|Eating right and getting regular exercise is the best way to achieve and/or maintain health. I remember hearing Jack LaLanne say, “Diet is King & exercise is Queen, and when you put them both together you build a Kingdom.”
Inflammation can be low-grade or it can flare up or progress into chronic or acute disease states, including serious autoimmune problems such as arthritis. Although inflammation should lead to tissue repair and remodeling, when it becomes chronic, it prevents healing and should be viewed as a disease process.
Nutritional imbalances (deficiencies and excesses of various nutrients) can cause inflammation .
The most important thing is too eat fresh food, whatever it may be. Avoid packaged or processed foods—the more a food is processed, the less healthful it will be. Consume lots of plants. Plants have antioxidant properties and phytonutrients that quench inflammation.
Vegetables are always at the top of the list. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory, including fish and, to a lesser extent, plant foods like flax seeds and walnuts.
Because plant-based foods are among the richest sources for powerful antioxidants and phenolics (including flavonoids) that reduce inflammation, the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fresh plant-based foods and phenolic-rich olive oil, has grown in popularity.
I recommend not eating grains and enjoy high-fiber foods like beans, peas, lentils, oatmeal, nuts, and avocados. Consume more fish, especially salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish that contain those omega-3 fats.
Processed Foods and Meats
Avoid anything with more than a very small amount of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, white flour products, sodas and sweet drinks, chips, and fried foods of all types, other than lightly stir-fried vegetables.
White flour increases inflammation.
Red meat isn’t necessarily bad. It is what we do to red meat that makes it bad for us by feeding cattle grains such as corn, instead of allowing them to eat the field grasses that they were intended to eat. An alternative to beef is buffalo or bison—these animals are grass-fed and, interestingly, will not eat corn.
For the carnivores among us, the preferred protein solution is buffalo or bison, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and wild-caught fish, particularly salmon and tuna.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis: Increase EPA intake from marine sources such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, trout, black cod) and oysters, aiming for consuming these foods several times a week, and to reduce dietary sources of arachidonic acid (meat, high-fat milk and cheese products, eggs) as much as possible. Make sure your diet is low in arachidonic acid and supplement with fish oils.
In a recent study at Lund University’s Antidiabetic Food Centre in Sweden, 44 healthy, overweight subjects aged 50 to 75 were fed an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of antioxidants, slow-release carbohydrates, omega fatty acids (oily fish), whole grains, probiotics, and viscous dietary fiber. After only four weeks, the results showed LDL cholesterol had dropped by 33 percent, blood lipids by 14 percent, blood pressure by 8 percent, and a risk marker for blood clots by 26 percent. A marker of inflammation in the body was also greatly reduced.5
A diet free of gluten has positive effects on symptoms and clinical signs of inflammatory diseases. Such a diet would be void of arachidonic acid, free of potentially allergenic wheat, dairy, and egg products, and high in plant-based antioxidants and other potentially anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
What Sodas Bring to the Table
Soda is the beverage of choice for many Americans, especially children. In addition to the high sugar content, which causes blood sugar levels to spike, soda is loaded with phenylalanine and phosphate, which affect pH and deplete bone density. A 2007 study found that “The caramel content of both regular and diet drinks may be a potential source of advanced glycation end products, which may promote insulin resistance and can be proinflammatory.” In addition, “Consumption of one or more soft drinks per day was associated with increased odds of developing metabolic syndrome, obesity, increased waist circumference, higher blood pressure, hypertriglyceridemia, and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.”6
Supplement with anti-oxidants – these will stimulate the immune system, decrease platelet aggregation, modify cholesterol metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and possess anti-bacterial and antiviral activity. One of the most effective supplements I use for inflammation is using the UltraInflamX protein powder by Metagenics. This can be taken as 2 scoops with water or fresh juice twice daily.
1. Seaman DR. Clinical nutrition for pain, inflammation, and tissue healing. Self published. 1998.
2. Seaman DR. The diet-induced pro-inflammatory state: A cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases. J Manip Physiol Ther. 2002; 25:168-179.
3. Adam O, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of a low-arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int 2003 Jan;23(1):27-36.
4. Salas- Salvadó J, et al. Effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts on metabolic syndrome status: one-year results of the PREDIMED randomized trial. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(22):2449-2458.
5. Hafström I, et al. A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens. Rheumatol 2001;40(10):1175-79.
6.Dhingra R, et al. Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community. Circulation 2007;116:480-88.