Inflammation is prevalent in the news these days. It has long been associated with conditions such as asthma and arthritis. Acute, short-term inflammation is our body’s natural protective response to cells that have been damaged by injury or illness caused by bacteria, virus or fungus. But chronic inflammation has been implicated in many debilitating diseases and conditions including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, and conditions associated with aging such as memory loss and wrinkling of the skin. It can even damage DNA. Conditions associated with inflammation have also become more common among children and young people.
Chronic inflammation can result with repeated exposure to “triggering” agents including environmental toxins, stress, allergens, lack of exercise, obesity, and certain foods. These harmful agents can build up in the body, resulting in an overactive immune system that releases defensive cells and hormones which eventually damage tissues. Foods seem to be a key factor in the inflammatory response and also key to its prevention.
Foods that contribute to inflammation include trans fats, corn and soybean oils, grain-fed meats, sugars, and other refined carbohydrates. Anti-inflammatory foods include green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, beets, allium vegetables, beans, lentils, avocados, sprouts, hot peppers, berries, pears, nuts and seeds—including hemp seeds. Supplements including curcumin (found in turmeric), acetylcarnitine, fruit flavonoids, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E help reduce and prevent inflammation. Foods that provide antioxidants, which battle the free radicals associated with inflammation, include blueberries, cranberries, pecans and dark chocolate. Drinking plenty of water and herbal teas, especially green tea, helps reduce inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet may result in weight loss, which itself can reduce inflammation since excessive fatty acids in the bloodstream promote an inflammatory immune response. A reduction in inflammation brings the body into a state that is conducive to health and healing. Exercising and eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet may help to ward off inflammation and lead to a happier and healthier you!