Inflammation is a natural process in our body to help fight off injury and/or illness. While it’s not the most fun, it helps our bodies in a multitude of ways. The most common immune response we witness is called “Acute Inflammation,” which is the temporary swelling and immune focus on an injured or ill part of the body; promoting processes such as tissue regeneration and scarring. These responses can be triggered in mere minutes and last up to a few days, helping the body activate the immune system, destroy pathogens and deliver oxygen/nutrients to the area of injury to aid in cell repair.
At first glance, inflammation doesn’t seem harmful to the body at all, given the benefits observed through Acute Inflammation. However, chronic inflammation is being linked to the food we eat. Without looking deeper, our diets and the inflammatory reaction triggered by injury or illness seem entirely independent of each other, but when two-thirds of our body’s defence mechanisms reside in our gut, their connection is obvious. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats kick your immune system into overdrive, and when these two things comprise the majority of our diet, it’s only natural that our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation. This endless production of immune cells can inflict massive damage, starting with short-term afflictions such as sore joints and fatigue, and can potentially lead to arthritis, cancer, or heart disease.
So, what preventative measures can we take to avoid this?
It’s important to remember that avoiding chronic inflammation is not as easy as removing one food (or food type) from our dinner plates. An anti-inflammatory lifestyle is, rather, a complete overhaul of our diet. Anything prepared, packaged or processed is high on the list of inflammatory foods, followed up with alcohol, gluten and wheat products, dairy, hydrogenated and trans fats, most meat, white sugar, any type of synthetic sweetener and iodized salt. Instead, consider leaning more towards foods that don’t need to be fried in oil, or require much more than a salad bowl to prepare. Things like fish, whole grains and dark leafy greens provide us with the whole nutrients we need. Other foods that are good for fighting (and avoiding) inflammation are various seeds/nuts, soy, low-fat dairy, olive oil, berries - especially tart cherries, which are considered one of the highest anti-inflammatory foods on the list - and most vegetables. The Anti-Inflammation diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, which promotes meals full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and omega-3 fatty acids.
As always, consult your health care practitioner before making any drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle, and remember that moderation and persistence are the keys to success! Make the most out of your Autumn by staying healthy and happy through cold season!