A huge thank you to the reader who requested this topic! <3
From the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s I’ve constantly heard about inflammation – how bad it is, how taxing it can be on the body and what scientists and physicians are hypothesizing as the best method for curbing it. A popular integrative solution I’ve seen time and time again has been the so-called “Anti-Inflammatory Diet.” What does this diet entail? Can you benefit from it? Or is this just a bunch of white noise? Let’s get the deets + find out.
What is Inflammation?
First things first – not all inflammation is bad. We need it to function properly! Whenever you get a paper-cut, lift in the gym or undergo surgery, the inflammatory cells of the immune system suit up to heal your body’s damaged tissues. Your cut fades, you make muscle gains, you heal and live to see another day. This is referred to as acute inflammation, and it’s essential in times of trauma.
Problems start to arise when the inflammatory switch never turns off. This is chronic inflammation - when an otherwise healthy mechanism of the immune system can turn pathologic. It’s triggered by cellular stress + dysfunction, which is usually due to poor lifestyle choices, such as becoming obese or eating a diet high in saturated/trans fat and high-glycemic sugars (among other things, but today we’re just focusing on nutrition). In response to the stress, your inflammatory cells light up, continuously trying to repair. You continue to eat poorly, the triggers persist and oops, you’ve been inflamed for years. Thing is, it’s hard to tell if you have low-level chronic inflammation (blood work can be an indicator). And its silent nature is its greatest weapon, as chronic inflammation contributes to at least seven of the leading causes of mortality in the US (heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc.).
What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet is designed to reduce chronic inflammation. Its details will vary from expert to expert, but it’s essentially a more inclusive Mediterranean Diet with an emphasis on certain vitamins and supplements. Here are the ground rules:
Choose whole, nutritious foods over processed.
Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
Eat good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or nuts.
Make fiber a priority.
Eat lean or plant-based protein.
Use helpful herbs and spices such as turmeric, garlic + ginger.
Drink plenty of water daily (at least half your weight in ounces).
Avoid refined, processed carbs.
Avoid sugary and fried foods.
Limit sugary and alcoholic beverages.
Minimize saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats.
Be mindful of food allergies and sensitivities (dairy, gluten, egg whites, etc).
Need some examples of what to eat?
I made a printable grocery list of the most frequently prescribed anti-inflammatory foods! [CLICK HERE]
1. This diet can be used sporadically as spot-treatment for my poor eating habits.
The term “diet” suggests you only have to eat this way for a finite amount of time. To truly benefit, you’ll need to make this a lifestyle choice. After all, your risk for chronic inflammation only increases with age. One meal of anti-inflammatory foods will not make a huge difference, in the same way that one meal from a fast food restaurant won’t doom you. What are you doing a majority of the time?
2. This is the end-all-be-all to reducing my chronic inflammation.
Optimizing your nutrition is just one way to keep chronic inflammation at bay. The more proactive you are in prioritizing your overall health, the greater your protection. It’s important that you also maintain a healthy bodyweight, exercise, get enough sleep, manage stress and keep an open flow of communication with your doctor. Nutrition is a great place to start, but don’t stop there!
Conclusion: Fact or Fad?
Although the name may sound new to you, this diet is no passing fad. Its core philosophy (eat more whole, nutritious foods) has been around for, well, a really long time. From what I’ve gathered, this diet is something any food expert would generically recommend to someone looking to live a healthier lifestyle. The title “Anti-Inflammatory” is really just sexy packaging. It’s enticing because it rides on the coattails of a very real, but also very trendy, medical issue. Yes, by adopting this style of eating you may very well be able to help combat systemic inflammation. But you’ll also just be fueling a healthier, better-functioning body!
There is so much more to say about inflammation, this diet and other integrative solutions that you could write a book on it - and people have! I encourage you to research more if you’re interested!
For more information on this diet as well as other ways to reduce chronic inflammation: Cleveland Clinic // Dr. Axe, Food is Medicine // LifeExstension.com // VeryWell.com // Andrew Weil, M.D. // Dr. Drew Francis & Golden Cabinet Medical
Don’t forget to check out my free, [printable guide] on some popular anti-inflammatory foods. Great for your next grocery shopping outing!
DISCLAIMER: Although I am in the process of earning my RD license, the content of this website is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek guidance and the final word from a practicing professional. This is merely a place to share my personal experience and anecdotal advice. Cheers!