Inflammation is a normal immune system function: it’s the body’s response to infections or injuries. But unwarranted inflammation can eventually lead to major health problems.
When things go wrong
When your immune system goes haywire and activates inflammatory reactions where there is no real need to fight infections or injury, these reactions may in fact cause harm. An overzealous immune system may cause inflammation, swelling, joint pain, inflamed membranes, even allergic reactions or auto-immune diseases, and eventually contribute to chronically inflamed blood vessels.
Although it is a well-known fact that inflammatory reactions are associated with arthritis, it is a lesser known fact that chronic inflammation – even low levels of inflammation – is also associated with damage to the blood vessels, and thus with heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and even sexual performance.
Most of us live with low levels of inflammation due to our Westernised lifestyle. These constant low levels of inflammation accelerate all the damage to the joints, blood vessels, heart and other organs. This in turn will speed up the ageing process and limit our quality of life. Yes, chronic inflammation damages our cells, and this could eventually result in heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
New research findings
According to new research findings, it is possible to control and even prevent inflammation by reducing the levels of free radicals in your body. This can be achieved by altering your diet and lifestyle. These minor changes will also increase your energy levels and help you to lose weight.
The anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t require significant changes to your eating habits. It mainly relies on cutting out foods which will stimulate inflammatory reactions, and increasing your intake of foods which will inactivate inflammatory reactions.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods will not leave you with a plate filled with bland food.
The eating plan is based on the elimination of foods that may activate inflammation, and the inclusion of food that can temper inflammation.
For example, omega-3 fatty acids temper inflammation while omega-6 fatty acids trigger inflammation. Although our bodies need a balance of both these fatty acids, anybody on an average Western diet consumes too much omega-6 fatty acids. That’s mainly because we are bombarded with easy-way-out pro-inflammatory fast food options containing large amounts of animal and trans fats. Living off McDonald’s hamburgers and chips will overload you with powerful inflammation triggers.
Small changes to your diet, though, can make a huge difference to your health and life. For example:
Choose olive oil instead of margarine
- whole wheat bread instead of processed white bread
- all-bran cereal instead of corn flakes
- skimmed milk instead of full cream milk and
- fish instead of red meat.
Notes on specific foods