When we talk about food, proper diet, nutrition and health, typically people worry about sugar, calories, sodium and fat. Yet there is another major factor that people should take into consideration, which is the potential for inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural healing response of the body, but like other bodily processes, it can get out of hand. The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) explores the dangers of internal inflammation in their recent scholarly article titled “Following A Natural Anti-Inflammatory Diet To Improve Health.”
There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic. Acute reactions result from injury or infection, a normal and temporary reaction produced by the body in order to heal. On the other hand, chronic inflammation, also known as silent inflammation or systemic inflammation, is not considered to be a normal response, as it can last for prolonged periods of months or even years. Its silent nature of quietly causing damage on the inside of the body makes it so that often the issue isn’t noticed until larger symptoms present themselves. Systemic chronic inflammation has received attention from scientists in recent decades, as it can lead to many different types of disease processes that contribute to disability and mortality rates.
In particular, gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation is a common problem that health-conscious people might seek to avoid, as more than 70 percent of the human immune system resides in the GI system.
Tips for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
F4CP suggests a number of diet strategies to reduce the potential for inflammation. For any specific dietary needs, remember to consult with your nutritionist, dietitian, doctor of chiropractic (DC) and/or other primary health providers about the best ways to meet your nutritional requirements. Ask for recommendations on foods to add or eliminate to reduce inflammatory response while also maintaining other personal health needs.
- Reduce or eliminate consumption of highly inflammatory foods- Gluten, refined starches, sugar and dairy are top offenders for irritation of the gut. It’s also a good idea to eliminate harmful fats and limit alcohol intake.
- Increase foods that are inflammation fighters- Think of these as your colorful superhero inflammation fighting team. You have probably heard of the term ‘Eat a Rainbow?’ This means leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale. Then the dark yellow/orange vegetables like carrots, peppers and squashes. Don’t forget beans and legumes. Lastly, include berries and other foods such as whole grains, wild-caught fish and organic lean meats.
- Whole foods- Not just a pricey grocery store- Whole food choices can be most beneficial. A whole food is defined as food that is naturally occurring and has gone through little to no processing or refinement. Avoiding processed foods as much as possible is important, as they often contain chemical additives that can irritate the gut.
- Be sure to get the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals through dietary and supplemental means.
- Include Omega Fatty Acids- Omega-6 is typically plentiful enough in most people’s diets, but they lack in omega-3. Having the proper balance is essential. Fish oil is a well-known effective means of ensuring omega intake.
- Don’t forget prebiotics and probiotics- These elements nourish and increase beneficial bacteria numbers to combat dysbiosis (gut imbalance). Probiotics are in yogurt and sauerkraut, for example. Prebiotics are in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes.
- Be aware of medication risk- Certain medications can lead to dysbiosis. Acid blockers, proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics can irritate the lining of the gut, alter the microbe balance and result in inflammation. Prebiotics and probiotics can help to counteract some if this risk, so having the right amount when taking these medications is especially necessary.
- Stress less- Stress makes our gut more vulnerable and affects its functionality. Utilize meditation, breath control and other stress control methods.
Know the Signs
Quality of life may be affected if chronic inflammation is present. If you suspect that inflammation might be a health concern to address, consult your DC and/or other primary healthcare professionals to explore further. Patients experiencing chronic inflammation may notice increasing fatigue, lack of physical stamina, bloating, rashes, weight gain, depression or mood swings, bowel issues, reflux, higher susceptibility to cold and flu, headaches, brain fog, joint pain, or other symptoms.
References (from original Foundation for Chiropractic Progress article)
1. Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs Linlin Chen,#1 Huidan Deng,#1 Hengmin Cui,1,2 Jing Fang,1,2 Zhicai Zuo,1,2 Junliang Deng,1,2 Yinglun Li,1,2 Xun Wang,1,2 and Ling Zhao1,2 Oncotarget. 2018 Jan 23; 9(6): 7204–7218. Published online 2017 Dec 14.
2. Chronic Inflammation Roma Pahwa; Amandeep Goyal; Pankaj Bansal; Ishwarlal Jialal. Last Update: September 28, 2021.
3. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span David Furman 1 2 3 4 , Judith Campisi 5 6 , Eric Verdin 5 , Pedro Carrera-Bastos 7 , Sasha Targ 8 9 , Claudio Franceschi 10 11 , Luigi Ferrucci 12 , Derek W Gilroy 13 , Alessio Fasano 14 , Gary W Miller 15 , Andrew H Miller 16 , Alberto Mantovani 17 18 19 , Cornelia M Weyand 20 , Nir Barzilai 21 , Jorg J Goronzy 22 , Thomas A Rando 22 23 24 , Rita B Effros 25 , Alejandro Lucia 26 27 , Nicole Kleinstreuer 28 29 , George M Slavich 30 Nat Med . 2019 Dec; 25(12):1822-1832.
4. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system G Vighi,* F Marcucci,‡ L Sensi,‡ G Di Cara,‡ and F Frati‡ Clin Exp Immunol. 2008 Sep; 153(Suppl 1): 3–6.
5. The Leaky Gut: Mechanisms, Measurement and Clinical Implications in Humans Michael Camilleri, M.D. Gut. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2020 Aug 1.Published in final edited form as: Gut. 2019
Aug; 68(8): 1516–1526. Published online 2019 May 10
6. Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disordersJohn R. Kelly,1,2 Paul J. Kennedy,1 John F. Cryan,1,3 Timothy G. Dinan,1,2 Gerard Clarke,1,2,* and Niall P. Hyland1,4 Front Cell Neurosci. 2015; 9: 392. Published online 2015 Oct 14.
7. Chronic Inflammation Roma Pahwa; Amandeep Goyal; Pankaj Bansal; Ishwarlal Jialal. Last Update: September 28, 2021.