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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

Beat the Beast of Inflammation

Mar 25, 2015 05:45PM

by Farhan Tahir

Inflammation is our immune system’s response to injury and infection, which becomes harmful to the body when it remains unchecked and prolonged. Thousands of studies confirm a strong link between inflammation and the development of chronic diseases—most commonly coronary artery disease and diabetes mellitus. Inflammation is also the cause of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. It is believed that inflammation even causes cancers.

Diet can be a major contributor to inflammation in the body. Understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy food choices can help keep inflammation under control.

Understand dietary fats

Saturated fats and trans fats are highly pro-inflammatory in nature. In comparison, a Mediterranean-style diet is rich in mono saturated fats, which reduce inflammation. Main anti-inflammatory properties of a Mediterranean diet are attributed to high consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, whole grains and moderate red wine consumption. These nutrients are rich in essential fatty acids and a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, including alphalinolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which can help reduce inflammation.

Unfortunately, the standard American diet delivers an imbalanced essential fatty acid ratio. Omega-6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation, are about 15-20 times higher than omega-3 fatty acids, which cause decreased inflammation. Source of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts, canola oil, fish and fish oil.

Foods rich is animal-based fat result in inflammation, so avoid dairy and animal fat; prefer fat free milk and dairy. Processed meat and fried foods also are major contributors of arachidonic acid.

Avoid a pro-inflammatory diet

Foods high in sugars lead to deregulation of the immune system and cause immunosuppression for two to four hours after consumption. Foods that facilitate bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine are pro-inflammatory. For example, simple sugars and complex carbs that digest faster, such as refined white flour and white potato.

Be sure to get enough fiber each day. A lack of fiber in the diet voids the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to get rid of toxins, which contributes to inflammation.

Insufficient phytonutrients in the diet can be deleterious to our health. Phytonutrients are primarily found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, which act as anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants and quench inflammation.

Supplements and spices

These are some suggested supplements to add to our diet, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin D, minerals and probiotics to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Consult a physician before starting any supplements. • Vitamin D – up to 2000 IU daily • Probiotics – 5015 billion once a day • Vitamin C – 200 milligrams daily • Vitamin E – 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols • Selenium – 200 micrograms of an organic, yeast-bound source • Mixed carotenoids – 10,000-15,000 IU daily • Calcium citrate – 500-700 milligrams a day, for women • Fish oil containing both EPA and DHA – 2,000-3,000 milligrams daily • Coenzyme Q10 – up to 60-100 milligrams daily • Alpha-lipoic acid – 100-400 milligrams daily • Ginger, garlic and turmeric – either in foods or taken in supplemental form

Other inflammation busters

Aside from what we eat, there are other simple things we can do to prevent inflammation. Drink pure water, tea, very diluted fruit juice or water with lemon to keep hydrated throughout the day. Relax, mediate and enjoy life. Strive to be an optimist. Avoid emotional stress, as it leads to suppression of the immune system, promotes inflammation and impairs healing.

Farhan Tahir, M.D., is a rheumatologist and founder of Rheumatology Care Consultants, in Yardley. Connect with him at 267-685-6070, [email protected] or March 2015.

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