PUTTING OUT THE FIRE

By now you have likely read or heard about the importance of eating an “anti-inflammatory diet”. But confusion remains regarding what exactly this entails and why inflammation is so harmful.

When we think of “inflammation” we can picture a cut or infected wound that has become red, hot, swollen and painful.  This is the body’s normal and helpful response to injury that involves bringing added nourishment into the harmed area to protect it and commence the healing process. However, inflammation is not away helpful.

There is another kind of inflammation that we cannot see and cannot feel but is terribly damaging and insidious.  “Silent inflammation” consists of a chronic, low-grade stimulation of our inflammatory processes and is one of the leading factors in the development of virtually every major chronic degenerative disease,  including, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.

The extent of one’s chronic inflammation will be due to a number of factors, including genetics, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, as well as environmental toxins. Most importantly, however, is DIET. So, what can we do to reduce the inflammation and start living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle?

6 STEP PLAN TO REDUCE SILENT INFLAMMATION

STEP 1: OBTAIN & MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT

The first step to reduce silent inflammation is to ensure you are a healthy body weight. Obesity is the strongest independent predictor of high inflammation levels.

STEP 2: EAT LOW ON THE GLYCEMIC LOAD

Studies have shown that subjects who ate low glycemic load (GL) foods reduced their inflammatory markers compared to the subjects that ate the same number of calories yet from high GL foods. Low glycemic load foods include intact grains, legumes, fish, vegetables and fruits. Examples of high GL foods are refined flour products like white bread, bagels, processed cereals and high sugar products like juice, cookies, cake and candy. For more information on the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load please see: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm

STEP 3: EAT LIKE A MEDITERRANEAN 

In addition to a low glycemic load diet, following a traditional Mediterranean diet also leads to lower levels of inflammatory markers. This diet is rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts. fish, olive oil and a glass of red wine to wash it down. These foods are rich in flavonoids which can help reduce inflammation levels.

The nutritional health guru, Dr. Weil, has developed his own anti-inflammatory food pyramid which is a tweaked version of the Mediterranean Diet. I have pasted it at the bottom of the post.

STEP 4: IMPROVE YOUR OMEGA 6 TO OMEGA 3 RATIO

Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids are both involved in the mechanics of inflammation. Simplistically, Omega 6 fatty acids, found in soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower and safflower oils and corn fed meat are pro-inflammatory while Omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp and to a lesser extent canola oil are anti-inflammatory.

Before the explosion of manufactured foods, rich in soybean and corn oils, and cheap meats, we used to eat approximately a 1:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids. A typical western diet today is closer to a 15:1 ratio.

In order to make a marked difference in our inflammatory profile, we need to not only INCREASE our consumption of Omega 3s but also DECREASE our consumption of Omega 6s. That means reducing your consumption of corn-fed animal protein and processed foods and increasing your intake of wild salmon, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds and walnuts. You may wish to consider a high quality Omega 3 supplement if you find it difficult to consume these foods regularly.

For more on Omega 3s see:  http://nutritionsavvy.ca/omega-3s-from-pregnancy-to-pensions/

STEP 5: GET A SWEAT ON 

Studies show that regular moderate and vigorous exercise reduces the level of silent inflammation.  A sedentary lifestyle, however, has been shown to increase inflammatory markers irrespective of body weight. Health Canada recommends an average of 2.5 hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise a week.

STEP 6: SORT OUT YOUR GUT 

Any impairment or on-going injury to your gastrointestinal tract can initiate chronic inflammatory processes. This may be caused by food allergies, microbial toxins, certain drugs or as a consequence of disease such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or celiac disease.

Diagnosing ailments of the gut is notoriously tricky. If you have trouble ruling out food allergies or finding the root cause to your intestinal discomfort consider a visit to your doctor or naturopath. Try to avoid drugs that damage intestinal lining and avoid known allergens in order to maintain a healthy, intact intestinal lining.

 Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid:

 

Neuhouser MLSchwarz YWang CBreymeyer KCoronado GWang CYNoar KSong XLampe JWA low-glycemic load diet reduces serum C-reactive protein and modestly increases adiponectin in overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):369-74. Epub 2011 Dec 21.
Bergström GBehre CJSchmidt C.Angiology. Moderate intensities of leisure-time physical activity are associated with lower levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in healthy middle-aged men. 2012 Aug;63(6):41205. Epub 2011 Nov 8.
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