Inflammation in the body is a bigger problem than you would initially think. It’s been linked to numerous conditions, including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Doctors don’t know everything about inflammation and the problems that it causes. They don’t know exactly how it is caused and whether the diet is connected to it. The problem is that food and science had advanced, but there is still a lot to learn. Symptoms aren’t always the same, and people have different thresholds and intolerances.
That doesn’t mean we can’t take a few steps to make our lives that little bit easier. We know in ourselves if foods are causing problems. We’ll know if a certain lifestyle has an effect on us or whether our bodies are just a little out-of-the-ordinary now and again.
We’ll know deep down when inflammation is cropping up and causing problems for us. And scientists have worked out that there are some diets that do cause this problem. Scientists have found ways around issues and worked out which foods are better for us.
This brings us to today. It’s time to learn everything you can about inflammation and the anti-inflammatory diet.
Why Does Inflammation Occur?
What’s the point in inflammation? If it’s bad for us, why do our bodies do it?
In simple terms, it’s response by the immune system. When our bodies try to fight off an infection, are trying to heal ourselves, or need to repair damaged tissues, it will inflame and become red or sore. It’s a necessary part of the healing process. Without it, the immune system will leave wounds to fester, and any infections we have can’t be fought. We end up much more poorly than we would have done without the inflammation taking place.
But our immune systems aren’t perfect. Sometimes they will attack things that aren’t bad for us. They just don’t realise that some bacteria are good for us or that foods we eat aren’t won’t cause a problem. Some of us suffer from this more than others. The body gets the message that there is an issue and it doesn’t question. It sends the emergency chemicals to take care of it first and then the rest of the body kicks in when necessary.
Of course, if the body reacts when it doesn’t need to, the inflammation leads to more harm than good. It can create chronic pain, as our nerves are trapped or cut off. Blood supply can be restricted, and we can end up with aching joints as the cartilage and tendons are affected.
And annoyingly, pain is part of the healing process! It’s the sign that our bodies need to stop and heal. Fever is another part of the healing process to get us to slow down when we need to. But when inflammation is occurring for no reason, we end up being slowed down without any healing going on.
Do You Suffer from Chronic Inflammation?
There are two types of inflammation that can take place within the body. The good type is acute inflammation. This is the type that you get when it’s healing parts of the body, such as helping you recover from surgery or helping you fight a genuine infection.
Chronic inflammation is the long-term type that happens when you have those long-term, sometimes incurable conditions. These could be autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and even allergies. Things like your environment can set off the chronic inflammation, or your lifestyle could play a part. Scientists don’t know the full reason, but they have linked smoking, poor oral health, stress, and poor diets to factors that lead to inflammation.
Some experts call chronic inflammation the “bad” type because it isn’t curing anything. Instead, it is causing more problems. There isn’t something for it to tackle, but the body is confused and can even start attacking itself. You can be left bed-ridden because of fatigue or pain. You see, once the white blood cells start working in the body, they need to do something. They don’t care what they do, as long as they get to do it. They think that the body has sent them because they have a job, so they will attack healthy tissue and organs believing that there is something there that’s bad.
The Problems Your Inflammation Could Contribute To
Not all inflammation is visible. It happens within the body. Turn on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and you will hear about the doctors discussing inflammation somewhere within the body, and it can’t be seen until the body is opened up.
There are many invisible diseases and conditions that occur because of inflammation. Even the healthiest person will likely get them at some point in their lives because there is very little that we can do about some of the reasons. We don’t have full control of the environment around us. We can’t stop the pollution ourselves or control the amount of allergens in the air.
Knowing the conditions that can be caused due to chronic inflammation won’t necessarily help us cure the conditions, but we can take some action. We can make changes to help reduce the risks to our health and reduce the pain we feel on a daily basis.
More Inflammation Means a Higher Risk of Heart Failure
Heart disease and other cardiovascular problems are connected to inflammation. The immune system starts to attack the cholesterol in the blood vessels, which leads to swelling. The blood can’t flow as it should, and more fatty plaque builds within the vessels. We’re at a higher risk of clots and blockages, which leads to a higher risk of heart problems.
The problem with this issue is that it’s a silent killer. One of the only symptoms our doctors will get is the high blood pressure at regular checks—and how many of us can honestly say we get regular checkups with the doctor?
We don’t get any other symptoms, and we’re left with a problematic cardiovascular system because we don’t realise there is inflammation there.
And it’s not just the heart that is affected. Our lungs also suffer because of inflammation. As the lungs inflame, fluid collects inside, and this leads to numerous health problems. We’re more at risk of developing the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. If you smoke, you’re already at a risk of these, so the inflammation is just increasing that risk ever further.
Inflammation can also increase the risk of us developing infections like chronic bronchitis. And even without the fluid, the inflammation makes the airways narrower, which naturally makes it harder to breathe.
Insulin is Released When it Doesn’t Need to Be
Inflammation sends a signal to the body that it needs to release insulin. Now we know that insulin is needed to help reduce the amount of sugar in the blood. When insulin is released without something to do, our blood sugar levels spike and this leads to the white blood cells attacking more of the body. Inflammation continues and our bodies release more insulin.
We’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes because of our inflammation. We become resistant to the insulin because it’s always in the blood. This leads to the risk of weight gain and we end up in a dangerous cycle of making diabetes worse.
Of course, when the inflammation also leads to pain, we tend to eat more to help settle our mental health. We never reach for the health food. It’s always the chocolate, cakes, and anything we think can boost the energy levels and mood. These are usually high in sugar, which releases more insulin yet and makes diabetes worse.
Higher Risk of Bone Problems
The white blood cells need to do something, so they tend to attack healthy tissue. This can include the bones. Experts suggest that a form of remodeling happens within the body because of the inflammation. Old and damaged pieces of bone are replaced with new ones. This can seem like a positive thing, but the new pieces aren’t necessarily going to be strong enough.
Inflammation makes it much harder for us to absorb the essential nutrients to improve the strength of our bones. We can’t get the likes of vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, even if we have the perfect diet. And there are high chances that we’re not eating the healthiest diet because of pain that we feel.
Our bones start to feel weak and painful. We’re at a higher risk of fractures and joint pain. Some of the old bones may not even repair at all.
There is the Potential for Tumour Growth
It seems now that everything causes cancer. Scientists don’t know if inflammation does lead to cancer, but there are theories that the white blood cells attacking healthy tissue can be a major risk of tumour. The immune system attacks small tumours, trying to destroy it. However, the system gives the tumour the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow bigger.
And remember that we don’t get the nutrients in the body as well as we would without inflammation. Our bodies don’t get the proteins that it needs to repair cells and DNA after it has been damaged. Genes mutate, and we end up with the growth of cancerous cells and tumours.
Our Bodies Suffer from Chronic Pain
Have you ever had pain that lasts for days on end and you just have no reason for it? No matter what you do, the pain doesn’t shift. It’s deep within your joints and into your bones. It just feels like your whole body is on fire.
Chronic pain is a major symptom of inflammation. Everything inside swells so much that the nerves are cut off or pressed upon.
Some people will feel the pain in specific parts of their body. It could be carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist that causes pain up the forearms, or you may have issues within the knee joints from arthritis that has caused swelling. Fibromyalgia is a condition that is rooted in inflammatory problems and right now has no treatment or cure.
Some Digestive Conditions Can be Linked to Inflammation
Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, gluten allergies, or even Crohn’s disease? All of these have been linked to inflammation within the digestive system.
The body can’t absorb the fibre that our bodies need. That means the intestinal lining isn’t protected and the whole digestive system doesn’t work as it should. White blood cells attack all the bacteria in the gut, including the good bacteria. We’re left with no protection at all and items in food end up affecting us in ways that they shouldn’t.
And chronic pain within the digestive system leaves us unable to do anything at all. There’s no always something we can do, either, especially if our bowel movements are affected too.
The Mental Health Suffers Detrimentally
Of course, not feeling our best leads to mental health issues. The inflammation causes pain throughout the whole body, and all we feel like we can do is slouch in bed or on the couch.
And it’s not just how our bodies make us feel. Inflammation occurs in the brain, too, which affects the type of hormones that are released. The right chemicals can’t pass around the body, which means we can suffer from negative thoughts. Stress increases, which can make inflammation worse, and all we want to do is sit in a dark room.
Around 30 percent of people with depression had brain inflammation in one study conducted last year. Depression then leads to a poor diet, sleep problems, and many other health conditions.
Depression isn’t the only problem either. One study has shown that people have more aggressive behaviour or anger disorders because of the inflammation affecting the hormonal responses. Right now more research is needed, but it does show the potential issues.
It’s Time to Find a Way to Combat Inflammation
So, why do some people suffer from more inflammation than others? What is it that’s causing the problem in our bodies?
