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Eating To Beat Inflammation

Eating To Beat Inflammation
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With the warmer weather returning, many of us have started back running or hitting the gym or digging again in the garden and all of those activities can cause sprains, strains and soft issue injuries. Inflammation, one of our body’s defense mechanisms, sends increased blood flow to the affected area to help heal, but sometimes it starts a cycle of inflammation, a sort of perpetual motion machine of pain.

What to do? Ice the affected part, elevate it, rest it certainly, but there is another avenue: Eat to defeat it.

What should you eat on an anti-inflammatory diet?

–Go for the heat of certain spices, like curry and ginger. Even though “inflammation” comes from the Latin meaning, “to ignite,” in this case hot is a good thing.

–Lots of fruits and veggies help wash out your system.

–Omega-3 fatty acids like from cold water fish, fish oil and walnuts are best.

–Lean protein, like chicken is good, but protein from full fat dairy products and red meat are not.

–Cut back on trans fats—the kind found in lots of cookies, crackers, cakes and processed foods. Trans fat can actually damage the lining of the blood cells, causing inflammation. Read the labels—just below “saturated fat” on the label, the FDA requires a food company to list the trans fat grams in the item. The recommended daily limit of trans fat in a 2,000 calorie diet is 2 grams per day. Minimize saturated fats, too. They contain a compound used by our bodies, arachidonic acid, that actually creates inflammation.

–Ditch the processed and refined food and eat out less. Cook your own fresh food more often.

–Switch out white for brown. Eat bulgur wheat and brown rice instead of white rice and pasta. Go for food with “bigger pieces” of wheat. Whole-wheat flour has about the same glycemic index (and therefore causes as much inflammation) as white flour. Research shows that eating white bread causes and increases in inflammatory markers in our bloodstream when the sugar in it breaks down. (Yes, sugar is another no-no in an anti inflammatory diet.)

–Eat more winter squash, beans and sweet potatoes.

–Eliminate MSG from your diet. Ask for your Chinese takeout without it. Research in animals shows it causes inflammation and, while it is inconclusive still in humans, do your really need another non-naturally occurring chemical in your body?

–Use more extra virgin olive oil and less corn, sunflower and mixed seed oils.

–Salt is no friend of yours, either. It has been shown to result in inflammation of the joints. Prepared meals (especially those convenient microwavable ones) are very high in sodium.

–Et tu, gluten? If you are one of the folks actively avoiding gluten because of digestive problems and bloating, you may be on the right track. Some researchers think those symptoms are signs of inflammation caused by gluten intolerance.

–Whatever you eat, try reducing the temperature at which you cook it. Studies show that AGE (advanced glycation end product), a toxin, is released when foods are heated at high temperatures. Since these AGEs can damage your body’s proteins, your body fights back by releasing cytokines or inflammatory messengers, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.

Dr. Andrew Weill even recommends this anti-inflammatory cocktail of vitamins and supplements daily:

–Vitamin C, 200 milligrams a day.

–Vitamin E, 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols, or, better, a minimum of 80 milligrams of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols).

–Selenium, 200 micrograms of an organic (yeast-bound) form.

–Mixed carotenoids, 10,000-15,000 IU daily.

–The antioxidants can be most conveniently taken as part of a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement that also provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 2,000 IU of vitamin D. It should contain no iron and no preformed vitamin A (retinol). Take these supplements with your largest meal.

–Women should take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, 500-700 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral. Men should avoid supplemental calcium.

–If you are not eating oily fish at least twice a week, take supplemental fish oil, in capsule or liquid form (two to three grams a day of a product containing both EPA and DHA). Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.

–Talk to your doctor about going on low-dose aspirin therapy, one or two baby aspirins a day (81 or 162 milligrams).

–If you are not regularly eating ginger and turmeric, consider taking these in supplemental form.

–Add coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to your daily regimen: 60-100 milligrams of a softgel form taken with your largest meal.

The votes are still out on in most of the medical community whether or not such dietary changes work in preventing or reducing inflammation, but many sufferers swear by it and such sensible food reductions and substitutions can’t do any harm, as they are based on sound dietary practices. The worst that could happen is you might lose a little weight and get a little healthier. The best might be that your inflammation goes away and you are pain-free. Sounds like a plan worth trying to me.



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