Inflammation – the ultimate frienemy.

I’ve been reading a lot about inflammation.   My husband and I are on disability for joint and autoimmune diseases, and most of our health issues are linked to inflammation gone wrong. 

Inflammation is a normal and necessary response from the immune system to bacterial, viral, and allergic stimuli.  It’s a normal reaction, but sometimes it becomes an over-reaction, and inflammation can be triggered when there are no invaders to fight (and the body begins fighting itself instead) or in the case of allergies, no dangerous invaders to fight.

The theory is interesting, especially in regards to the possibility that specific foods may aggravate or reduce unnecessary inflamation.

Interesting theory, but in reading several of the popular books on the subject, it becomes clear this is still a largely unproven theory.  There’s some, but not universal agreement over which foods affect inflammation, and in what direction.  One book identifies hot peppers (capsaicin) as inflammatory, and another says they’re anti-inflammatory.

Several of the authors try to quantify the inflammatory nature of foods, and provide a food list so that you can “count” inflammatory foods, much like you would calorie counting (although you’re pretty much stuck with the book’s list, because how the inflammatory score is calculated is never explained in a way that you can calculate it for yourself for any food that’s not listed in the respective book).

Even with these weaknesses, there are quite a few things the authors agree upon (which I’ll list in a bit), that do seem to make quite a bit of sense.  I’ve been trying to follow those guidelines, and I do seem to be having fewer flares of the autoimmune disease.  I’m not entirely convinced, but so far the evidence is persuasive, definitely worth giving some consideration at least.

As for the guidelines that most of the sources do agree upon:

Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory (adding fish oil supplements, and cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel… is probably a good idea). 

Nuts are anti-inflammatory (but high in calorie – obesity is inflammatory).

Junk foods – fatty, sugary, and starchy foods are inflammatory

Low GI foods are healthy choices when it comes to inflammation (some may be slightly inflammatory, but insulin is associated with inflammation, so reducing the insulin, in theory reduces inflammation).

Exercise, sleep and stress management – Stress and insomnia are inflammatory. 

Vegetables, and to a lesser degree fruits – are anti-inflammatory (some fruits are slightly inflammatory – still a very good choice though compared to foods that are hightly inflammatory like refined sugars).

Grains are inflammatory (especially to those with grain allergies).  Whole grains are a better choice, but some people may be sensitive even to large quantities of healthy grains. 

Gluten-grains such as wheat may be especially inflammatory (but maybe only to people with allergies or celiac disease – though there’s also evidence for sensitivities that aren’t severe enough to be a true allergy or celiac disease).

Dairy – may be inflammatory.  Fermentation (cheeses, yogurts….) may make dairy less inflammatory.  It may only be inflammatory to people with allergies or lactose intolerance.  You may or may not be able to increase your lactose tolerance with probiotics.


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