The body uses the process known as inflammation to protect itself from infection, injury or irritation. Swelling, redness, pain, and stiffness comprise inflammation. Inflammation is one cause of pain in arthritis. However, researchers now say that chronic inflammation may be at the root of many diseases such as heart disease and certain types of cancer and stroke.
Methods to reduce inflammation include weight maintenance, stretching, exercise, rest and certain medications such as NSAIDs or steroid medications. Unfortunately, long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to ulcers and kidney disorders. Long-term use of steroids can also lead to ulcers and diabetes, hypertension and coronary artery disease, etc. Another option for lowering inflammation is to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet.
Fats causing inflammation include trans-fats and saturated fats. Fats which decrease inflammation include olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish. Examples of nuts with healthy fats include walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Omega 3 fatty acids can also decrease inflammation and are in salmon, sardines, omega 3 fortified eggs, flax seeds and hemp seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids are also in fish oil capsules.
Diets high in sugar have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation. Examples of high sugar products are candy, pastries, soft drinks and cereals which are presweetened. Aside from sugar, high glycemic carbohydrates rapidly convert to sugar and create inflammation throughout the body at the level of the cell. Examples of good carbohydrates are sweet potatoes, plums, pears, peaches, apples, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, broccoli, spinach, beans, walnuts, almonds, and oatmeal. Examples of bad carbohydrates include bread, pasta, rice, regular potatoes, grapes, bananas and fruit juices. Bad carbohydrates also include chips and pretzels. Eat whole grains as opposed to whole wheat flour products.
Eating more vegetable protein and consuming less animal protein can also decrease inflammation. Exceptions to decreasing animal protein include cold-water fish and reduced fat dairy products and free-range poultry. Cold-water fish include mackerel, trout, salmon, and sardines. Vegetable proteins which should be consumed would include beans and soybeans. Other recommended proteins include tofu, shellfish, wild Alaskan salmon, Omega 3 organic eggs and low-fat dairy products - such as yogurt.
The utilization of good fiber can also decrease inflammation. Consuming more fruit, such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and more vegetables such as beans besides whole grains, are excellent ways to obtain good fiber.
Other Tips to Decrease Inflammation
Instead of drinking coffee, have decaffeinated white or green tea. For those who consume alcohol, red wine is preferable. The nightshade family of plants which include potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes contain a chemical alkaloid called “Solanine.” Solanine may cause inflammation. Processed meats, such as sausages, hot dogs, and lunch meats contain nitrites which are chemicals linked to inflammation. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet to decrease your acute or chronic pain.
Jose Veliz MD is the medical director of Palomar Spine & Pain, in Escondido, CA (North San Diego County).