The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Couple cooking anti-inflammatory food

When your body notices a foreign substance, such as plant pollen, chemicals, free radicals, or an invading microbe, it can trigger an inflammatory response. Over time, these bouts of inflammation can become chronic problems, leading to dozens of illnesses and diseases. Urinary tract problems,[i] diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even depression are all correlated to chronic inflammation.

While you might think you need to run to a chemist to reduce inflammation, the answer is actually much closer to home – in the fridge. An anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the amount of inflammation in your body, thereby easing many of these health problems.

This guide covers the following

  1. What is inflammation?
  2. Causes of inflammation
  3. What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
  4. Types of anti-inflammatory diet
  5. Foods that cause inflammation
  6. Foods that reduce inflammation
  7. How to reduce & manage inflammation in the body

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation occurs in your body whenever you are battling a disease or infection. Inflammatory cells rush to the site of injury or sickness, causing redness, swelling, and even pain. This is completely normal.

However, when the inflammation lingers, it leaves your body in a state of distress. It can then trigger diseases and illnesses, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic inflammation is a catalyst for asthma, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.[ii]

It’s also essential to understand the role of cytokines in the inflammation process. Cytokines are chemicals released by your immune system to help you battle infection. However, if too many cytokines are released, it can trigger the immune system to start attacking itself, causing organ failure or even death.[iii] This is known as a cytokine storm.

Thankfully, you can control the inflammation in your body through diet and lifestyle factors. Maintain a healthy weight, drink in moderation, eat a balanced diet, and take pain medication only when necessary.


Causes of Inflammation

Inflammation in the body is usually caused by the following factors:[iv]

  • Infections
  • Injuries
  • Autoimmune disorders, which cause your immune system to attack your healthy tissue
  • Irritants in the environment, such as pollutants or chemicals
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Chronic Stress
  • Obesity
  • Unknown factors – Some people experience chronic inflammation that has no identifiable cause

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

There is no adage so true as ‘you are what you eat.’ What we put into our bodies affects our overall health and wellness, and some foods can trigger inflammation.[v] Anti-inflammatory diets include a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid sugar, processed food, and fried foods.

Certain metabolic processes generate free radicals, which the body can attack and remove. However, when we introduce external factors, such as smoking, alcohol, and inflammatory foods, excess free radicals can cause damage to your cells, leading to a wide range of health concerns and diseases.

While your body creates antioxidants that fight free radicals, eating certain foods can boost these levels. Anti-inflammatory diets include a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and fresh produce.


Different types of anti-inflammatory diet

Some of the most popular anti-inflammatory diets include:[vi]

  • The Mediterranean Diet – Inspired by the healthy diets in the Med countries, such as France, Italy, Greece, and Spain, doctors recommend the Mediterranean Diet for a variety of medical issues. While definitions vary, the eating plan includes nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fats, including olive oil. Lean meats and dairy should be consumed in moderation.
  • The Ketogenic Diet – It seems like everyone is going ‘keto’ lately! This ultra-high fat/low carb style of eating was originally developed to treat children with resistant epilepsy.[vii] Ketogenic eating is said to reduce inflammation in the brain and body and can catalyse weight loss. Do note that all weight will quickly return if you stop eating keto.
  • The DASH Diet – Short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the DASH diet aims to reduce blood pressure levels with a diet rich in low-fat dairy products, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grain, fish, nuts, and beans. The diet limits the consumption of fat, red meat, sugar, and salt

Foods that Cause Inflammation

As you have likely established, most typically ‘unhealthy’ foods cause inflammation in the body. In addition to boosting the inflammation in your body and increasing your chance of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, these foods can cause weight gain. Obesity is itself a high-risk factor for inflammation, illness, and disease.[viii]

You should limit the following foods and only enjoy as a part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • Processed snack foods – Such as sweets, crisps, and snack cakes
  • Fried foods – Including fried chicken, chips, and fried fish
  • Refine carbs – Such as white bread, pastries, and cakes
  • Fizzy drinks and sugary squash – Avoid beverages with added sugar
  • Red meat – Limit your consumption of beef, pork, and lamb
  • Processed meat – Avoid hot dogs, sausages, kebabs, and fast-food burgers
  • Saturated fats – Including margarine, lard, and shortening
  • Alcohol and smoking

Foods that Reduce Inflammation

As we’ve mentioned above, the best foods to fight inflammation are fresh, whole ingredients with minimal processing. Fresh fruit, veggies, olive oil, fatty fish, and whole grains are all useful to fight inflammation.

A healthy anti-inflammatory diet should include the following foods:[ix]

  • Green leafy vegetables – Packed with fibre, vitamins, and minerals
  • Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds are all loaded with healthy fats
  • Plant oils – Olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil
  • Fatty fish – Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are all full of health omega-3 fatty acids
  • Dark chocolate and coffee – Contain valuable polyphenols (plant chemicals)
  • Fruits and berries – Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and oranges are all high in Vitamin C
  • Vegetables and legumes – Full of gut-healthy fibre

Anti-Inflammatory Spices

When you think of an anti-inflammatory diet, your mind probably goes straight to fresh ingredients. However, the spices and flavourings you add to your food can have a substantial positive impact on your health.[x] The more anti-inflammatory spices and herbs you eat, the more you can tackle your chronic inflammation and ease the symptoms of arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetes.

