Inflammation is the body’s natural healing response and is meant to bring more nourishment and immune function to the area of injury. It is intended as a short-term response to facilitate healing. However, many aspects our modern lifestyles (such as smoking, diet, obesity, chronic stress, exposure to toxicants, etc) promote chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is when our inflammation response lingers, causing a process meant for temporary use to become a constant environment. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include: fatigue, fever, and pain. Existing in a state of chronic inflammation has been shown to be at the root of many illnesses (heart disease, cancers, autoimmune disorders, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s).1
Specific foods have specified inflammatory responses, meaning dietary choices have a large role in the body’s level of inflammation. Sugary and processed foods are more likely to increase inflammation than whole and fresh foods. The food we eat is also something that we have more control over than other aspects of health, making dietary intervention a particularly advantageous way of changing your health. Dr. Andrew Weil has developed the Anti-Inflammatory Diet to utilize the power of dietary intervention and address the problems of chronic inflammation in modern life.
“Diet can promote or decrease inflammation. Inflammation can, in turn, drive up the risk of cancer, increase atherosclerotic diseases such as heart attacks and stroke and autoimmune disease. Inflammatory cytokines can even affect our perceptions and cognition. Diet modification is one tool to improve our internal physiology.” Dr. Allen Gee
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not an eating plan that you do for a couple of weeks, rather it is about incorporating shopping, cooking, and eating habits that have been shown to decrease inflammation in your body. The goal of anti-inflammatory eating habits is to return the inflammation response to a short-term reaction, and to provide your body with steady energy and the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs.
Here are the four main guidelines for the Anti-Inflammatory Diet:
- Aim for variety.
- Include as much fresh food as possible.
- Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food.
- Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
The closer your food is to its original/natural state, the more nourishment it will bring you. Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different chemical composition. When you eat a variety of types and colors of good and real food, it helps ensure you get the nutrition you need. Fresh food does not have as much sugar or preservatives as processed food, making it better for your body. The base of Dr. Weil’s food pyramid is fruit and vegetables, not grains, indicating the importance of produce. To learn more about specific amounts and portions of food, you can find Dr. Weil’s interactive food pyramid here. 3
Additionally, you can choose foods based on their glycemic index. The Glycemic Index is a measure of how quickly a food breaks down into simple sugars in the bloodstream. Foods with high glycemic index (such as sugar, white flours, and alcohol) increase inflammation and it can help to avoid them. Foods with low glycemic index (natural sweetener, whole grains, produce in its natural state) do not have the same inflammatory response and are recommended in the anti-inflammatory diet. To learn more about specific foods and their glycemic index you can visit the Glycemic Index Database.
At Frontier, we have created a Nutrition Packet that outlines the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and includes a shopping list, the food pyramid, and other neurohealth recommendations.
Making different decisions about food is a potent way to facilitate a different state of wellbeing. Eating a variety of fresh food in abundance and avoiding sugary and processed food has the potential to move your body out of chronic inflammation. Little changes make a big difference. And it is important to remember a couple things about diet modification: No single food will fix or boost a person’s health, and it takes time to see the impact of the changes you make.