What exactly is inflammation?
Inflammation gets a bad rap because we always think of it as a negative. However, acute inflammation is a natural and important part of the healing process in the body that you might notice as heat, pain, redness, swelling.
When we talk about combating inflammation, we’re referring to chronic inflammation that appears more slowly and often goes unnoticed. It’s like your immune system is set permanently to “on”. Chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases and often involves symptoms such as body pain, fatigue, insomnia, mood issues, GI issues, weight gain, skin conditions and more.
It’s easy to think that inflammation is just a part of aging, but don’t accept that as an answer. There is a lot that you can do to make a difference in how you look and feel.
How can foods and nutrients help?
If you are feeling any of the symptoms mentioned above, then look to your diet for help. Removing harmful foods and focusing on including nutrient-dense options can provide you with anti-inflammatory benefits that make a big difference in how you feel. Not only will you be consuming needed nutrients for efficient building and repair of tissues, but also, these needed nutrients will support your digestion and absorption as well so that your systems are functioning for optimal health and aging.
Foods to avoid
Sugar is one of the biggest drivers of inflammation. When we consume foods that are high in sugars and refined flours, it raises your baseline blood sugar levels. The excess sugar binds to proteins forming what is called advanced glycation end products (AGEs for short, ironically!). This creates problems with the function of these proteins all around the body leading to accelerated aging in your joints, skin, brain, and metabolism. Excess sugar can also counteract the anti-inflammatory benefits of important omega 3 fatty acids.
Processed fats such as vegetable oils that are high in omega 6 fatty acid content promote inflammation. These are commonly used in packaged goods. Examples include chips, fries, microwave popcorn, certain margarines and packaged baked goods.
Processed meats such as hot dogs, deli meats, bacon or charred BBQ are high in inflammatory compounds and have a strong association with colon cancer.
Vegetables and fruit are top of the list as nature’s antioxidants. For instance, blueberries and leafy greens are high in polyphenols and help to reduce oxidative stress and accelerated aging. Also, sulfur-containing foods such as cruciferous vegetables or garlic help fight inflammation by reducing cytokine levels. Eat the rainbow, because the different colours of fruits and vegetables have different beneficial compounds.
Nuts and seeds have strong anti-inflammatory effects. For example, almonds that are rich in vitamin E that lowers some markers of inflammation. Almonds make a great snack and almond flour is one of my favourite baking flours! Another great option is flaxseeds that are rich in fiber and ALA (Alpha-Lipoic-Acid) and help to lower blood sugar, reduce skin aging, slow memory loss, and reduce inflammation. I like buying whole flax and grinding it as needed to maintain maximum freshness.
Herbs and spices can have incredible anti-inflammatory properties that help us stay feeling young such as the epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea, curcumin in turmeric, flavanols in cacao and gingerols in ginger. These compounds have all been studied and may provide benefits that limit molecules that trigger inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.
Remember, that everything you choose to eat is either helping or hampering your ability to live and age well. Nature has so much goodness that can help you heal your inflammation so that you have more time, ability, and energy to do what you love.
Bonnie Flemington is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner specializing in helping clients to address inflammation, joint pain, digestion, and weight issues. She offers online individual and group nutrition coaching services and delicious, weekly meal plans. Check out her website for more details at https://bonnieflemington.com/