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These Everyday Foods Help Fight Inflammation

Poor diet, sleep deprivation and stress are 'inflaming'.

Whether you've got a bruise, pimple or cut, inflammation in the body is something we can experience on a daily basis.

However, there are different levels of inflammation -- some are safe, while others are chronic -- and factors like poor diet, stress, inactivity, sleep deprivation and obesity can exacerbate inflammation.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to help our bodies fight inflammation, as well as reduce it in the first place.

What is inflammation?

"Inflammation is a normal and necessary process of self-protection," Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitian from The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

"When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological process to try and remove it and begin the healing process."

The problem arises when this inflammatory process goes on for too long, or if there is too much of it.

What causes inflammation?

According to accredited practising dietitian from The Biting Truth Alexandra Parker, there are many reasons inflammation can occur in the body.

"There are two types of inflammation -- good and bad," Parker explained.

"Acute inflammation happens when you injure yourself (for example, you get a cut, burn or bruise), and your blood rises and body temperature increases as part of the immune system's response to injury or infection. We need this inflammation so that our body can heal.

"Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not good and can result in damage, and is involved in many chronic diseases."

Lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, inactivity, smoking, air pollution, sleep deprivation and obesity have all been linked to cause extended inflammation.

A bruise or sports injury = inflammation.
A bruise or sports injury = inflammation.

What can happen if there's extended inflammation in the body?

Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system attacks the body's healthy cells, and can manifest itself in different ways from one person to another.

"Extended inflammation, also known as 'chronic inflammation', in the body can cause long-term disease," Debenham said.

"In one person it may show up as heart disease, in another person as acne, and in another as obesity."

"Chronic inflammation accompanies obesity and may be one explanation for the increased risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and many cancers in those who are obese," Parker added.

"Weight loss whilst suffering chronic inflammation is difficult, as your body will prioritise managing the effects of inflammation (for example, nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances) rather than focusing on losing weight."

Extended sleep deprivation can cause inflammation.
Extended sleep deprivation can cause inflammation.

As Debenham explained, "the problem arises when this inflammatory process goes on for too long, or if there is too much of it".

"Chronic inflammation is constantly on, silently damaging tissues, and increasing your risk of disease."

Can certain foods cause inflammation?

There are certain foods which may 'switch on' inflammatory processes within the body. Unsurprisingly, they are foods which are generally not good for our health.

"Unhealthy fats, such as trans fats or saturated fats, may turn on inflammatory processes," Parker told HuffPost Australia.

"Avoid processed junk foods, refined carbohydrates and excessive alcohol consumption."

What foods fight inflammation?

While there's no 'one' food which fights or counteracts inflammation, there are foods which can help.

"Evidence supporting the impact of specific foods on inflammation in the body is limited. We do know some foods can suppress inflammation, but we don't know how much and how often is needed for this benefit," Parker said.

"Research indicates that eating certain foods (for example, fatty fish, leafy greens and berries) may help with reducing the risk of inflammation and reduce the severity of inflammation present when it occurs with various diseases and conditions."

An anti-inflammatory diet is close to the Mediterranean diet -- that is, one which involves whole, unprocessed foods, including the consumption of the following foods:

  • Leafy greens (rich in polyphenols and antioxidants which can help to manage inflammation)
  • Variety of fruits (especially berries)
  • Legumes (like chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils)
  • Healthy fats (fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil)
  • Herbs and spices (like cinnamon and turmeric)

"Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation," Debenham said.

"Aim to include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) in your diet 2-3 times per week to reap the benefits. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, walnuts, poultry and eggs."

There are also other lifestyle-related things we can do to help reduce inflammation -- namely managing stress levels and prioritising gut health and good-quality sleep.

"Create a healthy gut by eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics," Parker said. "Reduce stress levels through exercise and meditation, and get plenty of sleep."

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