Redness, hotness, swelling, and pain are the key signs of inflammation. Inflammation is not entirely a bad thing as it alerts us to the presence of an injury or infection, but when it is present long term, it becomes harmful. This chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or even years. Recent evidence suggests that the underlying cause of many chronic diseases is linked to chronic inflammation, so an approach that focuses on preventing chronic inflammation may be the best remedy for dealing with the associated chronic diseases. This article sheds light on how diet can be used to prevent chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a defense mechanism that the body employs in order to protect itself from infection, illness, or injury. Acute infection is usually accompanied by pain at the site, redness, hotness, and swelling, but inflammation, especially internal chronic inflammation, may not have these signs. When infection or inflammation occurs, the body increases the production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight it, and when the inflammation is the long-term internal type, the body may actually be attacking itself in a way. Inflammation may be caused by injury and infection, but chronic inflammation is also linked to an unhealthy diet, high-stress levels, and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Some foods have been linked to inflammation, and when you consume these foods regularly you are likely to develop inflammation-related diseases.
Refined foods are made from carbohydrates that have been processed, and processed foods have been shown to cause inflammation. Some studies have linked refined carbs with inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity. Processed and packaged foods are also likely to contain trans fats that have been linked to inflammation and destruction of endothelial cells that line the arteries in the heart. Examples of refined foods include white rice (but not brown rice), bread, pasta (but not whole wheat pasta), cakes, and other pastries made from refined flour. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated fats that are used in the preparation of most processed foods such as pizzas, cookies, and cakes. Processed meat such as bacon and sausages also contain unhealthy fats that may trigger chronic inflammation.
Numerous studies have linked chronic inflammation to an unhealthy diet. If you want to reduce inflammation, eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods by adopting a fiber-rich and nutrient-dense diet with minimal amounts of processed foods. Diets that contain antioxidants can minimize your chances of developing chronic inflammation as antioxidants fight off free radicals created as a natural part of your metabolism; these free radicals can lead to inflammation when they’re not held in check.
An ideal anti-inflammatory diet should provide enough protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat in the required proportions and contain natural foods instead of processed ones. The Mediterranean diet is one kind of diet that has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers.
The Mediterranean diet originates from the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its mainstay is healthy fats, and it is centered on locally sourced animal products, seafood, vegetables, nuts, butter and olive oil. Mediterranean diets omit refined and processed foods. When it comes to alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows the intake of red wine in moderation. A low carbohydrate diet also reduces inflammation particularly for people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome. An often overlooked component of the Mediterranean diet is the lifestyle which involves much higher levels of human connectedness as well as periods of intermittent fasting.
Most foods that have been linked to type 2 diabetes are also associated with inflammation and are also likely to cause weight gain and obesity. It appears that ingredients in these foods have an independent role to play in the development of inflammation.
On the contrary, foods and beverages that reduce inflammation have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Foods such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, compounds that have cardioprotective effects as well as anti-cancer effects. Whole nuts have also been linked to reduced markers of inflammation as well as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
1. NCBI (2012): Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and maybe the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826636
2. NCBI (2014): The effects of the Mediterranean diet on biomarkers of vascular wall inflammation and plaque vulnerability in subjects with high risk for cardiovascular disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24925270
3. NCBI (2013): Very low carbohydrate diet significantly alters the serum metabolic profiles in obese subjects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24224694
4. NCBI (2004): Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidant status and cardiovascular disease risk. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15474873