It has been discovered that some medical conditions are caused by inflammation, and these ‘chronic inflammatory diseases’ can often be greatly improved by following an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to substances that are irritating or harmful and the symptoms are often uncomfortable. However, they are proof that the body is acting in its defence. For further information on why inflammation occurs and its related symptoms and causes, please refer to the embedded PDF.
Qualified nutritional therapist Bernard McGowan has a strong professional interest in the science of food, including the root causes of inflammation and how a diet designed to avoid inflammatory foods can help the healing process. By avoiding certain foods whilst increasing the intake of others, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. In general, an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on replacing refined and high-sugar foods with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and wholegrain foods.
These diets tend to include more antioxidants, as these reactive molecules found in food can help to reduce the number of free radicals in the body, which damage cells and increase the likelihood of a number of diseases. Traditional diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are naturally anti-inflammatory thanks to the high amounts of fish, heart-friendly fats and whole grains. For a brief guide on the Mediterranean diet, please refer to the embedded infographic.
There are many medical conditions and diseases that can be helped with an anti-inflammatory diet, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, psoriasis, colitis, IBS, heart disease, diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease, lupus, metabolic syndrome and obesity. The risk of developing certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer, can also be reduced by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.
What to Eat and What Not to Eat
A diet that will reduce inflammation in the body should include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, spices and herbs, not to mention fish, nuts and green tea. Specifically, an anti-inflammatory diet should include plenty of dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, as well as broccoli, cauliflower and avocado; berries such as blackberries, blueberries and cherries; dark red grapes and the occasional glass of red wine; olives, olive oil and nuts, specifically almonds, walnuts, pine nuts and pistachios; and cold water fish, such as sardines and salmon.
Other foods to include in the fight against inflammation are beans, lentils, coconut and dark chocolate, as well as turmeric, cinnamon and a range of other herbs and spices.
An anti-inflammatory diet is rich with delicious ingredients, flavours and tastes, making it easier to cut out those foods that cause inflammation. Gluten is one of the main food types to avoid when trying to reduce inflammation, which means eliminating white bread and white pasta amongst other gluten-containing food stuffs.
Processed and fried foods, such as crisps, crackers and processed meat should be avoided, as should high-sugar products, including sugary drinks, biscuits, sweets and ice cream. Large amounts of carbohydrates should be avoided, as well as excessive amounts of alcohol, and some find it useful to avoid the nightshade family: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.
Although the list of foods to avoid may seem extensive, there are a number of things that will make the transition to an anti-inflammatory diet a happy and easy process. Instead of getting stuck in the fine detail of the anti-inflammatory diet, focus instead on eliminating fast food and sugary drinks, drink plenty of water, prepare and carry anti-inflammatory snacks, eat a variety of vegetables and fruit, and plan a weekly menu ahead of going to the supermarket. Regular exercise and a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night will also help to reduce the body’s inflammation, ultimately achieving better health and wellbeing.