As I’ve said, scientists don’t fully know. While technology and science have progressed, there are still some major discoveries still to be made. Bodies are different. The way our brains react and the amount of pain we can withstand differ between individuals, and this can make studies extremely hard to conduct.
There are some who say that inflammatory problems and the diseases linked to them didn’t exist during the palaeolithic period, which is why many suggest that it is our diets that cause it. While this is possible, it’s also worthwhile pointing out that there wasn’t as much medical knowledge during this period either. We can only do so much with bones and tissue found all these years later.
Others suggest that the drugs and chemicals used in food are the real reason behind inflammation. Some people blame our unhealthy lifestyles and the pollution in the air.
It is possible that everything working together is the real reason. We are more sedentary, and there is far more pollution than ever before. People suffer from more allergies than they used to, and it could be pharmaceutical products that we take or the food we now eat that causes all this.
While we can’t change everything about our lives, there are certain factors that we do have control over. The diet is one of those, and people have taken control and focused on healthy and balanced diets. They want to cut out the potential bad and focus on the good.
This is why an anti-inflammatory diet has been created. While it’s not a strict weight loss tool like most other diets, there are certain foods that are cut out completely to focus on a healthier way of life. There are certain foods promoted to help protect the digestive system and support the immune system.
The Best Foods for the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
One of the best diets for reducing inflammation is the Mediterranean diet. This focuses on fish, vegetables, fruits and even some fats to promote weight loss and protect the overall health. Even the Mayo Clinic recommends following this lifestyle. The good news is a little bit of alcohol is allowed; just think of the way that the people in Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries live.
The thought is that the omega-3 in the diet helps to reduce inflammation in the body. There are certainly studies that show this is possible. Omega-3 is found in mostly fish and helps to protect the brain. It reduces inflammation and can help to reduce the risk of the likes of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and mental health issues.
If it helps to reduce inflammation in the brain, it is highly likely that it can help to reduce inflammation elsewhere in the body. The omega-3 can also help to protect the body from some damage, which means the symptoms and conditions from inflammation are lessened. The white blood cells don’t attack as much or cause as much damage.
Scientists have found that omega-3 is a natural form of aspirin.
What exactly is involved in the Mediterranean diet? Here’s a breakdown of the foods to add into your diet more and the ones to leave out as much as possible.
Fish and shellfish: Both of these are consumed in high amounts in the Mediterranean. They’re easy to get out here, with plenty of choices. Cold-water fish such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon are the favoured options. These are the ones higher in omega-3 fatty acids. However, you can also benefit from the likes of cod, halibut, prawns, and crab.
Try not to eat too much fish, as there are risks to your health due to the mercury levels. Doctors recommend two to three servings a week.
What should you eat when you don’t have fish? Try out more vegetarian dishes where you can. You could also look at adding some poultry but try to lay off the red meat. Some meat substitutes could work for you but watch out for any gluten in them. This can set off an inflammatory response.
Avocado: This is one vegetable that you want to add to your diet regardless of the reason for your change in lifestyle. Not only does avocado contain anti-inflammatory properties, but it also has antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and much more. All these elements help to protect the whole body through layering the intestines, protecting the organs, and supporting the immune system,
When specifically talking about inflammation, avocados have polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols and carotenoid antioxidants. Along with omega-3, these two components are linked to reducing the inflammation in your body. With less inflammation, the white blood cells won’t be sent to attack something that isn’t there.
You don’t need to cut out foods to add in avocado, although this would be healthier. Studies have shown that just adding an avocado can lower the levels of inflammation, even if you eat hamburgers, fried foods, and more!
Dark green, leafy vegetables: If you’re not going to add avocados to your body, at least eat more dark green, leafy vegetables. These contain so many nutrients that you can forego the likes of dairy and grains! We wouldn’t suggest you cut them all out completely as healthy, and balanced diets are recommended, but it just shows how powerful the nutrients are.
Broccoli, kale, spinach, and other similar vegetables are full of sulforaphane. This nutrient blocks the enzymes that are linked to the deterioration of the joints. As the joints deteriorate, the body’s response is to swell. The immune system knows there is a problem, but the white blood cells don’t have anything to attack. The inflammation makes pain and the condition overall worse.
There are also studies that show the sulforaphane can help to prevent the blood vessel linings becoming damaged, whether due to blood sugar or cholesterol. It is also possible to reverse some of the issues. Not only are you protecting yourself from more inflammation but also helping to reduce your risks of heart problems.
