Your immune system is your body’s own army, it is designed to recognise and attack foreign particles that have entered your body, to prevent or minimise any damage. It fights viruses and bacteria and helps promote healing after any tissue damage. Unfortunately the immune system can sometimes trigger inflammation responses which are disproportionate or against our own tissues. This inappropriate inflammation response is now thought to play a part in causing many modern day diseases like cancer, arthritis, various autoimmune diseases, heart disease and depression.
One of the keys to keeping your immune system functioning appropriately is our diet. There are numerous books available with information about diets which will help reduce inflammation in our bodies but the principles are very easy.
The diet itself is very simple- avoid foods which cause inflammation and increase those that are shown to reduce it. It is also a continuum, the more you follow the diet the larger the effect- which means you can slip off the wagon occasionally and you won’t undo all the good so far achieved.
FOODS TO EAT
A diet rich in fiber with a large amount of fresh fruit and vegetables will help reduce inflammation in the body. This is because they contain large amounts of the following various nutrients;
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce two of the inflammatory proteins in your body. Cold water fish like salmon and tuna are excellent sources. Plant based sources include flaxseed oil, chia seeds and leafy green vegetables.
Antioxidants play a role in supporting the immune system and fighting inflammation. Colourful fruit and vegetables such as berries, broccoli and spinach are high in antioxidants.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce inflammation indicators in the blood. These good fats are found in nuts and seeds such as almonds, pine nuts and other food sources like olive oil and avocado.
Fiber found in whole grains, vegetables and fruit all contain anti inflammatory phytonutrients, which are various naturally occurring chemicals found in plants.
FOODS TO AVOID
In general the more processed or highly refined a food is, the more likely it is to
contribute to inflammation.
White breads Foods that are made from highly refined flour are high on the glycemic index, which means they convert quickly into sugars. They lead to the production of proteins that contribute to inflammation.
Processed saturated fat This is the fat you can see on red meat, it is also contained in dairy products and in some plant oils like palm and vegetable oil. It is often found in processed foods such as biscuits and pizza.
Processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messages, called cytokines, which when released promote inflammation.
Alcohol will also contribute to inflammation.
Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are not harmful in themselves but contribute to inflammation if eaten in excess. Focus on increasing your consumption of Omega 3 containing foods and limit consumption of foods high in Omega 6. A ratio of between 2:1 and 5:1 with Omega 3 is recommended to reduce inflammation. Omega 6 is found in most vegetable oils including peanut and sunflower oil, peanut butter and eggs. These foods do not need to be avoided, but should be consumed in small quantities.
Below is a chart produced by Harvard Medical School showing the principles of an anti inflammation diet.
Arthritis Foundation. arthritis.org
Foods That Fight Inflammation. Harvard Health. health.harvard.edu