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Science says diet can help those dealing with inflammation

When was the last time you thought about how nutrition and inflammation are linked? The food choices you make today can have a material impact on inflammation in your body. Yet, we often don’t think about inflammation in the context of nutrition. We “eat healthy” and expect to “feel healthy.” But, nutrition isn’t that simple. Why? Because nutrition is highly individualized. And we need to take into account factors such as genetics, lifestyle, food sensitivities, and environment.  

But before we can understand how nutrition can inflammation better or worse, let’s explore what inflammation is at the foundational level.  

Put simply, inflammation happens when the cells in your body respond to a stimulus that your immune system deems potentially harmful. While this is typically a good thing, such as when you get a cut and your body works to repair it, prolonged “low-grade” inflammation can be an issue and lead to long-term health concerns. Those health issues include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.  

Through years of scientific studies, experts have found diet is one of the levers we can pull that can have a material impact on our inflammation. Dietary patterns along with stress and lifestyle choices ultimately affect your inflammation.   

First, let’s look at dietary choices that can increase inflammation, including those seen in western culture, which emphasizes a reliance on fast food and highly processed foods. While calling out fast foods and processed foods may seem obvious, one area that isn’t talked about enough is how those foods affect your gut health and the healthy bacteria that exist there. Given that 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, what you eat can be the cause or the cure for inflammation.    

According to Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation, “a diet rich in saturated fat, trans-fats, or refined sugar is associated with higher production of pro-inflammatory molecules, especially in individuals with diabetes or overweight individuals.” 

Other studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet or plant-based, a fiber-rich diet is associated with lower levels of inflammation. But also of note is that dietary patterns are more important than individual foods. Meaning, the combinations of foods you have in your diet are more significant than any one food at a time.  

Time-restricted eating has been another emerging tool for people to use to manage inflammation. According to researchers from Mount Sinai, fasting decreased “monocytes”, which are pro-inflammatory cells in blood circulation. Other research has found that constant metabolic stress due to overeating can lead to chronic inflammation. So, dialing back our eating to time-restricted periods, such as 8 hours or 16 hours, gives all the cells and organs in the metabolic process a time to rest and reset. 

Taking steps to promote a healthy inflammatory response through diet”

All the studies and data on nutrition and its connection to inflammation, particularly chronic inflammation, are a good reminder that you have a degree of control over your health outcomes. 

If you don’t know where to start, here are a few actions you can take every day to make healthier diet choices:  

  •  Incorporate at least one fiber-rich meal into your daily routine. That includes whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, or leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale.  
  • Snack on berries for a sweet tooth fix. Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries are good options. 
  • Make your protein of choice wild-caught salmon or tuna, and dress it with olive oil, herbs, and spices such as Turmeric (a powerhouse anti-inflammatory spice).  

By making slight changes to your eating habits every day, you are stacking the cards in your favor.  

References:  

https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2019/mount-sinai-researchers-discover-that-fasting-reduces-inflammation-and-improves-chronic-inflammatory-diseases  

https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-021-00674-9  

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31955013/ 

https://connect.uclahealth.org/2021/03/19/want-to-boost-immunity-look-to-the-gut/ 

https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/05/inflammation-disease-diet  

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868080/ 

https://nutrition.org/inflammation-what-is-it-and-how-can-my-diet-and-behavior-affect-it/ 

https://www.arthritisnsw.org.au/gut-health-inflammation/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/ 

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/fasting-can-help-ease-inflammation-in-the-body#What-researchers-discovered 

https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/2019/mount-sinai-researchers-discover-that-fasting-reduces-inflammation-and-improves-chronic-inflammatory-diseases 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320233 

 

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