The anti-inflammatory diet is a new kid on the block but with promises of relief from pain.
By Ankita Agarwal
Inflammation: Good or bad?
It cuts both ways. Inflammation can be a healing tool and worrying, depending on the condition and the stage. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or illness. By the increased swelling, heat and pain, it helps the body heal. Take fever: that’s how the body combats infection-causing bacteria and viruses, which can thrive at 98.6 degree F-when the temperature rises a few degrees higher, they start dying. Trouble begins when uncontrolled fever starts killing healthy cells in the body. Similarly, prolonged inflammation can also stimulate the disease process. Says Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head, dietetics, Max Healthcare, Delhi: “The big categories of age-related diseases-neurodegenerative and arthritis-are all rooted in chronic, inappropriate inflammation. Inflammation of the arteries obstructs the normal flow of blood and can result in coronary diseases too.” You see why it’s important to regulate inflammation?
Your doctor will prescribe medicines for tackling inflammation, but what about some self-help preventive method? Try the anti-inflammatory diet. Samaddar says, “The anti-inflammatory diet is an effective way of lowering risk and delaying the onset of disease.” A study published in Rheumatology International also supports the diet: patients who followed an anti-inflammatory diet had a 14% decrease in joint tenderness and swelling compared to those who ate regular food. The good news is that the ground rules of the anti-inflammatory diet are simple.
–Go for natural anti-oxidants. Generous helpings (up to five every day) of fruits and vegetables is encouraged. Brightly pigmented produce such as berries, apples and spinach have the most antioxidants in them to combat inflammation. One example is quercetin, found in apples, which is a strong inflammation fighter. Change your medium of cooking to extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil or sunflower oil. “Olive oils are the least processed and retain the most anti-oxidants,” says Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, US.
–Choose the right fats. Sniff around for Omega-3 fatty acids-potent inflammation fighters. Omega-3s help thin the blood, prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation. Studies suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet, consisting of Omega-3s, may also hold Alzheimer’s disease at bay. In a French study of cognitive decline, scientists found that people who consumed healthy fats were less likely to have the disease. Good sources of these fatty acids are oily fish such as salmon and tuna and nuts (especially walnuts and almonds).
–Use the right supplements. If you want to take one supplement every day, make it fish oil. Research showed that of all the subjects, 31% people taking fish oil supplements showed a decrease in joint swellings compared to their counterparts who were not on the supplement (Rheumatology International). But as always, it is best to start on these supplements after checking with your doctor. Secrets to better health lie closer than your medicine cabinet-in your kitchen! The most rigorously tested herbal anti-inflammatory healer is turmeric. Many studies establish curcumin, an active compound of turmeric, as a powerful healer of inflammatory disorders (Clinical Pharmacological and Toxicological Data, CDRI and Indian J. Pharmacol).The best way to get your requirement of 1 gram curcumin per day is to add turmeric freely to your curries and dals.
Keep off inflammatory agents
–Trans fats create artery-blocking clots causing inflammation of the arteries.
–Nitrites found in processed foods.
–Sugar reacts with proteins to produce pro-inflammatory compounds called AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products).
–Potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants contain solanine that causes inflammatory pain (Journal of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine).