If you suffer from lupus, Chrone's Disease, MS or any chronic inflammatory disease, you're already acutely aware of how inflammation can cause long term damage to the body. But Inflammation is a natural process that affects everyone: It’s the body’s first and foremost defense against infection, injuries and toxicity. Without it, we’re doomed. It only becomes a problem when the body’s inflammatory “switch” gets jammed into a chronic state. The immune system is on heightened alert 24/7.Sign up for Alison's Natural Cooking eLetter - Articles, recipes and inspiration... Once a month FREE!
Inflammation may be experienced externally as a rash, swelling or pain, but in more chronic cases, inflammation inside the body can cause long-term damage to almost any organ or organ system, including the heart, kidneys, lungs and liver. This is a major issue for all patients with autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases, and is a growing concern for everyone eating the modern, industrialized diet.
The increased need for fast, convenient food has led us to highly refined products that have an unfortunate lack of vital nutrients. These foods are usually high in one or all of the following: saturated and trans-fats, refined sugars, starches, commercial meats and artificial sweeteners. These are pro-inflammatory foods, or foods that lead to inflammation in the body.
With the increased consumption of packaged foods comes the so-called “diseases of civilization”, a slough of inflammatory diseases on the rise in industrialized countries. Industrialized, pro-inflammatory foods should be significantly reduced, or in many cases, eliminated from the diet altogether. The major culprits again are trans-fats, refined sugars, commercial meats and artificial sweeteners.Other Pro-Inflammatory Foods
Some foods have naturally occurring inflammatory properties. These foods are generally not so harmful, and may even have a variety of nutritional benefits when eaten in moderation; but moderation seems to be a problem for most Americans. The foods listed below are generally over-consumed, which can lead to an imbalanced ratio of nutrients in the body.Fatty Meats, Dairy Products and Eggs —
These foods contain high amounts of arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fat that is considered a potential mediator for inflammation (Science, 1980). While some arachidonic acid is essential for health, too much in the diet may make inflammation worse. Organic, grass-fed meats tend to be leaner than feedlot meats and make better choices for those on an omnivore diet.Omega-6 Fatty Acids —
Omega-6 fats help trigger the normal immune function of inflammation. These fats are not “bad” fats, but they are over-consumed in comparison to the omega-3s that counterbalance the inflammatory process. Omega-6 fats are found in standard vegetable oils like corn, peanut and safflower oil. Look for these oils in bottled dressings, crackers, chips, “health bars”, granola and toasted nuts.Nightshades —
Vegetables in the nightshade family contain a chemical called solanine, which for some people makes pain from inflammation worse. While there isn't any formal research backing this claim, they can be taken out of the diet for 1-2 weeks to see if any symptoms of inflammation improve.Foods That Heal
Fortunately, nature has its antidote: foods that keep inflammation in check. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into the daily diet, preferably at each meal, will begin to straighten out the delicate balance in the body.Recipes:
Poached Salmon Simple ingredients make a simple, elegant dish in only 5 minutes. Quick poaching ensures that the good fats and flavors stay intact while cooking...Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw with Flax DressingWith red cabbage, apples, scallions, walnuts and flax, this recipe is perfectly designed to soothe inflammation and boost immunity...Omega-3 Fatty Acids —
These good fats decrease inflammation by balancing out the inflammatory effects from too much omega-6 fats in the American diet. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, tests indicate that “a diet rich in omega-3s have significant benefit for inflammatory diseases, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs” (JACN 21:6, 2002). High omega-3 foods include: cold water oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines; flaxseeds; walnuts; pumpkin seeds; and leafy green vegetables.Flavenoids —
These naturally occurring, plant-based phytochemicals have been proven to inhibit certain enzymes that produce inflammation in the body (PubMed.gov, 2004). Foods particularly rich in anti-inflammatory flavenoids are olive oil, apples, onions, berries, hot peppers and soybeans.
Other lifestyle factors play an important role for keeping inflammation at bay. Dr. Andrew Weil, an avid believer that diet influences inflammation, also recommends experimentation with different types of mind/body treatments. From his web site (drweil.com) he states that autoimmune and inflammatory diseases “tend to flare up and subside in response to emotional ups and downs”. A daily practice in meditation, yoga, chi gung, guided imagery or other exercises that relax and de-stress the body/mind system can be an integral element in managing the inflammatory process.
1. Kuehl, FA Jr. et al. (1980) “Prostaglandins, arachidonic acid, and inflammation”. Science, 210:4473, 978-984.
2. Simopoulos, Artemis P. (2002) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases”. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21;6, 495-505.
3. Anti-inflammatory plant flavonoids and cellular action mechanisms. PubMed, 2004.
4. Weil, Andrew, October 20, 2005.natural cooking food and drink cooking healthy cooking natural foods recipe food blog food blogs chef blogs chef blog recipes Alison Anton food inflammation anti-inflammatory+foodsomega-3 fatty acids omega-6 fatty acids arachidonic acid poached salmon recipe cabbage and carrot cole slaw diseases+of+civilization trans fats and inflammation standard American diet