What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens – and begin the healing process. It’s a perfectly natural response to when something harmful irritates a part of us, our body tells us to remove it through the various signs and symptoms. This is especially notable during acute inflammation – for example when you scratch or cut yourself, the area will turn red and swell a little, drawing attention to it so you are more aware of it and also because it is working to heal it.
Acute inflammation is different to chronic inflammation which is a result of that stressor, whatever it may be, not going away. There are several causes of long term chronic inflammation which include:
- Emotional stress
- Being overweight
- Excess alcohol consumption.
- Breathing polluted air.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Lack of sleep.
- Eating too many inflammatory foods.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many causes of death including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases such as Emphysema or Chronic Bronchitis
Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation
Inflammation can range from the obvious and direct effects of an injury say a bruise or a swelling to symptoms such as eczema which have more benign causes that are often misunderstood.
Redness, dull skin, acne and wrinkles, and weight gain are also all signs of inflammation as well as joint pain, stiffness, sensitive joints, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, binge eating, cravings, bags under the eyes, other skin conditions such as hives or cysts, throat tickles, coughing and irritation in the throat, among others. The more of these you have the more likely you are suffering from low grade inflammation.
In contrast to the daily stresses we may face in our lives, we are in complete control of what we put into our mouths so take comfort in the knowledge that you can reverse the effects of inflammation.
The answer is simple – look to your diet. What are you putting into your body that it is telling you it doesn’t like? In contrast to the daily stresses we may face in our lives, we are in complete control of what we put into our mouths so take comfort in the knowledge that you can reverse the effects of inflammation. You must try to chill out and sleep more as well as stubbing out those ciggies too though!
Foods That Inflame
I’m going to mention these however those on a Paleo diet will most likely be able to read this list and be safe in the knowledge they are not consuming them on a regular basis. However we all over indulge in some areas – so what’s your poison?
- Sugar. Yep, you guessed it. This includes agave which is still 90% sugar. Sugar weakens our immune systems by suppressing the activity of our white blood cells as well as deteriorating collagen – leaving us looking saggy, wrinkled, and more susceptible to sun damage.
- Highly refined carbohydrates – buns, rolls, biscuits, cereals, they all turn to sugar!
9 Foods That Fight Inflammation
Most uncooked raw fats and foods fight inflammation, and a varied Paleo diet is wonderful and full of great foods. So without further ado, here are the best anti-inflammatory foods you can eat.
1. Dark Greens
Dark green vegetables contain extremely large amounts of vitamin C, which is great for collagen, calcium, iron, and plenty of antioxidants – the clue’s in the hue; the deeper the pigmentation, the more antioxidants. Dark green veg also contains high levels of vitamin E, a lesser known fact, and vitamin E can protect the body from inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
2. Nuts & Fish
Okay two foods here but omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce inflammation and oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, duck is also high in omega-3 as well as nuts. Nuts also contain vitamin E, fiber and calcium.
Contrary to what you might imagine due to the burning effect of chillies, they are actually helpful in reducing inflammation due to their capsaicin content – the chemical which gives them their heat. This chemical is commonly used in topical creams to soothe muscle pains.
Tomatoes are amazing for inflammation due to their lycopene which has been shown to reduce inflammation of the lungs – which may be worth noting if you’ve ever been a smoker and wish to repair your lungs. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw, and as always the darker the colour the better.
Another deeply pigmented vegetable, beetroots have been shown to reduce inflammation as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fiber, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.
The yellowest of yellows, is effective at limiting NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers inflammation. Ginger, a relative of turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines.
Blueberries can also reduce inflammation in the intestines and contain high levels of antioxidants and the same phytochemical as beetroot, which gives them both their blue-purple colour. All berries in general are anti-inflammatory due to their nutrient dense constitution.
8. Olive oil
A 2010 Spanish study found that the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits may be largely due to its liberal use of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin kind. The compound oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect as painkillers in the body.
9.Onions & Garlic
Onions and garlic have been found to work as a natural painkiller by shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation. This is due to their phytonutrients which break down to form sulfenic acid, which gives them their famous antisocial smell (and makes you cry) but on a positive note fights free radicals. We love you really guys!
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- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Inflammation (Chronic). In Life Extension. Retrieved 19 November, 2015, from http://www.lifeextension.com/protocols/health-concerns/chronic-inflammation/Page-01
- Guthrie, C. (2010). 14 Signs of Inflammation and How to Stop It. In Care2. Retrieved 19 November, 2015, from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/14-signs-of-inflammation-and-how-to-stop-it.html
- Benchley, A. (2013). 6 Inflammation-Causing Foods No One Talks About. In Prevention. Retrieved 19 November, 2015, from http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/foods-cause-inflammation
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). 14 Foods That Fight Inflammation. In Health. Retrieved 22 November, 2015, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20705881_5,00.html