Post date: 8/26/2019
You may have heard the famous saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” But do you really know how important your diet can be in helping you achieve your short or long-term health goals? One of your health goals may be to lower your body’s inflammation levels, which is linked to many chronic diseases. That inflammation can cause adverse symptoms throughout your body and may predispose you for other diseases such as cancer.
This article will explain how your diet may help you lower your inflammation levels. However, always be sure to check in with a doctor or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet.
Inflammation has a few definitions depending on where it is found in the body. The more commonly known definition is swelling that occurs due to an external injury, causing redness in the affected area. However, internal inflammation can be a bit more sinister and harder to diagnose since your symptoms may be vague or transient.
Inflammation within your body is your body’s natural defense mechanism. Your immune system recognizes an invader, whether it’s an irritant, allergen, pathogen or damaged cells, and builds the immune response to fight the invader with specialized immune cells. The inflammatory response is simply a sign your body is trying to protect itself, and is not necessarily a bad thing for short periods of time. For example, your body would not be able to heal a cut or scrape without the inflammatory immune response.
However, when your body’s inflammation lasts for an extended period of time, you can develop secondary effects from it. Chronic inflammation can be caused by things like autoimmune diseases, hepatitis or asthma. It can also lead to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Monitoring your body’s inflammation levels can be done by asking your physician to order inflammatory blood marker tests regularly. Along with your doctor’s recommendations on medication and treatment, he or she may also recommend you meet with a dietitian to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Below are some of the most common anti-inflammatory diets your doctor and dietitian may recommend in order to control your inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet mimics what people along the Mediterranean Sea typically eat, and is characterized by lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and olive oil. This diet limits your intake of dairy and red meat, allowing you to eat poultry and fish a few times a week. If you follow this diet, you may opt for more whole grains, plentiful fruits and vegetables and reduced meat intake. Some researchers say that the Mediterranean diet is inherently anti-inflammatory due to its high amount of fruits and vegetables and its decreased amount of red meat and processed foods.
A plant-based diet or vegan diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, but eliminates your intake of all animal-derived foods, including meat, dairy and eggs. Some researchers state this diet may lower inflammation levels since it is a diet free of cholesterol and saturated fat, and high in fiber and other nutrients. Eating a plant-based diet includes an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, but can sometimes become inherently carbohydrate-dominant, so be sure to balance out your macronutrient plan with a dietitian if you need to watch your carb intake.
There are a few different types of plant-based diets. You and your medical team may choose one of the following plant-based diets based on your specific needs:
A vegan diet is one that omits all foods derived from animal-based products. These include all meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. You may choose to follow a vegan diet without needing to follow a vegan lifestyle, meaning you may not follow this diet for purely ethical reasons. You will see the most benefit following a vegan diet out of all the plant-based diets since it is rich in fiber, nutrients and inflammatory-fighting foods, while completely cutting out meat, cholesterol and saturated fats.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat or fish but may eat dairy products and eggs. You can also choose to follow this diet as an intermediary step between your previous diet and working toward a diet that reduces more animal-based proteins. Try Meatless Mondays to start or incorporating one lacto-ovo vegetarian meal per day.
Lacto-vegetarians do not consume eggs or meat but do consume dairy products.
Ovo vegetarians do not consume dairy products or meat but do consume eggs.
Pescatarian is a more flexible diet that omits meat but includes fish. This diet is very similar to the Mediterranean Diet.
The alkaline diet is something that seeks to lower the acidity of your body by encouraging you to eat things like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. As a science refresher, the pH of certain substances can be acidic, neutral or alkaline. Human blood is always slightly alkaline, with a pH of 7.36-7.44, whereas stomach acid is very acidic so that it can break down food, with pH values around 2-3.5. Blood pH can change dramatically during certain disease states, such as ketoacidosis with diabetes or starvation, both of which are medical emergencies and can be fatal if left untreated. However, your body works hard to achieve homeostasis, or a steady state of slightly alkaline pH in your blood.
The theory with the alkaline diet is that consuming certain “acidic” foods may increase your body’s susceptibility to develop cancer and other inflammatory conditions. While food has a very limited ability of affecting your blood pH, it can affect the pH of your urine. The bottom line with this diet is that it’s very healthy, with an emphasis placed on fruits and vegetables while restricting processed foods. Check out this article for an evidence-based review of the alkaline diet.
In general, many of these diets share some similar characteristics in the foods they limit or eliminate entirely. One example shared by many of the diets is reducing your intake of red meat, which is linked to insulin resistance, plaque buildup in the arteries, high cholesterol and heart attack, all of which may cause your body’s inflammation levels to rise. Another example shared by many of the diets is added sugars. That would entail reducing your intake of processed and refined grains, high fructose corn syrup and added sugars.
If you are wanting to lower your body’s inflammation levels, it can be difficult to adjust to sudden dietary and lifestyle changes. Sun Health Wellness offers nutrition consultations with our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists as well as little-to-no cost nutrition classes that are free to the public. Contact us today to learn more today!