When it comes to inflammation, our brain automatically associates it with the negative. We hear about the chronic illness it can cause and the possible detrimental effects when we allow it to go on for too long. However, inflammation is not always a bad thing. Our body actually requires inflammation to happen to keep us in our most healthy state of being. To help you understand a little better, let's go a little deeper into what it is, the causes, and how to combat its chronic state.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a vital aspect of the immune system’s function in response to foreign invaders. When you catch a virus or bacterial infection, your immune system inflames itself in order to “push out” the unwanted pathogen and help cleanse it from your body. As a result, you may experience uncomfortable symptoms. Whenever you are sick and have a headache or body pain, inflammation is the culprit. For short periods of time inflammation can be a good thing, yet when it is sustained over the long-term, it can cause damage to your body and make for some very uncomfortable symptoms.
Chronic inflammation often comes with chronic illnesses, such as long-term bacterial infections, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other degenerative health disorders. Diet can also contribute to inflammation and can exacerbate inflammatory symptoms caused by health problems. Foods like refined sugar and carbs, fried food, and saturated fats are not only generally unhealthy, but they contribute to inflammation.
How to Combat Inflammation
The good news is that you can fight inflammation by eating the right foods. Diet plays a significant role in our overall health and eating quality whole foods can help mitigate the effect of long-term inflammation. By incorporating high quality, wholesome foods into your diet, you can drastically reduce your body's inflammatory response and reverse many degenerative diseases that resulted from it.
Foods to Stay Away From
Refined foods such as white bread and refined sugars are a major factor in "feeding" your chronic inflammatory response. You should also avoid dairy products and peanuts, as these tend to irritate the digestive system and leading to increased inflammation. Instead, fill your diet with whole foods that are fresh and contain a variety of nutrients. Here are some of the best foods to fight inflammation and enrich your diet for overall better health.
Foods to Add to Your Diet
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Green, leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, Swiss chard, and spinach. These vegetables are high in antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that not only help lower inflammation but also are great additions for an overall healthier diet.
Though you are taught to stay away from fatty foods your entire life, the matter of fact is that a well-rounded, healthy diet needs fat in it. But, not all fats are created equal. Stick to healthy oils such as coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil, which contain lipids that help battle inflammation. Coconut Oil is also high in antioxidants, which along with being anti-inflammatory have a variety of health benefits. You can switch out conventional oils for these healthy options when cooking, baking, making salad dressings, et cetera. Replace butter with a high-heat oil like coconut oil. The virgin refined version lacks the coconut flavor which works best when cooking and baking. Try using avocado oil, lemon, sea salt, and pepper as a salad dressing instead of the store-bought versions.
Fish Rich in Omega-3
We hear about how important and beneficial omega-3's are, and for a good reason. Not only do they support good cardiovascular health and are an essential component in keeping your cells young, but they also have useful anti-inflammatory properties. Fish abundant in Omega-3's include salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna. For those of you who do not fancy fish, an omega-3 supplement in tablet form is a great alternative when it comes to reaping the benefits.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in alpha-linoleic acid, a type of omega-3. Foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and almonds contain an abundance of healthy fats that help reduce inflammation. Note: peanuts are not considered a nut or a seed; they are a legume. When consuming nuts and seeds, avoid peanuts because they have a tendency to irritate the immune system resulting in inflammation.
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant. You can easily take turmeric capsules or add ground turmeric to smoothies daily to help reduce inflammation. When incorporating turmeric into your diet through supplementation, seasoning, or the root, pair it with black pepper, which increases its absorption into the body.
Ginger is well known for its health benefits from reducing inflammation to combating oxidative stress. It helps balance out an overactive immune system, improving gut health where 70 percent of your immunity is, and reduce inflammation. You can steep fresh ginger into a tea, eat or drink it raw, add it to smoothies, or take it in supplement form.
By incorporating these anti-inflammatory foods into your diet and avoiding the foods that encourage an inflammation response, your body will not only reap the benefits of their powerful properties but also result in an overall balanced immune system. With lowered inflammation not only can you improve health conditions, but you can also experience overall better mental and physical wellness.