Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac Disease, Multiple sclerosis, to name just a few, are some of the more common types of autoimmune diseases that studies have shown to continue to be on the rise. Environmental factors as well as the types of foods eaten can factor into the escalating epidemic of these disorders. Especially women pass ‘the bloom of youth’, we seem to be more affected than men in the same age bracket, although we do all we can to achieve and maintain an above average measure of health for as long as we can. It’s the most we can do for ourselves in order to ensure we’re “aging gracefully”. Right?
I have personally found that diet, activity and other lifestyle choices play a big role in how the disease affects my body. But even with all the precautions taken, inflammation is a constant battle for many. For some, like myself, it’s an inherited trait and the search for relief of symptoms or managed care can be disappointing and downright costly!
So you make the decision to research how to fight this battle with your own new knowledge and common sense, but soon find that all of the anti-aging philosophies and anti-inflammatory products and promises can be daunting. The next logical step would be to look into a way to heal the body by feeding it the right–anti-inflammatory foods, picking up a moderate exercise routine, and dropping any habits that might contribute to bad health.
So, what is Inflammation and how can it affect your body?
Inflammation occurs within the body for a number of reasons. It’s an immune system response. The body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens in order to begin the healing process. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is trying to heal itself. This is a normal process that is important for healing.
One the other hand, not all inflammation is healthy for you. Chronic inflammation is where the body initiates an immune response to healthy tissues, mistaking them for harmful pathogens or irritants. So, when this inflammation gets out of hand, it can attack the normal cells of your body and the process that is supposed to heal you becomes self-destructive. It is now well known that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses, especially those related to the aging process.
Persistent stress, over-exposure to environmental toxins, and poor diet can all contribute to this type of inflammatory process. However, many have been able to control their disease by changing the kinds and types of foods that they eat. Most people know that certain foods do cause inflammation flare-ups, but whether they do anything about it is another thing.
In case you’re wondering whether or not eating anti-inflammatory foods is really helpful, remember this is why you’re doing your own research, and I suggest you speak with your own doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist as well, to find out more about this. Research has proven, however, that the body’s aging process can be accelerated by inflammation in the body.
So where do you start?
The good news is, as mentioned earlier, there are some lifestyle choices that can help this process. Following an anti-inflammatory diet is one way to control the aging process. While it sounds like a good idea, be aware that it’s not instant or easy, but it does take some planning, as the anti-inflammatory diet involves changes in eating habits or an eating plan you follow throughout your life, in order to combat the aging process. It isn’t necessarily or technically geared toward weight loss either, but that usually is a pleasant side effect, along with overall improved long-term health.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet places a focus on whole foods that are whole, mostly natural and unrefined; high in anti-inflammatory spices, high in healthy fats, and high in omega 3 fatty acids.
Some things to include in an anti-inflammatory diet include the following:
- Soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, an edamame
- Healthy fats found in extra virgin olive oil of high quality, beans, avocados, seeds, and nuts
- Vegetables and foods that are brightly colored, such as dark berries, fruits, and vegetables
- Clean water and green tea as a beverage
- Spices that are anti-inflammatory, such as cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger
- Fish rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids
Foods to Avoid
It is also important to decrease your intake of foods that cause inflammation. Highly processed foods are trigger inflammation as do carbohydrates that are quickly digested, such as sugar and sugary snacks. Try to stay away from foods containing vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, and polyunsaturated oils such as: soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils.
The best way to be sure of the contents you’re consuming is to read the food labels, checking for any of the inflammation triggering ingredients that may be in them. When in doubt, choose raw or unprocessed foods and cook them yourself, whenever possible. Foods that are labeled “raw” or “organic” can be seen as good choices when on anti-inflammatory diet.
Does an anti-inflammatory diet work?
According to the many reports by various dietitians and doctors, there is plenty of evidence showing the benefits of following such a diet has on the amount of inflammation in certain patients. So it’s no secret that mono-unsaturated oils and omega 3 oils can fight inflammation among other things. On the other hand, some of the information is inconsistent when it comes to the anti-inflammatory diet combating the aging process. As one study clearly indicated, heredity may play a bigger role for some, in determining who develops an autoimmune disease and who doesn’t.
What are the Risks?
While diet is important, we see that genetics also plays a role in the aging process. So yes, you can decrease the effects of chronic diseases, like autoimmune diseases, by eating an anti-inflammatory food diet, but you shouldn’t make big, drastic changes all at once. Start by introducing anti-inflammatory foods gradually into your diet, as you take away inflammation causing foods so that eventually your diet represents an anti-inflammatory diet as much as is possible.
According to experts, there are no known risks to following an anti-inflammatory diet. You should, however, take precautions if you have food allergies, and it wouldn’t hurt to discuss your change in diet plans with your doctor. He or she may be eager to assist you in taking control of your health plans and using this type of diet to your advantage. Hopefully and fortunately for you the many symptoms of inflammation will become a thing of the past, while unfortunate for the doctor, less body aches for you means less office visits for them. Where’s the risk?