Inflammation is at the root of many health problems—especially chronic ones that people live with on a daily basis. In fact, as many as 350 million people worldwide deal with chronic inflammation each year, alongside the conditions it causes. This includes everything from arthritis to acne, cardiovascular disease to inflammatory bowel syndrome—just to name a few of the most common. Simply put, inflammation is a scourge on the human body.
While there are plenty of medications available to reduce inflammation, it’s often more beneficial to fight the root cause of inflammation. For many people, that starts with diet. What you eat has a profound effect on your health and can influence how your body responds to inflammatory triggers.
If you’re someone living with chronic inflammation—or even if you’re not—it’s beneficial to explore the prospects of an anti-inflammatory diet.
What’s an anti-inflammatory diet?
While some diets focus on eliminating carbs or dictate when you should eat, an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eliminating those foods that are proven to provoke an inflammatory response from the body.
Some of the foods excluded in an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Red meats and processed meats
- Processed snacks like chips and cookies
- High-sugar foods like ice cream or candy
- Sugary juices and carbonated beverages
- Foods high in trans fats
- Refined carbohydrates
These foods have all been linked to an inflammatory response from the body. People with chronic inflammation often report flare-ups and pain after ingesting these food products.
Conversely, there are just as many foods that offer anti-inflammatory properties when ingested. After removing the above-mentioned foods from your diet, be sure to add as many of these as possible:
- Leafy greens, including dark leafy greens
- Fresh vegetables like broccoli
- Healthy fats like olive oil and avocado
- Nuts and legumes
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Berries, including blueberries
- Fresh fruits like oranges and pineapple
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
These foods have the opposite effect and can either suppress inflammation or alleviate the body’s inflammatory response.
Why does an anti-inflammatory diet work?
Anti-inflammatory diets work through both addition and subtraction. On the subtraction side of things, you’re tamping down on refined sugars and processed additives that may be more difficult for your body to digest—and which can cause an immune response when digested in large quantities.
On the addition side, most of the foods listed above contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and natural vitamins (A, B, C and D). Moreover, many anti-inflammatory foods also contain polyphenols, which are proven to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
This winning combination can greatly improve how your body reacts to internal and external stimuli on a daily basis—everything from stress to medication.
Who benefits from an anti-inflammatory diet?
The short answer to who could benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet is “everyone!” Inflammation is linked to all manner of health conditions and quality-of-life reductions, which means anyone can benefit from reducing or preventing it. That said, generally healthy individuals don’t need to adopt the anti-inflammatory diet to the same degree as those already suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions.
If you’re a person living with an autoimmune condition or someone with an illness that’s made worse by inflammation, it’s important to take your diet very seriously. For many, changes to diet are the missing link between feeling miserable and proactively managing your condition. Diet can also supplement doctor-prescribed medications to control inflammation, or they may even be enough on their own!
Some of the most common conditions that benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular conditions like hypertension
- Age-related conditions like dementia
- Chronic conditions like acne
If you’re living with a condition that’s made better or worse by lifestyle choices, odds are that improving your diet will have a positive effect on your quality of life.
Everyone can benefit from reduced inflammation
As mentioned, inflammation is disruptive for everyone—and everyone deals with it to some degree. Athletes need to fight inflammation after an intense workout, just like an arthritis sufferer needs to deal with it during a flare-up. In many ways, inflammation is the human condition. We can all take steps to alleviate and prevent it.
For most people, diet is the first, easiest and best step toward living a life with minimal inflammation. It doesn’t matter what condition you’re living with or how you choose to lead your lifestyle—what you put in your body is important. Substituting leafy greens for a fatty steak or eating dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate can go a long way in helping your body fight off the inflammation it’s prone to suffering from.