Should you be following an anti-inflammatory diet?

Likely you have heard of an anti-inflammatory diet. But have you ever wondered what exactly an anti-inflammatory diet is and whether you should follow this way of eating?

What is inflammation?

Let’s start with the basics of defining inflammation. Simply put, inflammation is how your immune system responds to an irritant. For example, a splinter in your finger is an irritant. The skin around the splinter may turn red, swell up, and even hurt. But irritants may also be germs you come into contact with or a wound that hurts or is red and warm to the touch. 

As soon as your body is informed something is wrong, your immune system rallies by sending cells to trigger the healing process, which is a good thing. These same inflammatory cells are why “acute” (or short-term) inflammation from a wound or bacteria causes pain, swelling, and redness in the area of the body affected. Acute inflammation is generally resolved in days or weeks instead of long term.

However, chronic or long-term inflammation is a different story. Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system continues releasing inflammatory cells into the body, even though there is nothing wrong. A good example of this is arthritis. People with arthritis have this condition long-term, causing tissue inflammation that can damage joints. But chronic inflammation is also linked to other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and depression. Comparing acute inflammation to chronic inflammation is like comparing apples and oranges. Each is a fruit, but they are different. 

Many of us suffer from chronic conditions related to chronic inflammation plaguing our bodies over the years.  Science speculates that your lifestyle habits, such as exercise and eating, may trigger inflammation. That’s why following an anti-inflammatory diet may be one answer to controlling this condition. 

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

The overall premise is that anti-inflammatory foods help fight and target inflammation helping you heal faster and live longer.

To follow an anti-inflammatory diet, you will eat lots of plant-based foods and fatty fish. Foods from plants – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and beans – are loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids that can block the release of inflammatory cells. In addition, food such as tart cherry juice and tart cherries, ginger, turmeric, and saffron are important components of anti-inflammatory eating. An anti-inflammatory diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet. 

Eating fatty fish is another way to fight inflammation. Salmon, herring, and blue fin tuna provide omega-3 fatty acids, shown to reduce levels of three markers of inflammation: 

  1. CRP (C-reactive protein)
  2. IL-6 (interleukin-6)
  3. TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor alpha)

When adding more plant-based foods and fatty fish, you also need to cut out certain foods that can increase inflammation. Pro-inflammatory foods can stimulate enzymes that cause inflammation. Examples of pro-inflammatory foods to avoid include:

  • Organ meats
  • Desserts
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Fried foods 
  • Alcohol 

One thing to keep in mind is that when your body is experiencing inflammation from an injury, it’s likely breaking down muscle.  Therefore, choose protein-rich foods like poultry, dairy, eggs, and even lean cuts of beef like round steak or tenderloin. 

Following an anti-inflammatory diet can be a good choice if you choose healthy whole foods and refrain from unhealthy, ultra-processed foods. However, your overall lifestyle matters, so exercise regularly, reduce stress, and avoid tobacco products. Practicing good health habits is your best bet for reducing chronic inflammation. 

 

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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