More and more people are complaining about pain throughout their body. They go to their doctor and are told they have fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue, or any other of the inflammatory ‘diseases’. Then they begin questioning why they have the inflammation – or why me? There are a lot of reasons why the body becomes inflamed over time. Pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides in the water, air and food are some but not all of the chemicals put into the body on a daily basis.
Although chemicals are a large part of the problem, there are other reasons why ‘inflammation’ can develop in the body, and that is the type of foods people eat. Becoming aware of which foods can increase the inflammatory response in the body is an important first step. Avoiding the foods which irritate the body is a starting place to reduce the chronic long-term debilitating effects of inflammation. Supplementation with a good quality essential fatty acid and / or anti-oxidant can also increase the body’s ability to overcome inflammation.
Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase pain from the inflammation and may also raise the risk for chronic disease. Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, processed foods, sugar and fast foods can increase inflammation in the body. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans-fats and saturated fats. Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites which are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease.
Saturated fats are found in meats, dairy, and some fish products. While all of these foods are sources of proteins, the extra saturated fat isn’t necessary. These foods also contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for health, too much or the wrong source of arachidonic acid in the diet may make inflammation worse. If living without cheese or meat isn’t possible, try organic low-fat milk and cheese. Eat more fish and poultry, which usually do not promote inflammation, instead of the higher fat red meats. Crustaceans like shrimp and lobster have a much higher content of the wrong type of arachidonic acid leading to increased inflammation.
Diets high in sugar have also been associated with inflammation, obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes. A good starting place is to eliminate high sugar foods such as sodas, soft drinks, pastries, pre-sweetened cereals and candy. Check labels and count how many different types of sugar is found in the product. If the label has: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and dextrose then there are four different types of sugar in that product. Many products have the first ingredient listed as wheat or corn and then it is followed by four or five types of sugar, misleading the consumer into thinking it doesn’t contain a high amount of sugar.
Whole fruits and vegetables are important to eat for their vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants. Some vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant may irritate the body and actually make pain from inflammation worse because they are part of the nightshade family. These vegetables contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine. Solanine can trigger pain in some people. While there isn’t any formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, many people find they get relief from the symptoms of swollen joints, pain and inflammation when they eliminate them.
Increasing intake of Omega 3’s can reduce inflammation. Flax seed, pumpkin seed, soybean, walnut oils and leafy greens are good vegetable sources of Omega 3’s. Fish oil is another excellent source if from a reliable supplier and not contaminated with mercury. Good sources of Omega 6’s are sunflower, safflower, corn, hemp, borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. When supplementing with essential fatty acids (EFA’s) one thing to keep in mind is the need for a higher ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Flax oil is an outstanding source of Omega’s, with Omega 3, 6 & 9 in good proportion for the human body.
Whether supplementation, changing your life-style, choosing to eat whole foods or just exercising more, now is the time to make the changes which can affect the rest of your life. It is your choice – do you choose to be healthy?