More and more research is confirming that chronic inflammation contributes to a myriad of disease states and general ill health. Stress, poor diet, inadequate hydration, excess weight, and lack of sleep all contribute to an increase in cortisol levels, insulin levels, and inflammation. While the body might be able to overcome one or two of these imbalances, when multiple inflammatory factors are in play for a long period of time, the body just can’t find a way to reestablish health.
Diet can play a huge role in both protecting against and healing inflammation. Weight loss itself reduces inflammation and we all know that diet is key in affecting weight change. Beyond that, however, certain foods can promote or reduce inflammation. Here are 5 ways to reduce inflammation and improve your health through your diet.
- More Omega-3s – omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that reduce inflammation. Without going into too much scientific detail, suffice to say that some fats are composed in a way that promotes inflammatory pathways, while others – like omega-3 fatty acids – reduce it. Consuming higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids is a sure way to reduce inflammation and improve overall health and wellbeing. Probably the best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fatty fish like salmon. Other great sources include walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. Fish oil supplements are also a good option.
- Less Omega-6s – This goes hand-in-hand with the first recommendation. Swapping out omega-6 fatty acids for omega-3s will reduce inflammation and also improve heart health. Avoid excess grains and processed vegetable oils like corn and soy. Additionally, although not specifically omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats are also pro-inflammatory and should be avoided.
- Gut Health – the human gut is full of bacteria and fungi. When this balance gets out of whack, the bad bacteria and fungi override the good and lead to health imbalances and increased inflammation. A good probiotic, fermented foods, and general healthful eating full of fruits and veggies and devoid of processed carbs, will help re-establish healthy gut flora and reduce inflammation. As a bonus, healthy gut flora is also related to better moods and reduced weight. Kimchi, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, natto, and traditionally fermented pickles are all great natural probioitic options.
- Bye-bye, Sugar – sugar is a known inflammatory agent. Increased sugar consumption, whether in the form of actual sweets or refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, increases blood glucose levels and causes a cascade of reactions that increase bodily inflammation. Avoid processed baked goods, candies, and sweets, opting instead for fresh fruits and occasional natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup.
- Hydrate! Poor hydration stresses the body and increases inflammation. Aim to drink mostly water throughout the day, at least 6-8 eight-ounce glasses. If you’re looking for other, more “exciting” options, consider adding fruit or herbs like basil or mint to your water, drinking carbonated water, or herbal teas.
Small changes can have a big impact. Reducing inflammation can not only result in immediate positive changes like reduced headaches and other aches and pains, but also more long-term effects like reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. If you’re having trouble making changes, come see us at CoreLife for help with accountability and tricks for getting on the right path to health.
Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN