The human body has many natural responses designed to help it fight off harmful entities, such as toxins, injuries, and infections. One of these processes is inflammation. This is the body’s way of fighting off ailments, especially when it comes to damage to the body’s muscles and cells, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Sure, there are medications and other therapies to help ease inflammation within the body. Although many patients are asking, “what is the best natural anti-inflammatory treatment option.” The answer? A well-balanced diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods.
What is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation is defined as long-term inflammation that lasts for prolonged periods of time, which can include several months to several years. In contrast, acute inflammation often lasts a few days; however, it’s a rapid onset.
When the body is attacked or otherwise damaged, your immune system releases various chemicals that trigger a response for your immune system. This response often triggers inflammation in the body. While occasional inflammation is usually easily managed, chronic inflammation can lead to long term problems, including:
- Frequent infections
- Weight issues, such as unusual weight gain or weight loss
- Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Problems with sleep, such as chronic fatigue and/or insomnia
- Chronic body pain
- Frequent GI issues, such as acid reflux, constipation and/or diarrhea
Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can result from other underlying health concerns, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms unless you see a doctor.
What Causes Chronic Inflammation?
Acute inflammation is the body’s way of fighting off infection and speeding up the healing process. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can start to attack the body’s already healthy tissues and organs.
Some risk factors can impact whether or not chronic inflammation could become an issue, including:
- Poor diet
- Preexisting sleep condition
- Preexisting stress disorder
- Low sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen
Several common health conditions leave millions of individuals with chronic inflammation, including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Joint Diseases, etc.
Each of these conditions can present a variety of other symptoms besides chronic inflammation. So, you’ll want to make sure you are documenting everything. This will help your medical team guide you in the best treatment options for your unique needs.
Treatment Options for Chronic Inflammation
Depending on the cause of your chronic inflammation, treatment options can and will vary. This is because your medical team will need to consider all other symptoms. While some patients will require specific treatments that will include various medications, several natural treatment options are available, such as an anti-inflammatory diet for chronic pain and inflammation.
It’s also worth noting that regular exercise is also an excellent natural treatment option for those suffering from chronic inflammation.
Anti-Inflammatory Diets are Backed by Scientific Evidence
While many individuals assume that an anti-inflammatory diet is nothing more than another passing fad, it’s crucial to note that anti-inflammatory diets are backed by scientific evidence. In fact, recent research has suggested that an anti-inflammatory diet can help with the physical symptoms of chronic inflammation, such as pain and bloating, and psychological symptoms, including depression.
Doctors and the scientific community are also finding that one of the fastest ways to reduce inflammation in the body is through the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods.
What are Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
For those looking into an anti-inflammatory diet, finding a list of anti-inflammatory foods or anti-inflammatory supplements can be an overwhelming process. With so many people putting their two cents into the discussion, it can be difficult to know who to trust.
The first step is to stop thinking of this as a search for an anti-inflammatory diet food list. Instead, you want to think of this process as a lifestyle change because a “diet” suggests a temporary change. When dealing with chronic inflammation, you don’t want a temporary solution – you want a long-term solution.
Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Research has shown that eating anti-inflammatory foods and maintaining a regular exercise routine has many benefits to those with several health conditions.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Diabetes
In a recent study on the effects of anti-inflammatory foods in pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals, participants not only noted modest amounts of weight loss – which is known to help improve chronic inflammation – but they also showed improvements in cardiovascular and inflammatory biomarkers. It also aligned with previous studies suggesting that diets with low-glycemic index helped improve glycemic control in individuals with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a condition where patients experience widespread pain, fatigue, and general tenderness. While there is still some debate as to whether Fibromyalgia is considered an inflammatory disease, research has shown that there may be a connection between Fibromyalgia and nerve inflammation. Research is ongoing and looking into the connection between anti-inflammatory diets and Fibromyalgia. However, it is believed that because anti-inflammatory foods have shown promise for those with other chronic pain disorders, anti-inflammatory foods could benefit those with Fibromyalgia as well.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Arthritis
Anti-inflammatory foods are believed to help those who suffer from chronic arthritis pain. Studies have shown that certain anti-inflammatory foods have helped decrease overall joint pain in those with arthritis and overall stiffness. In fact, a 2020 study on the effects of anti-inflammatory foods on arthritis showed a positive correlation between the two, with less joint pain and less joint swelling.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is characterized as chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, causing patients to feel abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue. Recent research has noted that anti-inflammatory diets can help patients manage inflammatory bowel disease; however, it should not be used as a primary form of therapy for the condition. Some researchers have suggested that these dietary changes can have a significantly positive impact on some medications used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Chronic Pain and Fatigue
Unfortunately, disease-related fatigue is a significant problem for patients who suffer from both psychiatric and non-neurological diseases, such as depression and chronic pain. As a matter of fact, 90% of individuals who fall under this patient population are said to experience disease-related fatigue that can negatively impact their day-to-day life. Recent studies suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet for chronic pain does help many patients and shows some improvement in overall fatigue for these patients. However, more research still needs to be conducted into the direct effects of anti-inflammatory foods and fatigue itself.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: What Works and What Doesn’t
Anti-inflammatory foods can and do help millions of individuals manage their chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, when many individuals are told to consider an anti-inflammatory diet, they immediately believe they must restrict their food intake or cut entire food groups from their diet. However, that simply isn’t true.
