Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a foreign invader. It’s part of our immunity and it has the role of defending against harm and healing from injury. Generally speaking, an acute inflammatory response is beneficial because it signals to us that our immune system is fighting against an irritant. Signs of acute inflammation may be redness, swelling, heat, pain, limited mobility/function. An example is a bug bite and the area affected becomes itchy, red and swollen. Usually, the area heals in a few days, unless it is a more severe reaction which then might indicate an allergic reaction. When inflammation persists for a longer duration of time that lasts from weeks to months, it is considered chronic inflammation. Examples may include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, chronic lung disease. Compared to acute inflammation, this type of inflammation typically leads to more harm than benefits. It puts stress on our body, causes damage to tissues and impairs our immune system, leading to health problems. We know that managing chronic inflammation is important to prevent damage or further damage to our body. And one of the best ways to manage chronic inflammation naturally is through our diet. We can incorporate these general anti-inflammatory diet tips to help us manage chronic inflammation:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, of different size, colors and shapes, to ensure we benefit from the wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress therefore reducing inflammation. Some phytochemicals have also been studied for anti-inflammatory effects.
- Eat mostly minimally processed foods. Focus on whole foods in order to optimize nutritional value. Processed foods tend to have less natural nutrients because of the intensive processes they have had to go through.
- Stay clear of artificial sweeteners and products that contain them, such as diet sodas. Artificial sweeteners are chemically made and when entered into the body, it might appear as a foreign invader thus triggering our immune system to attack the chemical. This is the beginning of the inflammatory process.
- Include fatty fish high in omega 3 content at least twice a week. Options are sardines, salmon, anchovies, trout, albacore tuna, Atlantic mackerel. Have at least 1,000 mg of omega 3 per day. This can be achieved with the help of omega 3 supplements.
- Utilize Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Dirty Dozen Guide to grocery shopping: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php. Buy organic, as much as possible, to limit intake of pesticide residue which is a foreign chemical substance to the body and can contribute to inflammation.