Inflammation is a natural and necessary immune system response to what the body perceives as an “invader”. Sometimes that response is triggered by a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection while in other cases the response can be triggered by food or an environmental pollutant.
If an irritant or infection is ongoing and persistent, or if the body over responds and flips, as it were, into an over active immune response then it can get into a state of chronic inflammation.
More and more systemic inflammation is being seen as the trigger of many health conditions. The link is easy to see in more obvious pain related conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, but now chronic inflammation is being linked to heart disease and many types of cancer.
While not all causes of inflammation can be controlled, we can work on preventing some of the main triggers by paying attention to what we eat and drink.
Dr Peter Osborne of The Gluten Free Society has compiled this list of the top five food culprits he sees as causing the most health issues:
This one is obvious. Nothing damages the digestive tract like sugar. The medical community is starting to agree on the fact that chronic inflammation often starts in your gut, the biggest part of your immune system.
I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, but keep in mind that too much alcohol can damage your gut flora, promote yeast overgrowth, and hinder your body’s ability to detox.
3) Grains. (should be a no brainer!)
Refined or not, grains are very hard to digest and can greatly tax the GI tract. The problem turns inflammatory if you are gluten sensitive (double negative impact). Add to this, the high levels of phytic acid and lectins in grains can hinder your ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.
4) Refined vegetable oil.
Canola, soy, and corn, oils (often referred to as vegetable oil) are largely genetically modified. These oils contribute to inflammation and pain. Even though these oils are advertised as healthy, don’t buy the hype. These are best left on the grocery shelf.
5) Pasteurized Dairy.
The majority of folks with gluten sensitivity also have trouble with dairy. The cows are fed chemicals and gluten containing grains. The milk has added hormones, and when it is preserved, the process creates a casein (dairy) protein that can mimic gluten. Like processed oils, pasteurized dairy is best left on the grocery shelf.
Dr Osborne comments:
I have literally seen thousands of patients reduce muscle, joint, and fibromyalgia type pain by eliminating these 5 things.
So what can you eat?
There many foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect and just googling on this subject will enable you to put together a list that suits your own taste and lifestyle.
However there are some key foods that are known to have strong anti inflammatory effects. These are foods such as:
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccalli, cabbage, kale)
These are some of the top anti-inflammatory foods and are items that can be easily added to your diet.
For a good resource on how to develop a healthy anti-inflammatory diet, Dr Andrew Weil has a good section on this on his website www.drweil.com.