Fight inflammation naturally by changing how you eat
Do you suspect you might need to try the anti-inflammation diet? Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. That’s the case with inflammation. It’s a completely normal and necessary response in the body that occurs when your immune system tries to defend against infection and injury. Get a cut and your immune system rushes cells to the area to protect and repair it. But when your body continually senses that it’s under attack, that urge to protect doesn’t get turned off, leading to what’s known as chronic inflammation, explains Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian in Vancouver and author of Un-Junk Your Diet: How to Shop, Cook and Eat to Fight Inflammation and Feel Better Forever.
There are a number of reasons why our immune system can be permanently turned on, she says, like oxidative damage to cells and tissue due to chronic stress, a terrible diet or low-grade infection, she explains. Most importantly, chronic inflammation can lead to other health problems, she says. “You get this cycle that can lead to all sorts of chronic disease outcomes.” These include heart disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and arthritis. Plus, there’s evidence that there’s an overzealous immune system response to Alzheimer’s, diabetes, acne, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome. For all these reasons, reducing inflammation should be a priority.
The good news is: You can make changes just by switching up what you eat. Ready to help your body keep its cool? Below are eight tips to get you started on an anti-inflammation diet.
Eat more whole foods.
“Get back to one-ingredient foods, such as chicken, broccoli and apples,” says Neilsen. Also, keep animal products, like meat and dairy, to a minimum. However, eat fish, especially cold-water varieties, which are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, along with added sugars and processed foods. Make whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses, such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils, regular menu items. Plant-based foods are sources of prebiotics, fibre and nutrients, all which work to fight inflammation.
Consume less dairy.
Dairy is a source of both omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fat. A bit of both is part of a healthy, anti-inflammation diet, but we often eat too much of these fats. “The body needs some saturated fat, but when we go overboard, that excess drives inflammatory pathways,” explains Nielsen. Instead, try an alternative milk in your coffee or tea, or cashew cheese instead of cream cheese.