Updated: Mar 30
The Rise of Inflammatory Diseases
While inflammation remains a leading cause in disease states, practitioners still have no control over optimal health in regard to finding a cure or sustainable remissible treatments for these conditions. Our economy is in a global crisis experiencing inflammatory diseases. This pandemic condition is due to eating an improper diet and imbalance of macro and micronutrients.
The majority of dietary intake comes from refined and processed foods and inflammation is fueled by this. The demand for answers has initiated a wave of interest in the research of anti-inflammatory foods. Inflammation in defense of the immune system protects the human body from infection and other insults, such as inflammation in the tissue.
Vitamin, Mineral, and Energy dependant cells are left to struggle and thus remain impaired due to insufficient demands. Fruit and Vegetable interventions have been successful in reducing the effect on inflammation of proteins. Marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, flavonoids, pre and probiotics, all have anti-inflammatory effects.
Inflammation is a term quickly becoming a focus in healthcare. Americans have been increasingly plagued by chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancers. .
Up until very recently, the rise in chronic disease has been regarded as unpreventable and largely ignored. Thanks to the demand for information and answers, a powerful wave of interest and research is bringing to light the undeniable parallel between the change in our food system and the rise of these chronic diseases. While there is no official anti-inflammatory diet in the U.S., anti-inflammatory foods are recommended to promote wellness and decrease the likelihood of disease.
Understanding the Inflammatory Process in Connection with Food
Since inflammation is caused by the immune system in response to injury, we have to consider what exactly is happening in our bodies to identify specific dietary recommendations. Basophils and mast cells degranulate, basically releasing chemical mediators that initiate the inflammatory response. This process needs to be stopped, reversed, or quickly executed to prevent chronic inflammation in which we experience disease. .
Another important factor in inflammation is its connection with society's epidemic of chronic widespread disease states. A reduction of arachidonic acid, which converts to prostaglandins through Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, is ideal to suppress inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Psoriasis, and Cardiovascular Disease. . With food as a dietary strategy to prevent disease, scientist suggests eicosanoids, transcription factors (aka NF-kB), polyphenols, along with probiotics and prebiotics, be utilized in anti-inflammatory processes. .
According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “Chronic disease is driven by inflammation.” . To create an inflammation-free body and the ultimate environment for your body to thrive and achieve longevity. (Sears, 2015) concludes that “This chronic cellular inflammation below the perception of pain that is the driving force in the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes." .
Health benefits of consuming anti-inflammatory foods are a reversal of immune processes and reduced inflammation, antioxidants such as vitamin C & vitamin E act as a line of defense against oxidative and inflammatory stress; and aid in the activation of NF-kB through the production of proteins. Pre and Probiotics act as assisted fermenters of bacteria in the intestine to aid in the digestion of foods and limit defense mechanism of proinflammatory cytokines in the digestive tract. .
Testing for Inflammatory Diseases
Getting testing frequently for these disease states will help ensure you are treating your condition through the utilization of diet and stabilizing your immune system during inflammation response. . Specific biomarkers or common blood tests often initiated in seeking out acute or chronic inflammation are blood tests that account for WBC count, WBC differentials, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, c reactive protein, complement activity, prothrombin time, and fibrinogen. The Cycle is Disease equals inflammation, Inflammation equals eating right, and Eating Right equals wellness.
Reducing inflammation through nutrition is not so simple. Vitamin A, retinoic acid, in particular, has immune-modulating effects that can be produced by some of the immune system cells. . Ingesting foods high in retinoic acid can help gut flora become more tolerant of foods that would normally produce a pro-inflammatory response. Vitamin D has immunosuppressive effects and deficiency plays a vital role in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. .
The Mediterranean diet which is flourished with fruits, vegetables, and marine animals, along with a moderate amount of dark chocolate and red wine is also suggested as a habit that should be adopted when facing challenging inflammatory diseases. This diet supports weight loss for obesity as well as other disease states that are influenced by the immune system processes. .
Omega 3 fatty acids are related to anti-inflammatory immune mediators, which can be shortened to form eicosapentaenoic acid, while Arachidonic acid is pro-inflammatory. Arachidonic acid synthesizes inflammation responses prostaglandins in the immune repose mediation. Omega 3 fatty acid is responsible for the production of anti-inflammatory mediators, resolving, and protectins. .
The recommended foods that are suggested are omega 3 fatty acids, which can mainly found in plant and fish sources; tannins/proanthocyanidins, vitamin A; vitamin D; vitamin C; and Vitamin E. .
Foods Not Recommended
Foods not recommended are the obvious processed foods and refined sugars. Although it is highly recommended that red meats and grain be avoided. Red meats, as well as grain, consist of tons of B vitamins as well as minerals. Although B vitamins are generally good for the body, in immune regulation and inflammatory response, B vitamins as well as specific minerals such as zinc, selenium, copper, and iron, can be a problem in strengthening immune response and cells; allowing inflammation to remain steady in continuation. .
Positives and Negatives
While it is difficult to find a drawback of eating for anti-inflammation, adopting this diet initially may prove difficult for those who have become accustomed to the standard American diet (SAD). The anti-inflammatory diet is compatible with many whole-foods plant-based, and Mediterranean style diets and will not only prevent silent inflammation and disease, but will also promote outward benefits such as healthy weight, improved skin and hair, and heightened energy levels.
Sears makes mention that “A major problem in nutrition is that if one macronutrient goes up, then another must come down. The challenge is to find the right macronutrient combination to maintain the appropriate synergy of hormonal responses consistent with the continuous control of cellular inflammation”. When recommending or adopting this diet, ensure a well-rounded balance to include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water.
*Edited from the original document. Tables not included, text-only revised edition.
Written By: Jasmine Blake, MS, HHP and Stephanie Balkovec
Clinical Nutrition and Integrative Health team at Maryland University of Integrative Health
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