Acute inflammation is needed to help heal acute trauma, abrasions, broken bones, and fight infection. By definition, the acute inflammatory process has an abrupt beginning and resolution. Chronic inflammation on the other hand is an ongoing, low level of inflammation that can over time lead to damage of our body’s tissues, blood vessels and organs. Chronic inflammation has been shown to be directly and indirectly related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain (esp fibromyalgia), cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc), asthma, allergies, psoriasis, and many other chronic diseases.
Some common factors that can contribute to or cause chronic inflammation are chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, exposure to environmental contaminants, chronic viruses, imbalance of gastrointestinal flora, and lack of exercise/sedentary lifestyle. While an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction should be the foundation in the treatment of conditions related to chronic inflammation, it is imperative that the cause and other contributing factors be identified and addressed as well.
It is no surprise that dietary choices greatly impact our body’s physiology and biochemistry. Now, more than ever, we know how and why certain foods promote either health or disease. The Anti-inflammatory diet is an effective way to combat chronic inflammatory processes. The strategy of the anti-inflammatory diet is two fold: Avoid certain foods that promote the creation of inflammatory chemical messengers, while also emphasizing other foods that are anti-inflammatory. Within the guidelines of the diet, eating variety is encouraged, try not to eat any one food more than five times a week and plan your meals ahead of time and try to find at least ten recipes you enjoy. Refer to the book “The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book”, by Jessica Black, ND for recipes and more information.
Below is the general antiinflammatory dietary guidelines that outline the various foods that should be emphasized and avoided. The foods listed are only examples of foods to eat, so experiment! Try to eat only organically grown foods as they are more nutritious and it will decrease exposure to pesticides.
- Lightly steaming vegetables improves the utilization or the availability of the food nutrients allowing the gastrointestinal mucosa to repair itself. Use minimal raw vegetables except as a salad.
- Eat a variety of any and all vegetables (except tomato, potato, eggplant) that you can tolerate. Eat at least 1-2 servings of green vegetable daily, though more is preferred.
- Emphasize vegetables with lower carbohydrate content. Group 1 are vegetables that have the least amount of carbohydrate, while Group 4 have the most. Eat most vegetables from Group 1 & 2:
- Group 1: Asparagus, bean sprouts, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, swiss chard, cucumber, endive, lettuce (red, green, romaine, mixed greens), mustard greens, radish, spinach, watercress.
- Group 2: string beans, beets, bok choy, brussels sprouts, chives, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onion, parsley, red pepper, pumpkin, rutabagas, turnip, zucchini.
- Group 3: artichoke, parsnip, green peas, winter squash, carrot.
- Group 4: yam and sweet potatoes.
- Avoid: Tomatoes and white or red potatoes
*Add your favorite spices to enhance the taste of these vegetables (esp Garlic, Ginger, and Tumeric)
- Eat one to two cups of cooked grains per day, unless you desire to loss weight.
- Emphasize: Amaranth, spelt, barley, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, basmati or brown rice, rye, teff. Rice crackers and wasa brand rye crackers are also ok.
- Avoid: All wheat products, including bread cereals, whole-wheat flour, white flour, and pasta that is made from wheat (durum semolina).
- Eat a variety of any legumes that you are able to tolerate. Soak for 48-72 hours and cook slowly: Split peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, fermented soy (tempeh or miso), mung beans, garbanzo beans, aduki and azuki beans.
- Caution: Tofu can cause reactions in some people. Experiment with including it and eliminating from the diet. Elimination phase should last 30-60 days before reintroducing it back into diet to test for symptoms.
- Wild (vs. farmed) deep-sea ocean fish are an excellent source of essential fatty acids and should be eaten 3-4 times per week.
- Poach, bake, or broil the fish.
- Emphasize: Cod, haddock, halibut, mackerel, sardines, summer flounder, wild Pacific salmon.
- Avoid: Shellfish (including: shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, muscles).
- Eating protein with every meal helps to regulate and maintain steady blood sugar and energy levels
- Bake, broil or steaming is best.
- Emphasize: Organic, free-range chicken or turkey. Eat only the meat only (not the skin). Organic, free-range lamb and buffalo as well as Wild game (venison and elk) are also permitted.
- Avoid: Pork, Processed/preserved meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, etc) and Conventionally raised beef (small amounts of organic, grass-fed beef are okay)
- Eat only 1 or 2 pieces of any fruit (except citrus) daily. If possible, it is preferred to eat the fruit baked (such as a baked apple or pear).
- Emphasize: Low carbohydrate fruits. Group 1 have the least amount of carbohydrate, while Group 4 have the most. Eat mostly from Group 1 & 2:
- Group 1: cantaloupe, rhubarb, strawberries, melons.
- Group 2: apricot, blackberries, cranberries, papaya, peach, plum, raspberries, kiwi.
- Group 3: apple, blueberries, cherries, grapes, mango, pear, pineapple, pomegranate
- Group 4: banana, figs, prunes, any dried fruit.
- Avoid: Citrus fruits (lemon in okay). limit intake of dried fruits, and eliminate them if you are diabetic.
- Use only occasionally and ONLY with meals: Maple syrup, rice syrup, barley syrup, raw honey or stevia.
- Eliminate: Absolutely no sugar, NutraSweet, or any other sweetener is allowed.
Seeds and Nuts:
- Grind seeds and add to steamed vegetables, cooked grains, salads, cereals, etc.
- Emphasize: flax, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds. You may also eat nut and seed butters, such as almond, cashew, sesame.
- Avoid: Peanuts and peanut butter.
- For butter, mix together 1 pound of organic butter with 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (from a new dark jar) to use as spread. Whip at room temperature and store in the refrigerator.
- Emphasize: a small amount of organic butter is okay. Use olive oil for cooking (do not overheat oil), coconut oil for baking, and nut or seed oils for salads.
- Avoid: Hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils.
Eggs and Dairy Products
- Emphasize: Organic eggs
- Small amounts of rice, almond, oat, hemp, or soy milk are allowed.
- Avoid: Commercial/conventional eggs. Dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, and animal milks.
- Try to drink water everyday. Spring, bottled, filtered water is preferred. General goal is 1/2 body weight in ounces (1 cup is 8 ounces) or 6-8 cups/day.
- Emphasize: Water, herbal teas (substitute for coffee and juice)
- Avoid: Coffee, soda, juice, caffeinated teas, alcohol
- Avoid: Corn products, processed foods, Fried foods.