Inflammation and Illness

by Dr. Wally Taylor, Forum Health Austin

Inflammation and Illness: Is Your Diet to Blame?

Inflammation is our body’s way of protecting itself in order to remove harmful toxins, irritants, or pathogens. Inflammation is thought to be a contributing factor in many diseases including, but not limited to, arthritis, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, GI disorders, and more.

The typical Western diet is characterized by a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, high intake of protein and sugar, and excess salt intake with frequent consumption of processed foods that have little fiber. All of these foods contribute to inflammation and promote obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

Signs you may have chronic inflammation:

  • Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (especially in the joints)
  • Allergies or asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Ulcers
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Constant fatigue or lethargy
  • Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes

Foods that promote inflammation and should be avoided:

  • Corn and Soybean oils
  • Pasteurized dairy
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Conventional meat
  • Sugars
  • Trans fats

Reversing the effects of inflammation

Diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have been positively impacted by anti-inflammatory foods and supplements such as fruits and vegetables, vitamin E, curcumin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Foods high in antioxidants also reduce cellular damage caused by inflammation.

The Mediterranean diet contains many anti-inflammatory foods and is known for touting high consumption of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and moderate consumption of protein (primarily fish and seafood). Research has shown individuals who follow this diet have lower cholesterol, triglycerides and reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The diet also has been linked to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet:

  • Fruits (apple, lemon, avocado, coconut, berries, etc.)
  • Allium vegetables (chives, garlic, onions, scallions, and shallots)
  • Green foods (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, spinach, etc.)
  • Root vegetables (sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, radish etc.)
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha)