Dealing with an autoimmune or inflammatory illness is not enjoyable, but not all inflammation is bad.
Inflammation is a healthy response by our immune system when it is needed to repair damaged tissue or fight invaders- think bacteria or allergens.
However, inflammation becomes harmful when it is drawn out and therefore creates an environment where it begins to damage healthy cells, which results in a pro-inflammatory state (Harvard School of Public Health).
In the previous article about autoimmune and inflammatory illness, I discussed the different ingredients that can negatively impact inflammation. While eliminating certain ingredients from your eating can be beneficial, trying a new dietary pattern can also pack a punch in the fight to feel better.
There are a handful of diets that have been successful in helping those suffering from autoimmune disease or inflammatory issues.
Anti-inflammatory diets help with both autoimmune and inflammatory illness. The difference in these diets compared to others is there are no strict rules regarding calories and portion sizes. The drawback is there can be weight gain if these factors are not also taken into consideration. There is an emphasis on eating a variety of foods in order to make sure there are no nutrient deficiencies.
Eating multiple food types ensures a greater variety of protective food components such as plant chemicals (phytochemicals), antioxidants, and fiber that prevent cellular stresses, inhibit inflammatory signals caused by the immune system, promote healthy gut microbiota, and slow down digestion to prevent surges in blood glucose (Inflammopharmacology, 2019).
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods:
- High-Fiber Whole Grains
- Monounsaturated Fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, seeds)
- Polyunsaturated Omega-3 Fats (walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and aquatic foods including salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel)
- Dark Chocolate with at least 70% or higher cocoa solids
- Herbs, Spices (turmeric, ginger)
- Moderate Amounts of Alcohol (wine, beer)
There has been a lot of research into the Western diet looking at Metaflammation.
What the heck is that?
This is a form of metabolic inflammation that is associated with a diet composed of high saturated fats, processed meats, low fiber, refined sugars, salt, and white flour (Immunity, 2019). Following a diet that focuses on high fiber (whole grains and complex carbohydrates), unrefined oils, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein sources can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet, Vegan diet, and allergen elimination (FODMAP; SFED) diets have studies supporting that following one of these diets (or a hybrid version) improved inflammatory outcomes in patients with a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory illnesses. All of these diets include those foods listed above (high fiber, unrefined oils, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources).
While there are no strict guidelines- there are numerous resources to find recipes and help with meal planning, which are two factors that can be drawbacks to compliance.
Diabetes Food Hub is a great site to find recipes and meal plans to help with following a Mediterranean diet. Just use the search bar to find pages of foods to choose from. If meal planning is a challenge you can download the free app Mealime to your phone or go directly to the website to find recipes or set up a profile to create meal plans and grocery lists.
Needless to say, there are volumes of research that support getting away from the traditional Western Diet and look at making a lifestyle change to an anti-inflammatory eating pattern. You can modify these eating patterns to your lifestyle to make the transition more seamless and easier to follow.
Anti-inflammatory spices to add to your next dishes: