Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

Chiropractic care isn’t just about adjusting joints and stretching muscles; it’s about whole-body health. What you eat has a direct impact on your body, so the adage “you are what you eat” isn’t just a catchy phrase. It’s the truth! Eating the wrong foods can contribute to many chronic illnesses or inflammation that prevent you from living a full and healthy life. One of the easiest ways to prevent chronic inflammation is with an anti-inflammatory diet.

What Is Inflammation?

On one hand, inflammation is part of the body’s natural defenses against disease and injury, so some is necessary and helpful in a healthy immune system. On the other hand, when the body exists in a constant (chronic) state of inflammation, it can cause serious long-term illnesses, such as obesity, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, and heart disease as well as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and Type 1 diabetes.

Inflammation can be noticeable (allergic reactions), but some experience it as redness, puffiness, skin rashes, swelling, or bloating as well as fatigue, weight gain, achy joints and muscles, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues or simply getting sick more often or for longer periods.

While many chronic conditions are influenced genetically, eating foods that reduce inflammation and living a healthy lifestyle—getting adequate quality sleep, reducing stress, exercising regularly, not smoking—play a significant role.

Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic explains, “Many of our patients come in because they are experiencing pain, and one of the main underlying causes of pain is inflammation. While cortisone shots and pain medications work because they reduce inflammation, the best way to address inflammation is using natural methods like diet, exercise, and supplements.”

Dr. Gross adds, “If someone has headaches and back pain, our adjustments can help, but if their headaches are stemming from a diet full of sugar, caffeine, fried foods, red meat, and refined carbs, adjustments may not be enough to fix their problem. In that case, they need to seriously consider changing to an anti-inflammatory diet.”

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Very similar to the Mediterranean diet, the anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes antioxidant-rich produce, healthy fats, and seafood while limiting refined grains, sugar, and processed foods. It’s a healthy way of eating that’s good for everyone, but research also suggests that this diet helps reduce the risk and effects of many chronic conditions.

What Foods Cause Inflammation?

Inflammation is caused when foods trigger the body’s immune response with elevated antibodies that work to fight against them. Some foods may cause inflammation for one person and be fine for others; however, for everyone, processed foods lead to internal inflammation, gluten and dairy can inflame bowel disorders, and nightshades can inflame arthritis. In general, avoid the following:

  • Processed foods: Potato chips, fast food
  • Refined carbs/starches: White breads, white rice, crackers, biscuits
  • Fried foods: Fries, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: Soda, sweet tea, sports drinks
  • Processed meats: Bacon, ham, hot dogs
  • Trans fats: Shortening, margarine

Inflammation-Reducing Foods

It’s okay to eat the “bad” foods occasionally, but it’s better to follow a well-balanced diet based on whole foods. Inflammation reduction is linked directly to eating foods with antioxidants, omega-3 fats, and low glycemic-load carbohydrates and, of course, drinking water. Explore the wonderful variety of foods you can enjoy (and when and why they are good choices).

  • Antioxidants
    Healthy Sweets (sparingly): Unsweetened dried fruit, dark chocolate, fruit sorbets (Dark chocolate and cocoa—at least 70% cacao—have antioxidants that promote healthier aging and help reduce inflammation and the risk of disease.)
    Tea (2–4 cups/day): White, green, oolong (Green tea is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity.)
    Healthy Herbs and Spices (unlimited): Turmeric, curry powder, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme (Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis and diabetes. Chili peppers have vitamin C and antioxidants that support healthier aging and may reduce the inflammation of diabetes.)
    Vegetables (4–5 servings/day minimum): Lightly cooked dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale, Swiss chard), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, cauliflower), carrots, beets, onions, peas, squash, sea vegetables, washed raw salad greens (Broccoli is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.)
    Fruit (3–4 servings/day): Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, oranges, pink grapefruit, red grapes, plums, pomegranates, cherries, apples, pears (Berries and grapes are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals and reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and eye disorders.)
    Red Wine (1–2 glasses/day): Organic varietals
    Supplements (daily): Multivitamin/multiminerals
  • Omega-3 Fats
    Whole-Soy Foods (1–2 servings/day):
    Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy nuts, soy milk (Whole-soy foods protect against cancer.)
    Healthy Fats (5–7 servings/day): Extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds (hemp, ground flaxseed), avocados (Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and reduces the risk of heart disease and brain cancer. Avocados contain potassium, magnesium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats as well as nutrients linked to reduced cancer risk.)
    Mushrooms (cooked, unlimited): Shiitake, enokitake, maitake, oyster, truffles, portobello (Mushrooms are rich in selenium, copper, and all B vitamins as well as antioxidants. Note: Never eat mushrooms raw and limit common commercial button varieties.)
    Fish and Shellfish (2–6 servings/week): Wild Alaskan salmon (sockeye), herring, sardines, anchovies, black cod (sablefish) or fish-oil supplements
    Lean Dairy and Proteins (1 to 2 servings/week): High-quality natural cheeses, yogurt, organic eggs, skinless poultry, grass-finished lean meats
  • Low Glycemic-Load Carbohydrates
    Pasta (2–3 servings/week):
    Organic, rice noodles, bean-thread noodles, whole-wheat noodles, Japanese udon and soba (Pasta cooked “al dente” creates a healthier and lower glycemic index.)
    Whole and Cracked Grains (3–5 servings/day): Brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, steel-cut oats
    Beans and Legumes (1–2 servings/day): Anasazi, adzuki, black, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils
  • Water
    Of course, you need to drink water or drinks that are mostly water (tea, diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day. Water is vital for overall functioning of the body.

A Chiropractor’s Perspective

“If our patients can stick to an anti-inflammatory diet, it will help support our treatment plan so much!” emphasizes Dr. Gross. “As a side benefit, the diet results in weight loss for a lot of people. It’s our top pick for a general lifestyle change. We notice people’s arthritis getting better or their skin clears up when they switch, or they finally lose some weight they could never lose before, and they almost always say they have more energy.”

Not Sure Where to Start?

All this information can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small and take one step at a time, perhaps planning out meals with a handy guide like this “30-Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan” from Eating Well magazine that maps out a month of delicious meals and snacks with natural anti-inflammatory foods that help your body.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet and how it can help you get back to health, contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225.

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