  • Fresh Garlic – Delicious and pungent, garlic is full of diallyl disulfide, an anti-inflammatory compound that fights the adverse effects of inflammatory cytokines. Opt for fresh garlic over the dried or powdered form.
  • Turmeric – Both fresh and dried turmeric contain curcumin. This chemical blocks inflammatory cytokines and shuts down the two main inflammatory pathways. Make sure you pair turmeric with black pepper so that it absorbs more efficiently into your body.
  • Ginger – Ginger contains gingerol and shogaol, chemicals that block the inflammatory pathways in the body. It’s tasty and delicious in sweet and savoury dishes, as well as steeped in hot water to make a tisane.
  • Cinnamon – Cinnamon contains the antioxidant chemicals cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid. Add it to your smoothies, oatmeal, or savoury curries.
  • Cayenne pepper – Spicy and zingy, dried chilli peppers include anti-inflammatory compounds called capsaicinoids. A little goes a long way – add to your sauces, rubs, soups, and marinades.

Anti-Inflammatory Supplements

Consider taking some of the following supplements to reduce inflammation:[xi]

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid – Your body naturally produces this fatty acid, which acts as an antioxidant. It helps to boost other antioxidant levels and reduce overall inflammation. Recommended dosage: 300–600 mg daily.
  • Fish Oil – Fish oil includes omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can decrease inflammation in the body. Recommended dosage: 1–1.5 grams per day.
  • Curcumin – A component of turmeric, it decreases inflammation and improves the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Piperine, a component of black pepper, increases its absorption. Recommended dosage: 100–500 mg per day. To improve effects, consume at the same time as black pepper.
  • Ginger – While you might already enjoy ginger in savoury curries and sweet baking, taking it in supplement form can help reduce inflammation. Recommended dosage: 1 gram per day.
  • Resveratrol – Naturally found in dark fruits, resveratrol is also found in peanuts and red wine. It has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and improve the symptoms of heart disease, gastritis, and ulcerative colitis. Recommended dosage: 150–500 mg per day.

How to Reduce and Manage Inflammation in the Body

You can take a number of steps to reduce and manage the inflammation in your body through diet, lifestyle, choices, and exercise.

  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet – Eating anti-inflammatory foods and spices, as well as taking the right supplements, can help protect your body from inflammation.
  • Reduce your consumption of inflammatory foods and alcohol – As you add more healthy ingredients into your diet, limit your consumption of alcohol, refined sugars, trans fats, and processed foods.
  • Watch your blood sugar – Processed foods and simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, refined sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, can all spike your blood sugar.
  • Manage incontinence – If you suffer from bladder weakness or urinary incontinence due to inflammation in your bladder or urinary tract, stay clean and dry with incontinence pads
  • Protect Skin – treat and protect skin inflammation cause by incontinence with a Zinc Oxide cream such as MoliCare® Skin Zinc Oxide Cream.
  • Exercise regularly – Engage in regular aerobic exercise (30 – 45 minutes five times per week), as well as weight or resistance training three or four times per week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Overweight people have more inflammation in their bodies, leaving them at risk for many chronic illnesses and a lower quality of life.
  • Reduce your stress levels – Chronic stress is an oft-overlooked cause of inflammation. Reduce your stress with meditation, yoga, gentle exercise, and breathing exercises.

An Anti-inflammatory Diet Could Improve your Health

You can reduce your body’s negative inflammatory response by consuming anti-inflammatory foods, spices, and supplements, and avoiding refined sugar, alcohol, and fried foods. When you combine this way of eating with positive lifestyle factors, such as increased exercise, reduced stress, and weight loss, you’ll be taking a genuinely positive step towards improved health.


 

*Please note that research for this guide has been taken from the third-party external sources cited below in the Resource List & Sources sections. When considering a change to your diet, always consult your GP or a dietician for advice that is right for your individual needs.*

Reference list

Arthritis Foundation, (2018). Best Spices for Arthritis | Arthritis Foundation. [online] arthritis.org. Available at: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-spices-for-arthritis [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Fletcher, J. (2020). Anti-inflammatory diet: Food list and tips. [online] www.medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320233#what-is-an-anti-inflammatory-diet [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Grover, S., Srivastava, A., Lee, R., Tewari, A.K. and Te, A.E. (2011). Role of inflammation in bladder function and interstitial cystitis. Therapeutic Advances in Urology, 3(1), pp.19–33.

Harvard Health Publishing (2018). Foods that fight inflammation – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Lawler, M. (2020). What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet? Benefits, Food List, and Tips | Everyday Health. [online] EverydayHealth.com. Available at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/anti-inflammatory-diet-benefits-food-list-tips/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

NHS Choices (2019). Eat well. [online] NHS Choices. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-is-a-mediterranean-diet/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Santos Longhurst, A. (2018). Chronic Inflammation: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Scripps (2012). Six Ways to Reduce Inflammation. [online] Scripps Health. Available at: https://www.scripps.org/news_items/4232-six-keys-to-reducing-inflammation [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Spritzler, F. (2016). 6 Supplements That Fight Inflammation. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-anti-inflammatory-supplements#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Spritzler, F. (2018). 13 Most Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Can Eat. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-anti-inflammatory-foods [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Zelman, K. (2019). Slideshow: What’s a Ketogenic Diet? [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].

Zhang, J.-M. and An, J. (2007). Cytokines, Inflammation, and Pain. International Anesthesiology Clinics, 45(2), pp.27–37.

 

Sources

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3126088/

[ii] https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785020/

[iv] https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation

[v] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320233#what-is-an-anti-inflammatory-diet

[vi] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/what-is-a-mediterranean-diet/

[vii] https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet

[viii] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

[ix] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-anti-inflammatory-foods

[x] https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-spices-for-arthritis

[xi] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-anti-inflammatory-supplements#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6

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