and sunflower oils.
They can be valuable because they promote good inflammation that your body requires to heal you, but you need to ensure you balance them with omega-3 fatty acids otherwise they will cause a pro-inflammatory response and inflammation in the body.
Does Exercise Help To Reduce Inflammation?
While you’re adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, bear in mind that exercise is also an important element to add to your lifestyle to reduce inflammation.
This is because of how exercise benefits the immune system and ensures it functions properly. In fact, just one session of moderate exercise that’s 20 minutes long stimulates the immune system.
By reducing your fat mass, you also reduce your body’s inflammation. Physical inactivity causes visceral fat, which activates a network of inflammatory pathways in the body, so exercise can help to remove it and the subsequent inflammation.
Are There Disadvantages Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan?
There aren’t any negative side effects or consequences to deal with when choosing anti-inflammatory foods. However, it might take you some time to get used to your new eating plan if you’re used to eating inflammatory foods on a regular basis.
A good idea is to stop shopping for inflammatory foods and replace them with healthier, anti-inflammatory foods like the ones we featured earlier. It will also help you to plan your meals ahead of time so that you know exactly what foods to buy.
The Mediterranean diet is regarded as an excellent anti-inflammatory diet to follow. This is because it’s naturally filled with lots of anti-inflammatory foods, such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and it restricts meat and alcohol.
Are natural sugars bad for you?
While added sugars cause your blood sugar to spike, natural sugars that are found in dairy and fruit don’t cause this to happen as quickly because their effects are tempered by their protein and fiber.
Should you worry about acute inflammation?
Generally you don’t have to worry about acute inflammation. Over-the-counter medicines can alleviate symptoms. If you have an infection, you should contact your doctor, who will likely prescribe antibiotics.
If you’re worried about inflammation, you need to start focusing on your diet. You can naturally decrease your body’s level of inflammation just by making healthier food choices, such as eliminating fast food and replacing it with plant-based foods.
In this article, we’ve featured some of the best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your eating plan and the foods you should avoid because they will increase or trigger inflammation.