Nutrition for Inflammation
Inflammation- the term gets thrown around for everything from knee pain, to dietary changes, to swelling & rashes. But what really is inflammation? And is it always bad?
Inflammation is any process by which the body's white blood cells and substances it produces protect us from infection from foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Inflammation can be acute - short term - or chronic - lasting greater than a few days to weeks. When one is initially injured, inflammation is actually GOOD! We want the body to do its job in initiating the healing process. However, when this process lingers on for more than a few hours to days, the process can switch from a positive to a negative effect.
Injury and infection are not the only causes of chronic inflammation. There are many possible factors including one's nutrition, chemical irritants such as polluted air, and many medical diseases, all which can have large effects on the overall state of the body.
So, with all these causes, what do we do?! Luckily, nutrition is one aspect of life that we have control over in regards to addressing inflammation within the body. We can positively affect systemic inflammation by adding in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. However we can also negatively affect it with adding in too much of some substances, such as sugar.
Here are some types and tricks to maximize your nutrition to keep systemic inflammation at bay!
What should I add in?
· Vitamin D: Most common deficiency in the northern hemisphere & among those suffering from chronic pain
o Recommended: Find a Vitamin D supplement that consists of Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K to maximize absorption: 2000-4000 IU/Day
· Omega—3 Oils: Studies have demonstrated increased amounts have resulted in overall reduced pain and improved quality of life
o Recommended: 250 to 3000 mg of combined EPA and DHA, can be found in salmon, anchovies, tuna, fish oil supplements
· Vitamin B12: Deficiency results in neurological dysfunction and chronic pain
o Recommended: 1000 mcg/d to reduce pain, insomnia, and fatigue – found in Trout, Salmon, Beef, Yogurt, Tuna, Eggs, Clams, Crab
· Vitamin C: Essential for tissue repair and adaptations to stress (chronic pain!), need varies day to day based on levels of stress/injury
o Recommended: 2000 mg/day – found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, parsley, potatoes, citrus fruits
· Magnesium: Natural muscle relaxant to help alleviate cramps, spasms, myofascial tightness, and trigger points; has benefits with fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, blood pressure, migraine, sleeping and neuropathic pain
o Recommended: 200-400 mg/daily – decrease if have overdose symptoms of diarrhea
· Turmeric and Ginger: Studies have shown ginger as an anti-inflammatory to treat pain & curcurmin to have equal benefits as ibuprofen for pain
o Recommended: Curcurmin (component of Turmeric) – best absorbed in presence of oil and black pepper
Cinnamon: Research shows its ability to lower blood sugar and insulin resistance that can indirectly affect pain and reduce inflammation
Why avoid excess sugar?
· High glycemic foods that spike blood sugar quickly & result in reactive drop in blood sugar that can precipitate food cravings & increase inflammation
· The WHO recommends no more than 50 grams of sugar/day, with <25 grams having additional health benefits – Standard American diet consists of ~101 grams/day
· This recommendation does not include sugar from fresh fruits and vegetables – no adverse effects have been found with consumption of sugar from these natural sources
Which fats are best to consume?
What are Omega-6 vs. Omega 3?
· Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory, while Omega 3’s have anti-inflammatory properties.
What has changed?
· Diets previously consisted of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
· Modern diet now consist of closer to 25:1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio = HIGHER INFLAMMATION
· Increased American consumption of hydrogenated and industrially processed vegetable fats have correlated with increase in heart disease
Which to consume?
· Best: Fish, Flaxseed, Walnut
· Worst: Safflower, Sunflower, Corn