Inflammation is your body’s response to injury, infection, allergies, stress or chronic disease.
A certain level of inflammation is necessary and helpful, in order for your body to overcome these conditions. Problems arise when the inflammation becomes excessive or continues for too long.
Chronic inflammation greatly contributes to fatigue, pain, low mood and an inability to lose weight. The symptoms of a great variety of health conditions are aggravated by excessive inflammation. It is also thought that long term high levels of inflammation in your body speed up the aging process and increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Inflammation basically causes wear and tear inside your body; it wears your body out more quickly.
The best way to reduce inflammation is to remove or reduce the cause of the problem – for example, treat the infection, or remove the allergens or stress that are creating inflammatory chemicals.
Another way to overcome excess inflammation is to eat foods with natural anti-inflammatory actions. Think of these foods as a wet blanket over a fire.
Coconut oil: I live by it!
Coconut oil has enormous benefits to your immune system and digestive system. It is also quite a heat stable fat, meaning it tolerates high temperature cooking well and does not become oxidized and damaged like most vegetable oils.
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, particularly lauric acid, which is very easy to digest and your liver uses it easily for energy. The good fats in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties, and help to promote a healthy balance of good microbes in your digestive tract. Coconut oil is also very satiating; including some in your diet regularly can help to greatly reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings.
Avocados are also full of healthy fats. In this case the fats are primarily monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats do not raise inflammation in the body like some omega 6 rich polyunsaturated fats can. They are also beneficial for the health of your arteries, and help maintain healthy blood pressure. Putting some avocado in your salad for lunch can help you feel full for longer, therefore not feel the need to snack on candy in the afternoons.
Can you spot the common theme? Many of the best anti-inflammatory foods are high in fat. Most natural fats are highly anti-inflammatory, whereas processed vegetables oils high in omega 6 fats are often pro-inflammatory.
Oily fish is high in omega 3 fats, which promote the production of pain relieving prostaglandins (a type of hormone) in the body. This means fish oil can help to alleviate painful conditions such as arthritis, menstrual cramps and fibromylgia. By reducing inflammation in your artery walls, fish oil can help to reduce atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and blood clots. Most fish is also a rich source of the mineral selenium. Selenium is excellent for individuals with autoimmune disease because it can help reduce the production of auto-antibodies. Selenium is also necessary for glutathione production, and glutathione is the body’s own powerful antioxidant. The other benefit of selenium is it helps your body overcome viral infections. Chronic, low grade viral infections are a common cause of ongoing fatigue and elevated inflammation.
Examples of oily fish high in omega 3 fats and selenium include wild salmon, trout, mackerel, herrings, sardines, mullet and anchovies. If you do not consume these fish species regularly, you may wish to consider taking a fish oil supplement and a selenium supplement.
Turmeric is a spice with a bright yellow color. It has a very mild flavor and is responsible for the bright yellow tint of curry powder. You may also find fresh turmeric sold in fresh produce stores; it can be added to curries, stews or even vegetable juices. The active constituent of turmeric is called curcumin. It has powerful anti-inflammatory actions and is a fantastic natural pain reliever. Curcumin also has benefits to the digestive system, and can help relieve bloating and indigestion.
Dark chocolate; YESSS!
Good quality dark chocolate is definitely a health food. By good quality I mean 85% cocoa or higher. Dark chocolate like this is usually free of dairy products, and some brands are even free of soy lecithin, which is best avoided because it may be genetically modified. Chocolate with a very high cocoa content is also generally very low in sugar. The intense flavor in this type of chocolate usually prevents most people from overindulging. It’s just so rich that you can’t possibly consume too much.
The antioxidant polyphenols in chocolate help to neutralize free radicals in your body and can actually help to boost levels of healthy HDL cholesterol in your body. Most people with insulin resistance have abnormally low levels of beneficial cholesterol in their blood, and too much of the wrong type of cholesterol, which can cause arterial plaques.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless food. There are many delicious ways to reduce inflammation in your body, and reap the health rewards.