Chronic inflammation is at the root of many health problems, including chronic pain. Eating certain foods can actually promote more inflammation and directly affect your stress and healing within your body. This can ultimately cause more pain, overeating, redness and swelling. However, good food choices can be a helpful way to decrease inflammation.
Below are some considerations for using food to your benefit in decreasing inflammation and supporting your immune system:
Limit flour and sugar
This type of food causes a sudden rise in blood sugar which increases insulin. When insulin is high you increase the pro- inflammatory cells and your immune system fatigues. Sometimes labels are confusing, so watch for these hidden sugars in your foods.
List of words meaning “added sugar: brown sugar,corn syrup, corn sweetener, raw sugar, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, syrup, honey, invert sugar, maltose, maltodextrin, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, sugar, white grape juice, lactose, high fructose corn syrup
Consider allergies or other sensitivities
Foods that you are allergic or sensitive to cause higher insulin levels which increases the stress hormone. Your body holds onto the fat and does not allow it to break down. Food allergies also cause the release of histamine, causing the redness and swelling associated with inflammation.
Additives in foods that may cause allergic reactions or other problems include: artificial coloring, Yellow 5, aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), sulfites, casein, sodium bisulfite, aspartame (NutraSweet).
Avoid the intake of trans-fats
Eating foods with trans-fats does not allow the anti-inflammatory action in our cells to take place.
- Try to avoid refined trans-fat, omega-6 oil in cooking and use more olive oil. These oils are predominant in processed foods made from grains (crackers, cereals, etc) and include: soy, corn, peanut, sunflower, cottonseed
- Minimize intake of red meats that promote inflammation including beef, pork and lamb
- Eliminate processed and refined foods as much as possible
Eat more foods that decrease inflammation and support your immune system
There are plenty of foods may help with anti-inflammation. When looking at foods, keep the following in mind:
- Eat a well balanced variety of wholesome foods
- Eat only unsaturated fats
- Eat good sources of omega-3 fatty acids daily: wild Alaskan salmon, canned sardines, mussels, striped sea bass, oysters, herring, black cod, Rainbow trout, albacore tuna, soy bean oil, canola oil, flax seeds, walnuts, grass-fed/free range meats
- Eat whole grains. The first ingredient on the list must say whole grain for it to be a good source
- Eat lean protein: beans, chicken, turkey, wild game (bison, elk, etc.), fish
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Foods that will help with the release of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate and control activity of cells and organs: whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, buckwheat, wild rice, whole grain breads and pastas), nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter), high tryptophan protein (turkey, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs), beans and legumes (soybeans, black beans, pinto beans, lima beans, lentils), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax seeds), root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, turnips, squash), green, yellow, red and leafy vegetables and garlic.
Watch for foods with a high glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) is a way to rank carbohydrate rich foods according to the blood glucose response following their intake. This reflects the rate of digestion and absorption. Foods with a higher GI will cause a rapid short-lived rise in blood glucose.
Examples of foods with their GI:
High: white bread, bagels, crackers, rice cakes, donuts, cookies, bacon, sausage, microwave popcorn
Moderate: sucrose, soft drinks, oats, tropical fruits (bananas and mangoes)
Low: fructose, milk, yogurt, lentils, pasta, cold climate fruits (apples and oranges)
Drink plenty of water
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water each day for women and 3.7 liters for men. About 80% of this intake is from fluid and 20% from food.
Monitor your salt intake
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan bases its diet on 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day and suggests further lowering salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day (2,400 mg of sodium equals 6 gm or 1 teaspoon of table salt).
For lower sodium options: buy fresh, frozen, or canned with no-salt-added vegetables; choose low or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments when available; limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham), foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives) and condiments (such as MSG, mustard, horseradish, ketchup and barbecue sauce); use spices instead of salt (herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar or salt-free seasoning blends).