Battling Inflammation with Food

You may be able to reduce chronic inflammation – believed to be an underlying cause of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and arthritis – through the foods that you eat.

Inflammation is usually thought of as a short-term response to injury, infection or pathogens that can result in pain, swelling, fever and fatigue. But inflammation can be ongoing as well.

Auto-immune disorders, such as many forms of arthritis, lupus and colitis, are caused by an overactive immune system, and are the most well-known diseases associated with a chronic inflammatory response.

However, more and more research is indicating that a host of other conditions may also be linked to of chronic low-grade inflammation. The inflammation is at low enough levels that it doesn't produce pain or symptoms (unlike with autoimmune disorders) while it silently does its damage, possibly contributing to illness and disease such as:

• Atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty deposits in the artery walls
• Heart attack and stroke
• Cancer
• Diabetes
• Alzheimer's disease

So how do you reduce this ongoing inflammation? It appears that the food you eat, and the compounds they contain, may a hold an important key. These foods make up what some now call the "anti-inflammation diet."

The point of an anti-inflammation diet is not to lose weight, although it is not uncommon to do just that, as the foods are the same fresh, healthy ones recommended for weight loss. Instead, the goal is to combat the chronic, silent inflammation in the body which results from an immune system that doesn't know when to shut off.

First, foods that promote or increase inflammation such as saturated fats, trans fats, corn and soybean oil, refined carbohydrates, sugars, red meat and dairy, are reduced or eliminated.

The diet is high in antioxidant foods (antioxidants reduce the activity of tissue-damaging free radicals at sites of inflammation.) and includes:

• Oily fish, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids
• Vegetables
• Whole grains
• Nuts
• Lean protein sources
• Spices such as garlic and curcumin (or turmeric, a curry spice)
• Brightly colored fruits, such as blueberries, cherries and pomegranates
• Resveratrol (in grape skin and red wine)

If the list looks familiar, it is because it contains all the main elements of the Mediterranean Diet, which we often talk about on this site. It appears that the anti-inflammatory properties of these foods may be responsible in part for many of the numerous benefits (see New Research Backs Up Mediterranean Diet Benefits ) associated with this healthful way eating.

Some of the active compounds in these foods (resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, fruit and vegetable complexes) are available in concentrated extracts. Adopting the anti-inflammatory, or Mediterranean, diet, and taking a full spectrum supplement such as as Basic Nutrient Support® can help you get optimal amounts of these nutrients each day.

Another important way to decrease inflammation is to maintain a healthy weight. When a person is overweight or obese, body fat breaks down into fatty acids, which circulate in the blood. These fatty acids promote an immune response in the same way that infection does, increasing inflammation. But, as we mentioned earlier, following an anti-inflammatory diet often has the added benefit of assisting with weight loss.

Dr. Reginald B. Cherry ( is a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Cherry has authored numerous articles on Preventive Medicine, emphasizing nutrition and exercise. He also speaks extensively on these topics nationwide and conducts numerous seminars for various groups and organizations. Currently, his weekly television program reaches 80 million homes.

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