Fighting Inflammation with Food | One Healthy Boston

Orthopedics

Fighting Inflammation with Food

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, but there is another common inflammation trigger that is often overlooked. And, it might be sitting on your dinner plate. There are a few ways to relieve inflammation symptoms, but addressing some inflammatory conditions might start with adopting a healthier diet.

Inflammation

When the body is injured, or detects something foreign in its system, it responds by sending blood to what it believes to be the affected area. Its intentions are good; it does this in an attempt to repair the damage or correct the issue. Of course, we all know what they say about good intentions.

That surplus of blood does promote healing, so long as it is temporary. When it persists, it can result in excess swelling, pressure buildup, or irritation, harming the body rather than healing it. This prolonged inflammatory response is detrimental to our overall joint health. It causes discomfort in several areas throughout the body and can even progress into a chronic pain condition if it isn’t properly addressed.

Nutrition’s Role in Treating Inflammation

Using rest, ice, or anti-inflammatory aids to reduce the swelling is typically the first step in treating inflammation. But, it isn’t the only thing we can do to relieve and prevent inflammation symptoms.

The food we eat affects every aspect of our health and wellness. When we eat overly-processed foods that are high in saturated fats or artificial sweeteners, our digestive system may react to them poorly. This reaction is what triggers the inflammation response in our system. Eliminating these foods and transitioning to an anti-inflammatory diet is an effective way to avoid this response while improving our health overall.

An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Elimination diets have grown in popularity in recent years, even for those who do not suffer from a genuine food intolerance or sensitivity. While gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives are trendy and can be helpful for those with specific sensitivities, they aren’t always the healthiest option for others. In fact, many of these alternatives rely on more artificial ingredients, additives, and substitutes that can potentially trigger an inflammatory response in our digestive system.

For those who do try elimination diets, it can take a while for the body to adjust. Symptoms of inflammation likely won’t dissipate right away. It can take a couple of weeks for our systems to reset, and for us to notice any positive changes. As always, it is important to listen to the body, and to pay attention to any changes – positive or negative – that occur after any foods are eliminated.

An anti-inflammatory diet is one that focuses on healthy, sustainable dietary options like:

  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants help our digestive system by aiding in breaking food down. They can be found in foods like berries, nuts, and leafy greens.
  • Lean Proteins – Low-fat proteins found in fish, white meat, and some dairy products help to strengthen and repair muscles.
  • Calcium – Calcium strengthens and protects our bones. Cheese, Greek yogurt, and milk are all wonderful sources of calcium as well as protein.
  • Essential Vitamins – We need a variety of essential vitamins and minerals in order to stay healthy. Many of them can be found in leafy greens and whole fruits or vegetables.

Smoking, excessive alcohol use, and certain medications may also contribute to inflammation. In addition to adopting a healthier diet, I advise all of my patients to eliminate these substances, and to talk to their primary care providers about any potential risks associated with their current medications.

Visit the South Shore Health website to find a physician or to find additional help for nutrition and healthy eating.

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