Inflammation is a normal response to an acute injury or infection, and essential to our body's process of healing. However, when this inflammation becomes chronic and ceases to be directed at any particular health problem, the result could be disastrous. In fact, chronic inflammation appears to be a risk factor for almost every major illness.

It's also been associated with weight gain and obesity. While having too little fat weakens the immune response, leaving malnourished people vulnerable to infection, having too much body fat seems to increase the immune response, which could actually be just as problematic. An over-active immune system may begin to attack the body itself, leading sometimes to distinct autoimmune disorders and sometimes to chronic low-grade body-wide inflammation.

Unfortunately, fat cells only worsen the problem by releasing inflammatory chemicals like adipokines, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-1 (IL-1), and inflammasomes.

Increased abdominal fat also increases the production of cytokines, pro-inflammatory immune proteins which can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and depression.

Inflamed arteries are more likely to collect plaque, and some experts suggest that we should refer to heart disease not primarily as a clogging of the arteries but as an inflammation of them. Excess body fat may also allow cancer cells to divide rapidly when a malignancy does develop, hence obesity's association with particularly aggressive forms of cancer.

Hunger hormone leptin is also a pro-inflammatory substance; though leptin usually promotes satiety, in leptin-resistant patients, more and more leptin is produced because the brain has lost the ability to respond to it, worsening the problem of chronic inflammation and throwing their hunger levels completely out of whack.

Several studies link increased sugar intake with chronic inflammation, while decreasing dietary sugar is associated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers. This may be because sugar increases the production of free fatty acids in the liver, and compounds released by the digestion of these fatty acids tend to be inflammatory.

Studies also show that weight loss tends to reduce this "chronic inflammation," and that significant improvement can happen in as little as two or three weeks of following a low-inflammatory diet.

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The best thing you can do if you have chronic inflammation is to start avoiding simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, refined sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. This will help you keep your diet a low glycemic index one and prevent dangerous insulin spikes. Some experts even say that your best bet may be to avoid wheat and gluten altogether!

Instead of sugar, use honey or stevia and try replacing grain flour with chickpea or lentil flour or other healthy alternatives. You should also make an effort to avoid artificial sweeteners,MSG, and red meat—though when you do indulge, grass-fed beef.

Next, replace trans-fat and saturated-fat heavy refined vegetable oils, corn oils, and margarine with healthy oils full of monounsaturated fat like olive, coconut, and avocado oils.

Experts also recommend avoiding food that increases the body's acid production to reduce inflammation, which includes the seemingly healthy coffee as well as more obvious culprits like soda, potato chips, dairy products, processed meats and alcohol.

Green tea and black teas may thus be a better beverage option than coffee where inflammation is concerned. It's probably best to avoid processed foods altogether, but you can replace dairy products with natural alternatives like almond or soy milk. Finally, if alcohol is on the agenda, go for the red wine, which at least contains a few anti-inflammatory polyphenols that could help negate its detrimental effects.

Many herbs and spices also have anti-inflammatory properties, including turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, rosemary and ginger; a curry powder that contains a mixture of these super spices may be your best bet.

You can also make an effort to balance your levels of inflammatory omega-6 acids and anti-inflammatory omega-3 acids by consuming more fish oil, which is most abundant in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and trout.

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Since poor gut health can also be a huge driver of inflammation, you should make an effort to increase your fiber intake, eat more probiotics and enjoy more fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. These steps can help speed up the movement of food through your system and increase the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your intestines.

As far as fruits to focus on, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries contain anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins, and blueberries additionally contain the anti-inflammatory antioxidant resveratrol. On the veggie side, your best options are celery, tomatoes, and leafy greens.

However, some people can have inflammatory responses even to seemingly healthy foods, so keep an eye on how you personally feel after your meals. If you experience symptoms like bloating, fatigue, irritability, and water retention after eating a certain food, you may have a hidden intolerance to it.

Additionally, you can avoid inflammation triggered by chemical factors if you stay away from areas with poor air quality avoid drinking unfiltered water. You should also stick with organic food to avoid potential contamination by pesticides and preservatives.

If you're a smoker, you'll definitely want to quit, and since the hormone cortisol is another chemical that tends to fuel inflammatory processes, it's important to get your sleep and stress levels under control and find time to relax. Moderate exercise also helps your body release cytokines, though overexercise could actually promote inflammatory processes.

Finally, if you're eating a healthy diet and still experiencing symptoms of inflammation, you may want to visit your doctor to get checked for hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies; high levels of estrogen and low levels of magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium have all been associated with increased inflammation.

Depending on your diet and specific nutritional needs, you also may want to look into taking a multivitamins or certain supplements to help keep your inflammation in check.

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