And let’s not forget that you take in more nutrients. If you can reduce the inflammation, you can absorb more of these nutrients. This will help your overall health.
Walnuts, olive oil: Both of these are full of omega-3 fatty acids. I won’t repeat everything that Ive just said.
What I will say is that walnuts specifically are full of fibre. This is a necessary component to help protect the digestive system. You could see some of your chronic digestive problems subside because there is a protective layer and the fibre helps to keep the digestive system working as it was designed to.
And don’t forget the protein in walnuts. Remember when I said that protein helps to repair the DNA? It’s an important food group, even if you’re not trying to beat the inflammatory response.
Onions: You may have heard that onions have a strong scent because they are so good for you. It’s no lie. In fact, garlic is also the same.
Both of these foods are full of anti-inflammatory properties. They’re used in numerous home remedies to help cure ailments like asthma and chronic pain. People around the world for centuries have included them, and they’ve worked in herbal medicine so there must be some backing to them.
Onions specifically are full of quercetin, which is a type of antihistamine. It stops the chemicals in the body that cause inflammation and allergic reactions.
Watermelon and berries: Fruits like these contain lycopene, polyphenols, and choline. These chemicals help to reduce inflammation in the body and support the immune system.
The chemicals are also antioxidants. They work to eliminate free radicals, which are usually mentioned when it comes to preventing cancer. Free radicals are also linked to dementia, cell damage, and inflammation. If you can neutralise the free radicals, you stand a better chance to stop the swelling response within the body.
Ginger, turmeric, oregano, and more: There are certain spices that tend to be used in herbal remedies. This is due to the anti-inflammatory compounds found in them. They stop the actual biochemical process that leads to the swelling and all the problems.
Some of these spices have also been linked to easing the pain in the body. They’re used in topical treatments to apply directly to the affected area. When it comes to breathing issues, the essential oils can be added to steaming water, and it is possible to add them to hot water for tea.
Like onions and garlic, these spices have been used for medicinal purposes around the world. There’s a reason they’re still added to Eastern medicine.
Whole grain foods: You may remember that pasta and rice dishes are popular in the Mediterranean diet. But don’t these food groups cause the stomach issues?
It’s likely the type of pasta and rice you’re eating. You want to focus on whole grain options rather than the white varieties. Brown rice, bulgur wheat, and quinoa are all popular items for the Mediterranean diet.
Studies have shown that there is less inflammation in those with a diet that includes some whole grains. This is likely due to the fibre since it protects the digestive system and supports the whole body. It helps to add good bacteria to the body, which is needed to prevent the growth of bad bacteria that sets off the immune system!
Yes, You Can Have Some Alcohol!
We all know those in the Med drink some alcohol. Yes, you are still allowed to have a couple of drinks, but do follow the healthy guidelines and limit the amount you drink. Women don’t need more than one unit a day. That’s only one small glass of wine.
When you do drink alcohol, think about the type that you’re having. There have been studies that show one glass of red wine a day is good for you. The studies show that one glass of any wine is good for the heart, but the red wine is better because there are fewer sugars in it.
Wine can help to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. It has also been linked to reducing the risk of Type II diabetes, stroke, and cataracts.
Is There Anything Worth Avoiding?
To lower your automatic inflammatory response, one of the best things you can do is lower the amount of saturated fats and trans fatty acids in your diet. It’s also worth lowering the amount of omega-6 foods and refined carbohydrates.
We all know that these are bad for our health, but they can also make the inflammatory response in the body worse. They can encourage the immune system to work when it doesn’t need to.
Refined carbs or refined sugars end up breaking down sooner because they don’t have the fibre to work with them. They glucose in the body and that leads to the insulin response. This can lead to more inflammation and then more insulin, and we already know the risk of diabetes due to inflammation!
We can quite easily make these changes to our bodies. There are lots of other healthy options, and we can still get our carbs and fats; we just get the healthier ones.
Only You Can Make a Difference
The diet isn’t the only thing that you can change to reduce the inflammation in the body. You can also improve your exercise levels, lower your stress, and even cut out smoking and excess drinking.
While you can’t cut out the pollutants, you can change much more to help reduce your inflammatory responses. And only you can make some of these changes.
The diet is one of the easiest and quickest changes that you can make. Start cutting down on the red meat you eat and incorporate more fish and vegetables. The list of foods above can be added to your diet first before you cut out to help make this change easier on your body and mind. It’s time to put your overall health first.