INFLAMMATION and GUIDELINES FOR AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET...
The main reason people seek a physician's advice is for pain relief. Although there are numerous herbal and nutritional treatments to reduce pain and inflammation, the main naturopathic defenses are foods. By paying attention to the foods that you eat, you can reduce the occurrence of pain and inflammation.
1. Eliminate Pro-Inflammatory Foods
- Red Meats and Peanuts: These foods contain high levels of arachidonic acid, a type of fatty acid that increases inflammation. Removing these foods from the diet decreases the levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body.
- Caffeine, Fried Foods, Carbonated Drinks, Alcohol: These foods greatly increase oxidation and free radicals, both of which initiate the inflammatory process.
- Food Allergies: Foods that do not agree with us can produce compounds that interfere with normal body function and slow down the healing of inflamed tissues. Many people experience long-term relief of pain with the simple elimination of food allergens such as wheat and dairy, especially those with long-term intestinal disorders.
2. Implement a Plant Based Diet
- Vegetables and Fruits: These foods are rich in carotenoids and bioflavonoids that are powerful antioxidants, preventing oxidation and inflammation. The more richly colored the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it contains. Make sure every meal contains a healthy serving of fruits or vegetables. For ease of digestion, steam, sauté or juice your vegetables.
- Cold Water Fish: Salmon, halibut, mackerel, tuna, trout and other cold water fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids offset the production of arachidonic acid, a major pro-inflammatory compound. Instead, omega-3 fatty acids favor the production of compounds that inhibit inflammation. Eat at least 3 servings of fish every week, or take 1,000 mg of purified omega-3 oil daily.
- Flax oil: This oil works similarly to fish oil to help reduce inflammation. Use it in salads or in fruit smoothies, and never cook with it. It has a strong tendency towards oxidation when it is heated.
- Ginger: Ginger has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Use it freely in your cooking or make a strong tea with it. It also helps reduce nausea and some forms of abdominal distress.
- Whole Grains, Legumes, Soy Products: These foods are great sources for protein without the pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid. Skinless chicken breasts may also be added since most of the pro-inflammatory fat is found in the skin.
3. Nutritional Supplements
- Correct Nutritional Deficiencies: Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate pain and inflammation by slowing down the healing process of injured tissues. It is well established that deficiencies in zinc and vitamins C and A can delay wound healing. Deficiencies in minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, also aggravate muscle pain.
- Antioxidants: Powerful antioxidants include vitamins C and E, carotenoids and bioflavonoids, as well as selenium and glutathione.
4. Move That Body!
- Exercise: Not only is exercise a great way to relieve stress and tension, but it promotes circulation, allowing vital nutrients to diffuse throughout the body, while flushing out metabolic waste. Exercise does not have to be strenuous. Daily walking or yoga is adequate enough to get the blood moving.
Let this guideline for an anti-inflammatory diet be a part of your natural management for pain and inflammation.
Get Tested: If you are concerned about your level of inflammation, you may be interested to know that there is an in-home test that will determine if you are taking enough anti-oxidants to slow down the inflammatory process and reduce cellular damage. It also checks to determine the nutritional status of your liver to remove toxins effectively. More importantly, this test will determine your level of nutritional balance. You can also get tested for food allergies. It will tell you what foods to avoid and what you can do to reduce their effects.
To learn more about these lab tests, contact the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto, Ontario for a referral to a naturopath nearest to you - visit http://www.ccnm.edu/home
Author: Dr. Jacob Farin is a naturopathic physician and director of Farin Heights Health in Portland, Oregon. He is an expert in clinical nutritional and stress-related disorders.