If you have an inflammatory condition like osteoarthritis (OA), you may have heard how eating certain foods can reduce your body’s inflammatory response. While maintaining your treatment plan is important, modifying your diet to include anti-inflammatory foods can support you with improved energy and less pain. It may not magically cure your OA, but it can help you lead a more satisfying life and reduce the number and frequency of flare-ups you experience. Learn more about how anti-inflammatory foods and diet tips can help you reduce pain and perhaps enjoy life a little bit more.
Facts About Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process of our immune system. An inflammatory response is the way our body responds to injury or disease. It is part and parcel of the body’s attempts to heal itself following an injury and is part of the natural repair process. When the body detects any foreign substance – whether that is a chemical, pollutant or allergen – your inflammatory response kicks in.
When our bodies are constantly bombarded by harmful substances, we may experience chronic inflammation as our systems work overtime to get rid of them. For anybody with a weakened or compromised immune system, this response can be extreme and even debilitating.
For people who suffer from chronic inflammation or inflammatory conditions such as OA, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or other auto-immune diseases, inflammation can contribute to prolonged discomfort. Chronic Inflammation is also associated with obesity, heart disease, high blood sugar, frequent colds and flu, and gastrointestinal issues. It can wreak havoc on your energy levels and in extreme cases, can prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest.
The good news is that following an anti-inflammatory diet can help. Once you have achieved a more alkaline body chemistry, you will feel better, look better – and, if you are one of the 31 million Americanswho has osteoarthritis, it could help you turn the tables on your prognosis.
Foods that cause inflammation
The first step towards an anti-inflammatory diet is to eliminate or reduce the amount of inflammation-causing foods that you eat. The top offenders in this category include:
- Refined sugars
- Wheat-based foods (breads, pasta, baked good)
- Fried foods
- Sugary beverages (sodas, store-bought juices)
- Processed foods (anything that isn’t fresh is processed)
- Red meats
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, butter)
- Hydrogenated fats, oils, lard, shortening
These foods are acidifying to your body, meaning that when they break down, they create an acidic environment that is, essentially, a hotbed of inflammation.
Many of these inflammatory, acidifying foods also contribute to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, weight gain, endocrine disease, organ failure, early dementia, and cancer.
Avoiding these types of foods will not only help you gain more energy, but it will help your body to protect itself from disease. You will likely lose some weight, and you may soon notice that you don’t catch colds as often. Your energy and mood will be much improved, and your pain may be more manageable.
Avoid these three foods at all costs
There are many reasons for this, but topping the list is the fact that these are the top three most GMO-d foods on the planet. Unless you are purchasing foods that contain organic, non-GMO versions of these ingredients, you run the risk of doing yourself more harm than good. The effects of GMOs on the body are still a topic of much debate, but some of the unfortunate byproducts include certain cancers, endocrine disease, and chronic inflammatory disease.
Wheat, in addition, contributes to weight gain as in many cases, it slows the body’s natural ability to produce insulin, the compound that helps us change the sugars in the foods we eat into energy.
Soy is notoriously difficult for most people to digest. Since it is a staple of a vegetarian diet, many may find it difficult to eliminate from their routine, but moderation is key. If you must eat soy, choosing to purchase organic/non-GMO soy products exclusively, may mitigate some of the inflammation it may cause.
Corn contains the highest levels of sugar of any fruit or vegetable, which is why it is used so extensively for sweetening processed foods. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and exacerbate diabetes conditions as well as auto-immune disorders.
Check the labels of the foods you buy to ensure they do not contain wheat, soy, or corn. Better still, choose only fresh, whole foods and stay away from pre-packaged or processed items entirely.
The role of antioxidants in combating inflammation
Antioxidants play a significant role in the fight against systemic inflammation. Oxidative factors can be found in our environment and in the foods we eat – and these are the things that, for want of a better explanation, will make us old before our time.
Pollutants in the air we breathe and in the foods we eat contribute to this oxidation, producing free radicals that impair our body’s ability to fight disease and heal from injury. Antioxidants fight free radicals, protecting our cells from damage and helping us retain vitality and heal more quickly from injury and illness.
Antioxidants can be found in many foods, but they can also be supplemented with vitamins like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta Carotene, Selenium, and foods with high anthocyanin content, such as blue and purple fruits and vegetables.
Foods that are naturally high in antioxidants include:
- Berries of all kinds: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, plums, black grapes
- Acai berries
- Goji berries
- Raw carrots
- Red Cabbage
- Legumes (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, peas)
Eating a diet that is rich with these foods will help you maintain good health, sustained energy, and, perhaps most importantly, reduce harmful inflammation.
Foods that suppress inflammation
Modifying your diet to include a lot of anti-inflammatory foods is essential for optimum wellness. Adding these foods into your diet will support your overall health and wellness.
Here are some of the most beneficial anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet today:
Berries of all kinds: berries are highly beneficial as they are relatively low on the glycemic index (sugar content) and are packed with antioxidants. Blueberries and cherries are among the most beneficial fruits you can eat – it’s just a bonus that they are so delicious!
Leafy greens: green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, microgreens, spinach, and kale are highly beneficial for fighting inflammation. They are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that help rid your body of the toxins you are exposed to every day.
Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, bok choy, rutabaga, watercress, wasabi, horseradish, radishes, turnips (roots and greens), and brussels sprouts are just a handful of examples. They are low in calories and filled with vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and dietary fiber. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, cruciferous veggies balance the endocrine system, help to regulate blood glucose levels, and promote weight loss. Eating a diet rich in cruciferous veggies has been shown to reduce inflammation markers by 25 percent.
Nuts and seeds: almonds and walnuts are among the most beneficial nuts, but peanuts (technically a legume), flaxseeds, pistachios, hemp hearts, and chia seeds are all highly recommended. They are rich in magnesium, vitamin E, alpha linoleic acid (ALA), and l-arginine, all of which are proven to reduce inflammation by boosting the protein adiponectin, a substance our bodies produce that has been shown to reduce inflammation.
High-fat content fish: fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, mackerel, tilapia, mahi-mahi, anchovies, herring, and eel have a high Omega-3 content. Omega-3s have been proven to interfere with certain enzymes in the body that produce an inflammatory response. Studies show that people who eat fatty fish on a regular basis are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Further to that, if you have already been diagnosed with RA, or OA for that matter, this can help to reduce the swelling and pain that comes with a flare-up.
As always, care should be taken to choose fish that are sustainably caught and/or farmed. Fatty fish tend to hold onto toxins much longer than leaner fish, so ensuring the source is reliable and responsible is key as you really don’t want to be putting more toxins back into your body. Check Ocean Wise for recommended varieties and other valuable information.
Non-meat Omega-3 sources: If you are a vegetarian or vegan, there are still ways to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are one of the most concentrated sources of omegas. Add a tablespoon to your smoothie or protein shake for an extra burst of inflammation-fighting power. Other non-meat sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, brussels sprouts, and seaweed.
These are just a few of the ways you can get started with an anti-inflammatory diet today. Eating mindfully with inflammation reduction as the goal can help you feel better, reduce inflammation and get more enjoyment out of the things you love.