Anti-inflammatory foods are all the rage these days, but what is inflammation, and why do we need to fight it? Generally speaking, Inflammation is a process by which the body's white blood cells and substances they produce protect us from infection with foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. It is an immune system response that helps to safeguard already injured tissue by removing harmful pathogens or debris. So, why is this a bad thing? Well – it usually isn’t.
To be more specific, there are two classifications of inflammation. The first is acute inflammation, which is the body’s response to harmful stimuli, such as a splinter. Blood rushes to the site of the injury, there is increased redness and heat, which helps the white blood cells enter the injured cells. This also causes swelling, which can irritate nerves causing pain and discomfort. This is a fast and efficient way of dealing with the need to mitigate injury, and is a very good thing. Unlike the acute inflammatory response, which is short and to the point, chronic inflammation is a prolonged immune response that can result in harm instead of healing. An inability to eliminate the source of an acute reaction, an autoimmune response to a self-antigen (the body mistaking healthy tissues for harmful pathogens), or a chronic low level irritant of low intensity that persists, may cause it. This is very damaging over time.
Some cancers, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBS produce inflammation, and factors such as smoking, emotional stress, and even excess body fat have potential links to chronic inflammation.
Why is chronic inflammation bad?
If our body doesn’t stop our inflammatory response from attacking healthy cells, it can kill cells that we need. Inflammation in a joint can eat cartilage away and lead to arthritis. Inflammation in an organ, such as the pancreas, may cause diabetes. We only want the inflammatory response to remove unhealthy cells, or harmful pathogens.
How do we combat chronic inflammation?
There are drugs on the market that will reduce inflammation, and they do work. The problem is that they widely and generally suppress the inflammatory response, which suppresses detoxification, repair of cells, and protection of injured tissues. The inability to detoxify can also lead to potential liver damage. In short, medications prescribed by a doctor can be prudent, but have risks. It is imperative that we as individuals, decrease the need for medication by ensuring our bodies inherently have the tools to combat chronic inflammation. And it starts with what we put in our stomach. Our guts house 65% of our immune system, and breakdown the foods that we eat so that our bodies can utilize their nutrients. Consuming foods that have more nutrients and more accessible nutrients can help in the battle against chronic inflammation.
Foods that cause inflammation
Eliminate these foods from your diet!
- Processed foods such as white flour, sugar, and fast food
- Excess alcohol
- Sugar filled drinks
- Trans fats
Foods that fight inflammation
Eat more of these!
- Omega 3 rich fish such as salmon
- Olive oil
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha
As you can see, the list of what not to eat is composed of foods that are known to contribute to more unhealthy conditions than chronic inflammation. Similarly, the list of foods that combat it is composed of foods that benefit one’s health across the board. They are nutrient dense, unprocessed, and not found in the frozen isle of the grocery store, and you can’t order it from your car window.
Chronic inflammation can be damaging, and we are discovering more about it every day. We can mitigate the risks by choosing foods that fuel our bodies natural capacity to combat this condition, so that we may live healthier lives. These foods are known to produce numerous other health benefits. Increased over all health would be a welcome byproduct of a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Try it out for yourself.