Should you consider following an anti-inflammatory diet?

Should you consider following an anti-inflammatory diet?

Like many trends, the anti-inflammatory diet has gained in popularity through celebrities like Tom Brady, Penelope Cruz and Tia Mowry who are following this regimen for reasons ranging from overall fitness to better looking skin to actual inflammatory illnesses. While you don’t want to go down the path of self-diagnosis, given its inherent health benefits, the anti-inflammatory diet is one celebrity trend you may want to consider.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is actually one of the body’s defense mechanisms. It’s designed to prevent infection and further injury and remove damaged tissue so the body can heal. The inflammatory response consists of two phases; the warrior phase and the resolution phase. During the warrior phase, the immune system sends out white blood cells and compounds like eicosanoids to attack invading viruses, bacteria, or toxins. The swelling, tenderness, heat, and pain you experience when you sprain your wrist is a typical example of inflammation.

During the resolution phase, tissues begin to heal as cells rejuvenate. Problems arise when these phases are thrown off balance by lifestyle choices. Sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup), refined carbohydrates, packaged foods, and processed meats are all culprits. Insufficient exercise is another lifestyle factor that contributes to inflammation. Air pollution and environmental toxins can also play a role in triggering an inflammatory response, but to a lesser degree than diet.

Its impact on the body

Depending on its location in the body, chronic inflammation can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, anxiety, depression, painful and swollen joints, and damage to the lining of the intestines. There are several things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health. Perhaps one of the easiest is following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Define “anti-inflammatory diet”

There isn’t just one anti-inflammatory diet. In fact, there are several popular diets that are considered to be anti-inflammatory. Among them are the Zone Diet, Paleo, and Whole30 but perhaps the most famous and well researched of such diets is the traditional Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, whole grains, and olive oil.

Slight differences

Anti-inflammatory regimens all focus on fatty fish, vegetables and olive oil but the foods on the “no” list can vary. For instance, the Zone Diet eliminates all refined grains and white potatoes while Paleo forbids all grains, dairy, and legumes. The Mediterranean Diet has added sugar and refined sugar on its hit list.

How these diets help

The antioxidants contained in fruits and non-starchy veggies can help minimize the initial inflammatory response. Fatty fish, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, can help your body transition towards the resolution phase. Studies have also shown that people who follow the Mediterranean Diet have lower levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood. Both are markers used to assess the level of inflammation in the body.

Not just for inflammation

While an anti-inflammatory diet is obviously beneficial to those suffering with illnesses linked to inflammation, avoiding foods that are known to cause inflammation, along with getting adequate exercise and sleep can benefit everyone. Increased energy and improved mood, decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, depression, and improved blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels are among the many benefits of following an anti-inflammatory regimen.

Anti-inflammatory or not, it’s hard to find a reason not to follow a balanced diet that eliminates processed carbohydrates, refined sugars and focuses on quality proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables. So if fighting inflammation is your goal, it’s good to know you can achieve that with a few simple dietary modifications. And if you simply want to make some healthy changes to your diet, the anti-inflammatory approach seems to be a good place to start. But if you’re actually experiencing symptoms of inflammation, be sure to see your doctor and get checked out.


 

Manulife

McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE)

Desautels Faculty of Management

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