Over the last decade, medical research has shown that inflammation plays a significant role in many of the diseases that are prevalent in our modern culture. Conditions such as asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and even depression have been shown to have an inflammatory component. Inflammation, as it often presents in these conditions, is chronic and often “silent” (low-level) and this type of inflammation is believed to be a key factor in disease-related morbidity. The number of conditions medical research has confirmed as having an inflammatory component is quite extensive, and ongoing research into other conditions is seemingly endless. As more becomes known, medical researchers are also directing their studies to include analysis of preventative therapies geared towards the reversal and attenuation of symptoms.
Because so many health problems have been associated with inflammation, it is tempting to think of it as a purely pathological state, however this is not the case. Inflammation can actually be a desirable response, the acute reaction of a healthy immune system. Our bodies depend on inflammatory responses to defend us from bacterial/viral pathogen (e.g., fever), and they also help us heal from injuries. It is chronic, low-level inflammation that is concerning and correlated with disease. When it comes to many inflammation-related health conditions, medical researchers are still unclear as to whether chronic inflammation is a cause or an effect. What is known, and generally agreed upon, is that this type of inflammation is harmful.
While many of us have already been diagnosed with one or more of the above pathological inflammatory conditions, we may find ourselves still in a malleable state of health and that making concerted, educated lifestyle changes can have a significant, positive impact upon our health and well-being. The rest of us can work on a preventative level which is equally important.
While lifestyle habits such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress are all thought to help reduce chronic inflammation, the greatest factor in the fight against inflammation may be the food we eat everyday. Although it is not a recent development in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases, an “anti-inflammatory diet” can serve as a cornerstone in mitigating chronic inflammation.
What you eat can cool or fuel inflammation.
In evaluating a food’s inflammatory or remedial potential, there are a variety of factors to be considered – for example, the amounts and proportions of different fatty acids, the density of antioxidants and other nutrients, and a food’s effect on blood sugar levels, to name a few. It is generally recommended that one avoids foods known to be a direct cause of chronic inflammation (e.g., foods rich in omega- 6 fatty acids), and include foods that are popularly regarded to have more remedial effects (e.g., foods high in certain phytochemicals). The idea is that diet is utilized as both a preventative and medicinal therapy.
To learn more about chronic inflammation and how to integrate an anti-inflammatory diet into your eating practices, please refer to this guide that I have put together – print it out and post it to your fridge. You will quickly learn the basics of eating to both reduce and prevent the kind of chronic inflammation that contributes to countless debilitating health conditions.
Empower yourself to make the best food choices for your health and longevity.