What is inflammation?
In layman's terms, inflammation refers to swelling and redness that happens when you sprain your ankle or cut yourself on a sharp object. However, in medicine, inflammation is more than just an uncomfortable feeling or visible sign of injury. It's actually an immune response designed to protect your body from foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. Many things, including hormones, stress, and environmental factors, can trigger it.
Four signs characterize it--redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. Blood vessel expansion causes these symptoms as they carry more blood to the inflamed area. Inflammation is a normal part of the healing process and can be beneficial if it's kept under control. But chronic inflammation can be harmful to your body.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet promotes good health by reducing chronic inflammation in the body. It's based on the idea that inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and minimizes processed foods and sugar. It also emphasizes lean protein and healthy fats, along with fruits and vegetables. The goal is to reduce inflammation by eliminating foods that contribute to it.
Here are some of the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet:
Inflammation can cause pain anywhere in your body, including your joints, muscles, bones, or organs. And chronic pain resulting from inflammation in the body can make life miserable for those who suffer from it. Fortunately, certain foods have anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve pain caused by arthritis or other conditions.
For example, eating fish (or taking fish oil supplements) may help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases by reducing joint stiffness and swelling. So by eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet and including foods with anti-inflammatory properties, you may reduce pain symptoms or even eliminate them altogether.
Inflammation can cause fatigue because it uses up energy stores in your body's tissues, which results in fewer available calories for energy use. In addition, the immune system releases substances called cytokines, which can make you feel fatigued by causing changes in your brain chemistry. An anti-inflammatory diet can help you fight fatigue by providing you with more energy throughout the day. This is because foods such as salmon, walnuts, and almonds all contain omega-3 fatty acids that boost energy levels as well as encouraging inflammation to lower.
Promote weight loss
Inflammation can affect your weight even if you don't have any other chronic diseases. It's not uncommon for people who follow an anti-inflammatory diet to lose weight without even trying. This is because when you're eating foods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (like white bread), it causes an inflammatory response in your body that keeps insulin levels up for longer than normal.
This leads to excess fat storage and makes it harder for you to lose weight or maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index). On the other hand, eating foods that decrease inflammation, such as fruits and vegetables, can help you lose weight by keeping insulin levels low and encouraging stored fat to be burned for energy.
Reduce gastrointestinal inflammation
People who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can benefit greatly from an anti-inflammatory diet. IBD affects the gastrointestinal tract and causes inflammation of the colon and small intestine. The most common types of IBD include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. A plant-based diet high in fiber is especially effective for those suffering from gastrointestinal inflammation due to its ability to promote gut health.
Improve your heart health
Inflammation is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Inflammation in the arteries can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up in your arteries. This plaque comprises cholesterol and other substances that can harden and narrow your blood vessels. This makes it harder for blood to flow through them.
This condition contributes to heart attacks and strokes because it restricts blood flow through narrowed arteries. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation in your circulatory system and lower your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
Minimize the risk of bone loss
Osteoporosis affects millions of people, especially women after menopause. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone mineral density that leads to fragile bones that are prone to breaking more easily than healthy bones. People who consume more fruits and vegetables are known to have better bone health than those who don't. A plant-based diet can help keep bones strong by reducing inflammation in the body as well as increasing intake of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health.
Promote mental health
Chronic inflammation has also been linked to depression and anxiety disorders. People who eat a lot of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and sugar are more likely to experience depression. But there's good news--an anti-inflammatory diet can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Eating omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and other cold-water fish can also have positive effects on mood by increasing brain serotonin levels and reducing cortisol levels--both of which are important for regulating mood.
Inflammation is a natural response by the immune system to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. However, chronic inflammation can cause serious damage to the body when the immune system remains active for too long or without an identifiable reason. By eliminating foods that promote inflammation from your diet and adding more foods that fight inflammation, you'll feel better overall and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases down the road.