Chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, Alzheimer’s and even heart disease. Inflammation is a major part of the body’s healing response and acute short-term inflammation associated with trauma or infection is a good thing. Persistent inflammation which serves no purpose can be harmful. Prolonged inflammation damages the body and can actually cause illnesses.
What Causes Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, exposure to toxins (such as cigarette smoke), stress and even genetic pre-disposition. Some foods are also associated with inflammation. The good news is that there are also foods which can help to reduce inflammation. If those foods are combined with a generally healthy lifestyle then you can reduce or prevent damage to your body.
Eating to Combat Inflammation
There are many ‘anti-inflammatory’ diets that are popular and get a lot of attention. One of the most well-known is Dr Weil’s diet. One thing that is common among all anti-inflammatory diets is that they encourage followers to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid processed foods and consume a sensible number of calories. The Paleo diet follows the same principles. The main difference between traditional anti-inflammatory diets and the Paleo diet is the amount of carbohydrates which you consume. The Paleo diet does not specify a target amount of carbohydrates. Most people end up consuming a relatively low amount of carbohydrates while following a Paleo eating regimen because most carbs come from grains and processed foods. Anti-inflammatory diets usually advocate eating 200-300g of carbohydrates per day, sourced from whole grains that put a low glycemic load on the body.
Finding Your Triggers
The most common food trigger for chronic inflammation is dairy products. If you suffer from inflammatory illnesses, consider removing dairy products from your diet for a while. If you find that your problem subsides, then you have identified the source of your inflammation. If you still have issues, you can re-introduce dairy products and consider other common triggers, such as oils, red meat, margarine and other foods high in omega-6 fats.
If fatty acids are your inflammatory trigger, then following the Paleo diet could be a good choice. Many of the foods that are recommended as part of the Paleo diet are ones which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This is good news because the cox-2 enzymes which contribute to inflammation cause more damage if your omega-6 and omega-3 fatty-acid levels are not balanced.
Foods which are rich in antioxidants are useful for preventing and reducing inflammation. Antioxidants combine with harmful free radicals in your body and render them harmless. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants helps to slow down the effects of aging and prevent inflammation-based illnesses.
Antioxidants are found in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including most berries, peppers, beets, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, raisins and kale, all of which are a part of the Paleo diet. Fresh foods are the best choice for antioxidant levels, but many fruits can be frozen without damaging the antioxidants in them.