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Anti-inflammatory Foods

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You may be familiar with anti-inflammatory medications, but have you heard of anti-inflammatory foods? The foods you eat really do have an effect on how you feel.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is defined as a localized reaction of tissue to irritation, injury, or infection. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, swelling, red coloration to the area, and sometimes loss of movement or function. We commonly think of inflammation as the painful component of arthritis. Inflammation is also a component of chronic diseases such as heart disease and strokes.

Medical Anti-Inflammatory Treatments

Common medical anti-inflammatory treatments include rest, light exercise, weight maintenance, stretching, and medications designed to reduce the inflammation and control the pain. These medications include Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), steroid medications, and perhaps ultimately joint replacement surgery. The NSAIDs are widely used as the initial form of therapy.

For the most part NSAIDs are tolerated fairly well, although they can irritate the stomach and lead to ulcers. In some instances, long term use can lead to kidney problems.

Avoid Pro-Inflammatory Foods

Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase your pain from the inflammation and may also raise your risk for chronic disease. Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, sugar and fast foods will increase inflammation in your body. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and saturated fats. Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease.

Saturated fats are also found in meats, dairy products and eggs. While all of these foods are important source of minerals and vitamins, you don't need the extra saturated fat. These foods also also contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for your health, too much arachidonic acid in the diet may make your inflammation worse. Be sure to choose low fat milk and cheese and lean cuts of meat, which will not promote inflammation.

Diets high in sugar have also been associated with inflammation, obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes. Eliminate high sugar foods such as sodas, soft drinks, pastries, pre-sweetened cereals and candy.

Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants. Whole fruits and vegetables are important to eat for their vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants. However some vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant may actually make pain from inflammation worse. These vegetables are part of the nightshade family of plants and contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine. Solanine can trigger pain in some people. While there isn't any formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, some people believe they get relief from the symptoms of pain and inflammation.

Choose Anti-inflammatory Foods

Adding foods that reduce inflammation will improve how you feel and help to decrease your risk for chronic diseases. Here are some suggestions.

Fats and Oils

The right types of fats in your diet will impact pain and inflammation in a positive way. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They are found in cold water oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. Adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements from flax oil or fish oil may also help reduce inflammation, just be sure to speak with a doctor or nutritionist before taking larger, therapeutic doses of any supplement, or follow label instructions.

Olive oil is another type of oil that will reduce inflammation. In fact, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and will help to reduce pain. Other healthy oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.

Protein

Your body needs protein to build healthy body tissues. Good protein sources include lean poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, legumes and seeds. Red meats may trigger inflammation, so cut back on fatty red meats. When you do eat red meat, choose lean cuts of bison, venison and other game meats, or the lowest-fat cuts of beef, preferably grass-fed beef.

Soybeans, tofu, and soy milk are three great sources of soy proteins that may help to reduce your pain and inflammation.

Carbohydrates and Fiber

Most of your carbohydrates should come from whole grains, vegetables and fruits. The bread, cereal and pasta in your diet should be mostly be 100% whole grain products. Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, and a high fiber diet will reduce your inflammation.

Choose green leafy vegetables, green and brightly colored vegetables and lots of fresh whole fruits. You should eat at least five and preferably more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Green vegetables and whole fruits are also important as sources of dietary fiber.

Berries are also a great food choice, especially blueberries and strawberries which are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. The pigments in brightly colored fruits, vegetables and berries contain many phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. One example is quercetin, which is found in apple and red onion skins and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh Pineapple also has properties to help with inflammation.* Watermelon can also be added to this list for anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidents. It appears depending on the type/variety of melon and stage of ripeness can alster just how much antioxidents are present...the red ripest stage seems to be best.

Healthy Beverages

Your body needs water in the form of foods and beverages every day. The simplest and maybe best form of water is fresh drinking water. Other good fluid sources include 100% fruit juices, herbal teas, vegetable juices and low fat milk. About 20% of the water you need every day will come from the foods you eat.

Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips

Over all, when you are choosing anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce your inflammation and pain, choose fresh foods instead of heavily processed foods. Here are some tips:
  • Breakfast could be oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts, with a cup of soy milk.
  • Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables throughout the day instead of cookies and candy.
  • Eat more fish and less fatty red meat.
  • Stay away from deep fried foods and bake or stir fry your meals instead.
  • Choose green, orange, and yellow vegetables for your side dishes.
  • Drink plenty of water, fresh 100% fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas and green tea.

Sources:

Watkins BA, Hannon K, Ferruzzi M, Li Y. "Dietary PUFA and flavonoids as deterrents for environmental pollutants." J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Mar;18(3):196-205.

Hodgson JM, Ward NC, Burke V, Beilin LJ, Puddey IB. "Increased lean red meat intake does not elevate markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in humans." J Nutr. 2007 Feb;137(2):363-7.

Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, Meigs JB, Rifai N, Manson JE, Hu FB. "Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction." Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):1029-35.

Farooqui AA, Horrocks LA, Farooqui T. "Modulation of inflammation in brain: a matter of fat." J Neurochem. 2007 Jan 25.

Panush RS, Veloso ML, Weiss S, Bielory L. "Mechanisms in adverse reactions to food. The joints and muscles." Allergy. 1995;50(20 Suppl):74-7.

Huang SM, Wu CH, Yen GC. "Effects of flavonoids on the expression of the pro-inflammatory response in human monocytes induced by ligation of the receptor for AGEs." Mol Nutr Food Res. 2006 Dec;50(12):1129-39.

Covas MI. "Olive oil and the cardiovascular system." Pharmacol Res. 2007 Jan 30.

Suter PM. "Positive effect of dietary soy in ESRD patients with systemic inflammation--correlation between blood levels of the soy isoflavones and the acute-phase reactants." Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2006 Aug;21(8):2239-46.

Fanti P, Asmis R, Stephenson TJ, Sawaya BP, Franke AA. "Positive effect of dietary soy in ESRD patients with systemic inflammation--correlation between blood levels of the soy isoflavones and the acute-phase reactants." Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2006 Aug;21(8):2239-46

 

* source for Watermelon info- www.wholefoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=31

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