Reducing Inflammation in the Body
The word inflammation comes from the Latin, īnflammō “I ignite, set alight”. Acute inflammation is the body’s attempt to remove harmful stimuli and begin a healing process. A cascade of biochemical events occurs: Increased blood plasma flows to the threatened area to promote healing. White blood cells fight off foreign bodies. The cut or broken bone heals. (Wikipedia, 2014)
But prolonged, chronic inflammation in the body – also known as low-grade or systemic inflammation – is a different story. It is a maladaptive response leading to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the inflammation site. Chronic inflammation is a precursor of chronic disorders and diseases: For example, all of the many autoimmune disorders (such as allergies, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis), skin conditions (such as acne, eczema and rosacea), digestive problems (such as irritable bowel disease, gut strictures and Crohn’s disease), the combination called Metabolic Syndrome (elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides and low high-density cholesterol (HDL) levels), Alzheimer’s disease, repeating sinus infections, yeast infections, gum disease and tooth decay, cancers … and many more. Inflammation accumulates in the body until it can’t deal with it any more.
Research shows that gum disease is linked to heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and bacterial endocarditis (a dangerous infection in the lining around the heart). Chronic inflammation is a characteristic common among all of them. (Doheny, 2014)
Researchers are demonstrating the role inflammation plays in the development of cancers. For example, repeated urinary tract infections or cystitis produces chronic bladder inflammation, which may increase the risk of a squamous cell bladder cancer. In some parts of the world, squamous cell bladder cancer is linked to chronic inflammation caused by infection by a parasite called bilharzia or schistosomiasis. (Bauer, 2014)
When chronic inflammation is present, the immune process gets subverted and apparently abets the growth of cancerous tumors. (Marx, 2004).
Chronic inflammation is often present years before overt symptoms are noticed or a recognized illness makes itself known.
See the Gut Symbiosis versus Dysbiosis page and the sub-pages under it for a fuller list of health problems caused by gut dysbiosis and chronic inflammation.
So it seems avoiding or reducing inflammation in the body would go a long way toward improving our overall health. Here are some general guidelines from several sources. You’ll see a lot of useful information … and also a difference in focus and some disagreement among them.
INFLAMMATORY FOODS TO AVOID
A Huffington Post article called Inflammatory Foods: 9 Of The Worst Picks For Inflammation (Klein, 2013) lists these as foods to be avoided:
SUGAR: Too much sugar signals the body to send out extra immunity messengers, causing inflammation
WHITE BREAD AND PASTA: White breads and pasta break down quickly into sugar and also contain gluten
CHEESEBURGERS: Animal fats are linked to inflammation. One study demonstrated that eating saturated fats shifted the balance of beneficial gut bacteria, triggering an immune response that resulted in inflammation and tissue damage.
ALCOHOL: Alcohol is irritating to our guts and turns into sugar when it is metabolized. While small amounts of alcohol have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, higher amounts allow bacteria to pass more easily through the intestinal lining, leading to inflammation.
OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS: While Omega-3 Fatty Acids turn off inflammatory messengers, the average American consumes a much higher amount of Omega-6. The imbalance leads to inflammation. Omega-6 is found in heavy seeds and vegetable oils. Omega-3 is in fatty fish and walnuts.
MILK: A moderate among of low-far dairy can guard against inflammation but 2% and whole milk is high in saturated animal fat.
MSG: The preservative and flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate can create inflammation.
GLUTEN: Sensitivity to gluten causes bloating and digestion changes that are an inflammatory response to gluten.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
The heart healthy, traditional Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based. Studies show it is also likely to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol while helping you avoid certain cancers and chronic diseases. (Robinson, 2014)
The diet consists of:
Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables
Healthy fats, such as olives, olive and canola oils instead of butter or margarine, sunflower seeds and avocados
Fish and seafood at least twice a week
Small portions of nuts
A small amount of red wine
Potatoes, whole-grains and beans
Small portions of yogurt, cheese, poultry and eggs
Herbs and spices for flavoring
Fruits for dessert
DR. WEIL’S ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET
This is Andrew Weil, MD’s, version of the Mediterranean diet presented in pyramid form:
You can see a larger and clearer, interactive version of this pyramid and read details about the various types of foods he recommends here.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY SUPPLEMENTS (Bauer, 2014)
CAT’S CLAW (Uncaria tomentosa) — Some studies indicate cat’s claw eases rheumatoid arthritis joint pain and osteoarthritis knee pain during activity.
DEVIL’S CLAW (Harpagophytum procumbens) — Devil’s claw is used extensively in Europe as an anti-inflammatory agent. Studies suggest it is effective in the short-term treatment of osteoarthritic pain.
MANGOSTEEN (Garcinia mangostana) — Mangosteen is credited with anti-allergy, antibacterial, antifungal, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities – and even as a possible cancer treatment
MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum) — Milk thistle protects the liver by blocking or removing harmful substances from it. It appears to improve organ function in people with cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease and may also be helpful in treating chronic hepatitis.
MY SUGGESTIONS FOR AVOIDING & REDUCING INFLAMMATION IN THE BODY Consume a largely Mediterranean-type diet
High fructose corn syrup, processed white sugar and artificial sweeteners
The meat of animals fed antibiotics and products from these animals (milk and eggs)
GMO/GE crops and products made from them
Artificial food dyes
Conventional table salt
Taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary – they kill off the beneficial bacteria in our guts along with the pathogenic ones
Get regular dental cleanings to keep oral inflammation at a minimum Wash your hands with soap and water instead of using anti-bacterial hand sanitizers Consume:
Generous amounts of organic vegetables and fruits
Kefir – this is one dairy product that’s loaded with probiotics and good for you
Other fermented foods
Adequate amounts of water
An adequate amount of vitamin D3, which supports healthy immune functioning. Most of us are seriously D3 deficient.
Season your food with organic herbs and spices
Use pink sea salt instead of processed table salt. Pink sea salt contains the 84 elements naturally found in our bodies and is good for us while typical table salt has been heavily processed to remove all the nutrients, leaving sodium chloride, a chemical our bodies recognize as a foreign substance. Sodium chloride is heavily used as a preservative and flavoring in almost every preserved product on the market. Try Himalayan and Hawaiian pink sea salt. For here for more information. Calm your mind and body down and recenter yourself with meditation, breath work, singing, dancing, walking and laughing
This is not meant to be the be all and end all of information on how to reduce inflammation in the body. You’ll see there’s some disagreement among the experts. I hope you’ll do some research on your own – and let me know what works and doesn’t work for you.
Bauer, B. (2014). Buzzed on Inflammation. Mayo Clinic Health letter. See http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/163/t/Buzzed%20on%20inflammation/
Doheny, K. (2014). Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart? WebMD. See http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/healthy-teeth-healthy-heart
Klein, S. (3/21/2013). Inflammatory Foods: 9 of the Worst Picks for Inflammation. The Huffington Post. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/inflammatory-foods-worst-inflammation_n_2838643.html
Marx, J. (2004). Inflammation and Cancer: The Link Grows Stronger. Science, 306:5698, 966-968. See http://www.sciencemag.org/content/306/5698/966.short
Robinson, K.M. (2014). The Mediterranean Diet. WebMD. See http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/the-mediterranean-diet
Weil, A. (2014). Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet. See http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02012/anti-inflammatory-diet
Wikipedia. (2/11/2014). Inflammation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation
© Copyright 2013-2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.