Inflammation isn’t all bad. For example, exercise causes inflammation and we know that exercise is the best medicine. How can that be? Inflammation is just the body’s way of healing itself. If your body needs to heal sore muscles, it needs to create an acute inflammatory response. You know it’s working when the soreness alleviates, and now you’ll become stronger and fitter by exercising again.
Chronic inflammation is different. With chronic inflammation, the body is constantly trying to heal itself. This is bad for two reasons:
- Chronic inflammation is a signal that something is wrong in the body.
- After a while, the inflammation can cause new health problems like atherosclerosis.
Inflammation can be measured by a “CRP” blood test available at your doctor. It stands for C-Reactive Protein and is a snapshot of inflammation in the body. It’s not an expensive test relative to others, and it might be a good idea to monitor your levels. Ask your doctor if that approach makes sense for you.
How does chronic inflammation start? For some, chronic inflammation is somewhat unavoidable as in many with osteoarthritis. Handling stress poorly, depression, and other emotional concerns can increase inflammation in the body. In other cases, it’s because the diet is so poor that the body is constantly trying to heal the impact of the inflammatory foods. Either way, one great strategy for decreasing chronic inflammation is to simply eat foods that decrease inflammation.
You may know first hand how some foods would cause the body inflammation. Anyone with acid reflux will tell you that certain foods trigger heartburn. Did you know that an inflammatory response will try to heal the acidic damage done to the esophagus? Inevitably, you or a friend has wondered, “Why did I eat that?” on the way to a restroom. These are dramatic examples, but small injuries to the gastrointestinal tract go undetected more frequently. Consuming foods with too much salt, fat, and sugar are sure-fire ways to injure the GI tract and cause inflammation. If you consume foods like this frequently, you will want to start making changes before the inflammatory response begins to cause other health problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome among others. Over-consumption of salt, fat, and sugar will also promote the release of free radicals in the blood stream. Free radicals are one of the main catalysts of aging and are unavoidable, but can be minimized to improve health outcomes.
You have a great opportunity to reduce chronic inflammation through diet by counteracting the effects of free radicals in the blood. Free radicals cause oxidation in your organs (this is the same process that degrades your fresh produce). Consuming antioxidants blocks the oxygen free radicals from causing degradation in your body. This decreases the need for an inflammatory response to heal. You can lower your inflammation, as measured by CRP by consuming a diet high in antioxidants.
Great sources of antioxidants are spices like turmeric, fruits like blueberries, black and pinto beans, nuts like walnuts, and a high volume of non-starchy vegetables. Enjoy your new food journey as you experiment with a multitude of new foods and flavors!
Today’s guest blogger is Caroline Fornshell, MS, RD, CPT, registered dietitian and founder of LWell, Longevity Wellness and Fitness in Yorktown, Virginia. At LWell, Caroline incorporates all the components of a weight loss program in a warm and friendly, hospitality-oriented fitness and wellness facility.
Shoulder pain image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Berry image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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