Beat Chronic Inflammation by Changing How You Eat

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Recent headlines are raising awareness and highlighting growing concerns about the connection between chronic inflammation and many serious health conditions. Medical experts now believe that your diet and other lifestyle strategies can play a major role in prevention.

Here’s what you need to know about chronic inflammation and what to do so that you can fight it.

The Facts About Inflammation

1. Acute inflammation. Acute (temporary) inflammation is good for you in many ways. In fact, it’s necessary for the healing process. When you get an injury or infection, blood flow increases to the damaged area, facilitating healing. Special cells start removing irritants and damaged cells.

2. Chronic inflammation. On the other hand, inflammation can undermine your health when it fails to shut off and becomes a constant state. Even though the symptoms may be invisible, chronic inflammation appears to play a role in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

3. Recognize the many benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. Eating natural, unprocessed foods instead of sugar and processed foods can alleviate the inflammation and greatly strengthen your health.

Food Choices That Fight Chronic Inflammation

1. Cut down on processed foods. Reducing the amount and number of processed foods in your eating plan is a quick way to avoid many inflammatory agents. These include omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats and refined carbohydrates.

2. Increase your consumption of plant-based foods. Making plant-based foods the mainstay of your diet will automatically increase your supply of disease-fighting antioxidants and important phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatory agents. Aim for at least 5 servings a day of vegetables and fruits, in as natural a state as possible.

3. Eat more healthy fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially effective at reducing swelling. Eat fish at least twice a week, focusing on the healthy-fat varieties including tuna, salmon and mackerel.

4. Switch to whole grains instead of processed grains. Opt for whole grains whenever possible. Many restaurants are now offering a choice, so order brown rice instead of white.

5. Indulge in quality olive oil. The ingredient oleocanthal in olive oil is another inflammation buster. It’s what gives extra-virgin olive oil its peppery taste. You don’t have to buy the most expensive brand, but choose one with a higher quality than a generic.

6. Limit your consumption of red meat. Research findings are mixed, but a diet high in red meat has been found to make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse. Saving that quality steak for special occasions may improve your overall health, and it’s certainly good for your heart.

7. Experiment with spices. Certain spices prevent inflammation while making your food taste better. Be generous with the ginger, curry, clove, black cumin and cinnamon.

8. Shop around. It seems like there’s a new diet book published every week promising anti-inflammatory effects. Find what works for you. One safe strategy is to stick with Mediterranean style diets that get high ratings across the board.

Additional Strategies That Help Fight Chronic Inflammation

1. Lose weight strategically. Extra pounds put an extra burden on your joints and vital organs. Trim down safely with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

2. Manage your stress levels. Elevated stress hormones contribute to inflammation. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or take long baths.

3. Quit smoking immediately. Smoking is another irritant. Even if you’ve tried to give up tobacco in the past, consider taking another run at it. New methods are being introduced all the time to make it easier.

4. Consult your doctor regularly. Many new discoveries about chronic inflammation have emerged in the past year. Your doctor can help explain the findings and what they mean for you.

A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of chronic inflammation, enabling you to live a longer and more active life. Eat a variety of whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables and talk with your doctor about your individual health concerns.