You’ve probably heard it a million times already this year, “eat this it’s anti-inflammatory!” or someone saying that they are following an anti-inflammatory diet. It might sound like a good thing to do, but if you’re thinking to yourself, “what on Earth is inflammation and why should I be eating an anti-inflammatory diet” then you’re not alone!  

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms that I talk about in this article, then it might be time to take stock of your diet and see if any of the foods you’re consuming might be contributing to the way you’re feeling.

So why are anti-inflammatory diets increasing in popularity and why should we try to avoid or reduce continuous inflammation in the body?

What actually is inflammation?

Our body is an incredible machine that is constantly working to keep us going. Inflammation occurs when the natural order of our body’s functioning is disrupted, This can happen in two ways: acute and chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation happens when the body needs to fight irritation, infection or injury by producing white blood cells and substrates to protect our bodies from these infections and irritations.  Basically it is our immune system doing its job.

Other times habitual and environmental factors can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation.  Some of these factors include stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, pollution and even consumption of foods that we are intolerant to.  On a diet front, foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat can often lead to increased inflammation within the body.

And sometimes these defences are triggered when there are no invaders and the immune system starts to attack its own cells.  These are classified as anti-inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and irritable bowel diseases, like Crohn’s disease.  

Let’s talk about chronic low-grade inflammation in the body and how to avoid it.

When inflammation is chronic and prolonged this means the body’s immune cells are triggered which interferes with the body’s healthy functioning. This has been found to lead to gene mutation and increased risk of other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

What are some signs of chronic inflammation?

In the case of autoimmune diseases, many of us might not even know we are suffering from chronic inflammation unless we have been to a doctor to have our C-reactive protein levels tested and we have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

There are however some clues to look out for that may indicate that you are suffering from chronic low-grade inflammation. These include: increased digestive problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea; feeling tired all the time; constant watery eyes or a runny nose: or feelings of of anxiety or depression.  

So why should we be following an anti-inflammatory diet?

As a long term sufferer of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) I know when I eat foods that do not agree with my digestive system or I feel stressed, a few noticeable things happen. I get bloated and experience severe discomfort in my gut region, as well as having diarrhoea or constipation, as well as hormone imbalances and changes in mood. These are the signs that low-grade inflammation is present in my body.  

If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have IBS (go see your doctor if you think you might!) but sometimes we just don’t feel the best and we can’t quite put our finger on why. Whether it’s gut issues, bad skin, increased stress, or not sleeping well, all of these can be affected by inflammation within the body.  By making small changes to our diet and lifestyle we can start to become more aware of how our bodies either positively or negatively react to certain foods and habitual patterns.

Here are 10 foods that will help combat chronic inflammation and reset the body back onto a healthy path:

  1. Avocados - avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, fibre and potassium, vitamin A, E, K, C and B-complexes, and phytosterols with anti-inflammatory properties. This combination of nutrients and phytonutrients work together to create the ultimate antioxidant and anti-inflammatory super food. Yes please, more smashed avo on toast!!

  2. Almonds and walnuts - almonds and walnuts contain monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium, and walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which all fight inflammation in the body.

  3. Oily fish - salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are all oily fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids help in the reduction of the production of molecules and substrates that contribute to inflammation, including cytokines and eicosanoids.  Cooking up some salmon tonight! … but if you don’t like the taste of those fish, try opt for fish oil supplements daily.

  4. Blueberries and other berries - the polyphenols in berries contain antioxidant properties and help moderate inflammation. They also keep you young, so eat up!

  5. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables - These bulby vegetables are high in glucosinolates (converted to isothiocyanates). These phytonutrients exhibit anti-inflammatory properties as they help inhibit the overproduction of HIF-1 alpha protein abundance and suppress over prostaglandin synthesis, which cause inflammation.   

  6. Olive oil - Olive oil is the queen of oils. It contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which by now we know reduce inflammation and keep the body balanced.

  7. Whole grains - these are the grains that have not been refined and contain the three key parts of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm.  Some of these include bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, oats, rye, as well as seeded breads. As they have not been processed they contain more fibre, which studies have shown reduce the C-reactive protein that shows inflammation in the blood.

  8. Turmeric and other spices - Spices such as turmeric, ginger, rosemary, oregano, cloves and nutmeg are spices and herbs that contain phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties

  9. Dark leafy greens - similar to broccoli, dark leafy greens like spinach, and kale are filled with phytonutrients (lutein and beta-carotene) known to reduce inflammation and help combat chronic disease.  They also contain large amounts of vitamin E, which help fight free radicals that break down healthy body cells and repair the damaged cells caused by inflammation.

  10. Tomatoes - these red juicy vegetables contain lycopene, a phytonutrient that is a cellular inhibitor of inflammatory processes in the body.  They fight free radicals and reduce inflammation.

Of course, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight has also been found to help reduce the risk of chronic inflammation, due to their ability to regulate insulin levels, build muscle and lower C-reactive protein levels.  

Adopting stress relieving practices, like meditation, adding some of the above listed foods to our daily diet can help reduce inflammation in the body, and help us regain  balance, energy and vibrancy to our lives!