Fighting Symptoms of Inflammation Through Diet

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The symptoms of inflammation are a result of the natural response of your immune system to tissue damage or invasion of your tissues by pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The initial result of the inflammatory response is often dilation of your capillaries to permit the large macrophages, or white blood cells, to reach the affected area resulting in fluid leakage into your surrounding tissues and ultimately swelling and pain.

The area can also become hot as your immune system raises the temperature to render it less comfortable for bacteria. The overall effect is the typical redness, swelling and pain that we know as inflammation. It slows down wound healing and can lead to severe pain in the joints (arthritis). The immune system frequently doesn’t know when to stop, and needs help so that wounds can heal and the pain and swelling gradually die down.

The major methods of fighting symptoms of inflammation are:

  • Steroid Anti-inflammatories: A common way to deal with the symptoms of inflammation is by use of corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation by binding to the glucocorticoids receptors [1] that control inflammation. The problem here is that steroids can cause side effects in some people, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and can cause a diabetics condition to deteriorate [2].
  • NSAIDS: An alternative way to treat inflammation, that most doctors and physicians will prescribe, is the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Among the non-prescription NSAIDs are aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen taken orally rather than by injection. However, these also lead to side effects such as nausea, diarrhea and even stomach bleeding, particularly with those affected by ulcers. The latter effect can be so severe in some as to be potentially fatal and requiring rapid emergency treatment.
  • Fighting Diet and Natural Anti-inflammatories: One answer is diet. By taking a diet rich in natural anti-inflammatories, it is possible to ease the symptoms of inflammation and gradually moderate the activity of your immune system, reducing swelling, heat, and get your system back to normal. What foods are best to take for this?
  • Fighting Symptoms of Inflammation Naturally: If steroids and NSAIDs are unsuitable anti-inflammatories for many people, the inflammation and pain of conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, gout, and many other conditions including allergies, tendonitis, gingivitis, eczema  and many more can be relieved by natural means, such as diet and natural anti-inflammatories.

The consensus is that a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated and trans fats. Green tea is full of anti-inflammatories [3] and may also help you avoid certain heart conditions, so drinking green tea, or oolong as an alternative, you help to relieve the effects of inflammation.

Colored fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals (plant chemicals), including polyphenols, catechins, flavonoids, polyterpenes and so on. The high color is an indication of the presence of these substances.  For example, anthocyanins are blue pigments that also possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties.  They are contained in blueberries, aubergines, blackberries and other similarly colored foods. Carotenoids are a family of powerful anti-inflammatories, contained in carrots, oranges, bananas, peppers and tomatoes for example.

You can also help fight inflammation by eating foods with a low glycemic index, such as whole wheat, rice noodles and ‘al dente’ pasta, which has a lower glycemic index than fully cooked pasta. Natural grains and cereals are also anti-inflammatory foods.

Omega Fatty Acids: How much do you know about your Omegas? It is known that Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory [5] while Omega-6 fatty acids are pro inflammatory [6].  The American diet in particular is too high in Omega-6 compared to Omega-3. Rather than worry about what contains Omega-6 fats (most vegetable oils do) or about the Glycemic index or any other measurement of anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory activity, it is better to simply look to your diet.

Keep away from most fats, margarines and oils other than fish oils that you can take as a supplement to increase the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6.  Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, and don’t overcook them.  However, many vegetables release their nutrients more readily when cooked than when raw, being easier to digest. Yes, cooking can destroy Vitamin C and other water-soluble nutrients, but on balance cooked foods offer more energy and are more easily absorbed, while raw foods contain more nutrients but are not so easily absorbed – the choice is yours!

To summarize, then, inflammation is your body’s natural response to damage and attack, but the symptoms of inflammation can continue too long. The safest forms of anti-inflammatories are natural, and found in the more highly colored fruits and vegetables. If you eat a diet containing as few fats as possible, with plenty green, red, orange and blue natural foods, then you will find it easier for your immune system to allow your wounds to heal quicker and the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions to ease.

References:

1.  Rhen T, Cidlowski JA (October 2005). “Antiinflammatory action of glucocorticoids–new mechanisms for old drugs“. N. Engl. J. Med. 353 (16): 1711–23.

2.  Donihi AC, Raval D, Saul M, Korytkowski MT, DeVita MA (2006). “Prevalence and predictors of corticosteroid-related hyperglycemia in hospitalized patients“. Endocr Pract 12 (4): 358–62.

3.  Rodríguez-Caso C, Rodríguez-Agudo D, Sánchez-Jiménez F, Medina MA (August 2003). Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate is an inhibitor of mammalian histidine decarboxylase. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 60 (8): 1760–3.

4.  The Tea Guardian. Tea & Cardiovascular Health http://teaguardian.com/health/cardiovascularhealth.html.

5.  Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C (2010). “Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids“. Nutr Rev 68 (5): 280–9.

6.  Lands, William E.M. (December 2005). “Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease“. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Blackwell) 1055: 179–192

 

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