Yes, while many foods need to be removed when deciding on an anti-inflammatory diet, what you can have far exceeds what you can not have. What’s more, many of the “no” list items often involve foods that should be eliminated in a typical healthy diet for any individual.
So, what are considered “good” foods and “bad” foods when it comes to anti-inflammatory foods?
The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods
When discussing anti-inflammatory foods, there is a lot of talk about what not to eat. Instead of focusing on what you could be missing, it’s crucial to focus your attention on the many things you can have, including:
- Beans: These are an excellent option for those looking for a food that is high in fiber, antioxidants, and other inflammatory substances. Some beans and legumes worth exploring include lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, navy beans, and split peas.
- Fish: Adding fish to your dietary routine is excellent because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Not only are they an excellent anti-inflammatory food, but they are also great for your heart health. Consider adding sardines, mackerel, tuna, or salmon to your routine.
- Fruits: When it comes to choosing your fruits, you’ll want to pay particular attention to fruits that are high in antioxidants, including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, purple grapes, and avocados.
- Herbs/Spices: Whether you are adding them to your dishes or planning to make a warm cup of tea, many herbs and spices are considered anti-inflammatory, including turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, clove, black pepper, and cayenne.
- Nuts/Seeds: Some of the most common nuts and seeds to include in your anti-inflammatory foods list include walnuts, almonds, flaxseed, chia seeds, and pistachios.
- Vegetables: You want to pay particular attention to the leafy greens rich in vitamin K, such as kale, collard greens, and spinach. You also want to consider broccoli, cabbage, peppers, sweet potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
- Whole Grains: These can include basmati, brown or wild rice, millet, flax, barley, buckwheat, steel-cut oats, and quinoa.
- Meats: You want to choose lean meats, such as poultry.
- Oils: olive oil and coconut oils are some of the healthiest to cook with when working with anti-inflammatory foods.
- Supplements: If you’re not getting enough nutrients through the foods you eat, you may consider adding supplements to your routine. Some of the best-known supplements for their anti-inflammatory properties include Omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, capsaicin, zinc, and curcumin.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of anti-inflammatory foods! You can maintain a perfectly healthy dietary routine with anti-inflammatory foods. If you need more ideas, speaking to a registered dietitian can be of great help.
What are the Worst Foods for Inflammation?
When it comes to the foods you need to avoid when looking into anti-inflammatory foods, the number one rule is to say no to anything processed. That means no processed:
- Bakery goods
You’ll also want to avoid things like meats that are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids, such as burgers and steaks, processed meats such as sausage or hot dogs, fried foods, lard, shortening, and margarine. Again, if you have any questions regarding foods to avoid, you’ll want to speak to a registered dietitian.
The Best Anti-Inflammatory Drinks
Just because you are exploring anti-inflammatory additions to your routine doesn’t mean you are limited to just drinking water. Yes, while it’s crucial you still get your daily recommended amount of water in, you can also sprinkle in a few of these drinks throughout your day or week:
- Green tea
- Red wine
- Fruit juices low in sugar, such as pineapple, lemon, and tart cherry juice
- Turmeric tea
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dark chocolate cocoa
What are the Worst Drinks for Inflammation?
When trying to decide which drinks to include in your anti-inflammatory dietary routine, the primary drinks you want to avoid include:
- Fruit juices high in sugar
- Energy Drinks
- Sweetened powdered drinks, etc.
Again, this list is considered one that any healthy individual should be avoiding.
Common Anti-Inflammatory Diets
When researching anti-inflammatory foods, you are likely to come across some of these popular anti-inflammatory diets:
The Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid
The anti-inflammatory pyramid is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a set of guidelines similar to that of the food pyramid that gives suggestions of what’s approved to eat, how often, and in what amounts.
The Mediterranean Diet
This particular diet is high in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains and olive oil. This diet is also considered heavily plant-based, not meat-based, so you are going to notice that only a moderate amount of dairy, poultry, and eggs are included, along with a variety of fish.
While there are several varying low-carb diets, they all share some of the same basic principles. They cut out all processed carbs and sugars. Instead, you focus on eating whole foods.
As vegetarian diets eliminate most processed foods and meats from your dietary routine, they are considered a common anti-inflammatory diet.
Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Right for You?
You should never make a massive dietary change without consulting a medical professional. Even with the best intention, any lifestyle change can have both positive and negative effects on your day to day life. So, before deciding whether or not an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you, consult with either your primary care physician or a registered dietitian. They’ll be able to guide you on the path to a happier, healthier you.