Anti-Inflammatory Diet-Part 1: Intro
What is inflammation?
Simply, it’s the body’s response to injuries. It does have it’s benefits, but inflammation can sometimes be a significant factor in certain chronic illnesses. Some of these diseases are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.
Recently, I’ve noticed some bothersome inflammation in my joints, specifically my hands. Based on my knowledge from my practice as an RN and my family history, I’m fairly confident that I’m experiencing symptoms of the early stages of arthritis. Seriously, what the heck? I’m way too young for this! However, inflammation can become problematic for many people of different ages, and it doesn’t just present itself as joint pain or swelling. If you have an inflammatory condition, an anti-inflammatory diet may be helpful to you.
For me, when I’m consistent and strict with my nutrition, I notice a lot less swelling and joint pain. (disclaimer: Please consult your medical professional. This is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. This is merely my personal experience I’d like to share.)
The goal of an anti-inflammatory diet is to optimize health by protecting against certain diseases, slow the aging process by increasing metabolism through a more stabilized blood sugar. It also can have the added benefit of weight loss for some people.
When I noticed the discomfort, mainly in my hands, I began to do my own research. I talked to other health care professionals, read journals and articles, and reached out to friends with similar issues. The common thought was that some foods can cause inflammation, even if there isn’t an actual allergy to them.
Some suggested a gradual elimination of certain foods, but I decided to just drop them all. Ain’t nobody got time for all that, right?
Here are some basic things that I did that helped.
- Eliminated ALL dairy. Dairy is in a lot of things. Read labels and look for whey, casein, milk solids, etc. Some labels will say “contains dairy”. I’ve noticed that about 30 minutes after I consume something with dairy, my joints ache. Usually the hands first, then I feel it in my knees. Bummer. Because CHEESE.
- Eliminated gluten. Although from another nutritional cleanse that I did a few years ago, I know I don’t really have a sensitivity to gluten, it’s known to cause an inflammatory response. Bye-bye, gluten.
- Avoided peanuts, peanut butter, and any other peanut product. Those delicious little nuggets aren’t super beneficial anyway, and can be sprayed with all kinds of junk which causes inflammation on top of their own inflammatory properties. I use almond butter or sunflower seed butter instead.
- Keep processed sugar to a minimum. No refined white sugar at all and minimal sweeteners such as stevia, raw local honey, agave syrup, or coconut nectar. (I use the latter and raw local honey most often.) Sugar is a breeding ground for inflammation. Our bodies are designed to handle some sugar (naturally in fruits), and the fiber content of these foods are very beneficial, but a lot of sugar consumed today is in the form of processed sweets and treats that cause an exaggerated insulin response. Excessive insulin in the bloodstream can cause major inflammation. More details about the dangers of refined sugar will come later in the series.
- Increased fiber intake. Fiber helps reduce inflammation and delivers amazing nutrients in the form of whole fruits and veggies.
- Eat mainly fruits and vegetables. Loaded with the antioxidants needed to fight inflammation.
- Consume lots of alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens-my favorite!, and Brussel sprouts. Why? Antioxidants!
- Limit saturated fats and red meat. Not usually an issue for me because I rarely eat red meat anyway.
- Omega 3 fatty acids-reduce inflammation and help reduce the risk of certain diseases. I eat foods with lots of flax seeds, but you can also get this from salmon or other cold water fish.
- Drink my superfoods daily. The antioxidants and phytonutrients fight cell damage and it’s a delicious way to drink my vitamins everyday.
11. Added other supplements like tumeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, tart cherry juice and magnesium and calcium. Magnesium is essential for fighting inflammation.
I’m really excited to share this with you! This is just a brief intro, but throughout the series, I’d like to talk more in depth about what I’ve done and how it’s helped. Following the diet exactly isn’t always possible, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t make ALL of the symptoms go away completely, but it really does help. I hope some of this information can help you, too.
If you have an inflammatory condition or chronic inflammatory disease, have you tried any of these options? How was your experience?