What to Eat to Suppress Chronic Inflammation

“It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses”

As you may already know from our previous blog ‘The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Inflammation’, inflammation is a stealthy biological response that is initiated when our immune system detects a threat. It typically involves heightened blood circulation to the affected region to deliver fighter white blood cells and essential nutrients to spearhead healing.

However, when the process persists beyond the resolution of the initial threat, it transforms into chronic inflammation. This prolonged state can inflict damage on tissues, impair organ functionality, and ultimately disrupt the immune system’s balance.

That is why it is imperative to keep inflammation levels in check. And this can be accomplished via an anti-inflammatory diet.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet is a way of eating that focuses on foods that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Such a diet typically includes foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats like those found in olive oil and fish. These foods contain the necessary nutrients to lower inflammation levels in your body.

On the other hand, foods that can contribute to inflammation include processed foods, sugary drinks, meat from industrial farms (concentrated animal feeding lots), fried foods, and foods high in refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pastries). So, how does an anti-inflammatory diet lower inflammation? The answer lies in our gut.

Importance of gut health in inflammation

Our gut contains millions of tiny living things that colonize it. They collectively form a community that is known as the “gut microbiota.”

Intriguingly, the microbiota in our body consists of both beneficial and harmful microorganisms. Normally, there is a delicate balance between the two. However, several factors can disrupt this balance and contribute to gut dysbiosis (GD). GD is one of the primary drivers of inflammation.

Besides GD, the permeability of our gut barrier is a second major trigger for inflammation. When we examine the structure of the gut, we see that the intestines are covered by a protective barrier that prevents bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles from crossing into the bloodstream.

However, our dietary habits can damage this barrier. Consumption of pro-inflammatory foods can increase its permeability, enabling foreign matter to cross the barrier and trigger inflammation.

Role of dietary choices in managing inflammation

Our food choices affect gut health and our inflammatory levels:

Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that protect our body from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are oxygen-rich molecules produced when cells use oxygen for energy. Excessive ROS levels can lead to inflammation and DNA damage. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables combat these harmful effects, reducing inflammation and protecting cellular DNA. Additionally, many fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, natural compounds known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are honored as superfoods known for their nutritional value. They are low in fat and high in fiber, minerals, and phytonutrients to support health.

  • Bell Peppers: Bell peppers come in vibrant colors like red, yellow, and orange, each offering a distinct set of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of naturally occurring antioxidants found in plants that neutralize the effects of ROS. Red peppers provide lycopene and beta-carotene, yellow peppers contain violaxanthin, and orange peppers are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.

  • Grapes: Grapes are rich in anthocyanins which are chemicals that reduce inflammation by scavenging ROS in our bodies. They also contain other active ingredients that ward our heart from inflammation, reducing one’s risk of developing heart disease.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are abundant in beneficial fats like omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, they are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which offer supplementary anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Walnuts: Walnuts contain high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that deregulates the production of inflammatory molecules in the body. Apart from ALA, walnuts also contain necessary nutrients like vitamin E, melatonin, and polyphenols to name a few.

  • Almonds: Similar to walnuts, almonds also contain vitamin E which protects the body against the damaging effects of ROS. They also contain monounsaturated fats that lower levels of inflammatory compounds in our bodies.

  • Hemp seeds: They are rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, including the less common stearidonic acid (SDA) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA). These fatty acids act as potent antioxidants, combating inflammation, safeguarding the heart, and boosting the immune system.

Whole grains: The bran and germ of grains are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber.  Dietary fiber aids gradual digestion and absorption of food. As these processes slow, the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels is minimized. This plays a crucial role in combating inflammation within the body.

  • Oats: Oats contain beta-glucans, which are dietary fibers that nourish beneficial gut bacteria and down-regulate inflammation. Additionally, they contain a unique group of compounds called avenanthramides, which are thought to significantly reduce inflammation in the lining of arteries.

  • Millet: Research indicates that millet can significantly decrease the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are key players in the body’s inflammatory response. The grain also contains proteins that elevate levels of adiponectin. Adiponectin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in regulating our blood sugar levels. Higher levels of the hormone are associated with reduced inflammation and lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Healthy fats: Beneficial fats comprise monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, that aid in diminishing inflammation within the body.

  • Avocado: They are packed with vitamins C, A, E, and various B-complex vitamins. Similar to bell peppers, they also contain a rich source of polyphenols that nourish beneficial anti-inflammatory promoting gut bacteria and act as anti-oxidants to buffer ROS.

  • Flaxseed: Flaxseeds are also good options for lowering inflammation in the body. This is because they contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, which acquires antioxidant properties. Hemp seed oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which serves as a precursor to prostaglandin E1 (PGE1). PGE1 is a prostaglandin known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition to incorporating the above, including certain herbs to the diet can help fight inflammation. For instance, did you know that ginger serves as an anti-inflammatory agent? This is because it inhibits the activity of COX enzymes which are proteins in our body that promote inflammation. Another herb to include is turmeric – it contains curcumin which reduces the response of specific proteins and inflammatory agents involved in the process of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation can cause tissue damage, organ dysfunction, and immune system imbalance. To combat inflammation, adopt an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats. But keep in mind that the diet has to be balanced.  Fruits like grapes are high in sugar so it’s best to enjoy them for dessert post-meal to avoid the glucose level spike. As for oats and millet, combine them as your source of starch with your protein, fat and veggies. For instance, if you’re planning to have oatmeal with low fat milk and a handful of grapes for breakfast, you are not doing yourself any favors in the metabolic function department. So prioritize anti-inflammatory foods and know

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