By AMY J WOOD
Inflammation, the tender and painful swelling of tissue, is an unpleasant and all-to-common result of overworking a muscle or joint when exercising. Luckily, those of us who have had the occasional twisted ankle or bum knee have experienced the benefits of ibuprofen, aspirin, and other NSAID pain relievers. In addition to numbing pain, they contain anti-inflammatory properties and effectively reduce swelling (Lawrence, Glen. The Fats of Life. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick. 2010).
There is another, subtler and potentially more insidious kind of inflammation found inside the body which may result in heart disease, arthritis, increased allergies, accelerated aging, certain cancers, psoriasis, diabetes, and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike the obvious inflammation of a swollen ankle, this type, known as chronic or systemic inflammation, may be unnoticeable and occur slowly over years. However, like Ibuprofen’s capacity to reduce the swelling of over-training, the Anti-Inflammatory diet and certain power nutrients may play an important role in reducing chronic inflammation. The Anti-Inflammatory diet contains many elements of the Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil as its staple fat source and consists of fish, cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and red wine with meals (Galland, Leo. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, December 2010, Vol. 25:6, pp.637).
According to Natural Health, foods to avoid are milk, yeast, meat—with beef being the most inflammatory of all of the meats—sugary drinks, refined white flour, and fried potatoes because they add fuel to inflammation’s fire (September 2005, Vol. 35:8, pp.37). Similarly, any food product that has been highly processed and loaded with fat and refined sugar is likely missing wholesome, anti-inflammatory properties and best eaten in moderation.
Nearly 400 years before the birth of Christ, Hippocampus wrote that we should “let food be thy medicine.” The average American has access to healthy food but fights a daily struggle as she is lured in by omnipresent, cheap, and often overly convenient food. She eats a diet that is fraught with high calories and low in nutritional value. Perhaps if we were to adopt the Anti-Inflammatory diet, subsisting on a different kind of fare with the potential to lower internal inflammation and promote overall health, we would see fewer instances of chronic diseases. If we were to lower the number of cases of type two diabetes by consuming more foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, we would need less insulin and medication. Similarly if we could lower high blood pressure and heart disease with inflammation-muting phytochemicals, then beta-blockers and other fancy, Western-developed pills would not be prescribed with such prevalence. Healthy food could truly become our medicine.