Hello friend! Welcome. If you’ve found yourself on this website, chances are you’re looking for a simple anti-inflammatory diet for you or a loved one to follow. Either way, I am glad you are here! I strive to take complex ideas and break them down into easy to understand, bite size pieces of information.
What is Inflammation
Simply put, inflammation is the immune systems response to injury or infection. While most inflammation is not considered helpful to your body, the type of inflammation that occurs with injury or infection is quite beneficial, because it begins the healing process following an injury, bacterial or viral infection. This type of inflammation has a protective effect.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the root cause of most chronic diseases, such as diabetes, depression, anxiety, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and other degenerative diseases. This type of inflammation is harmful to your body.
What causes inflammation
Now that we understand a little more about what inflammation is, let’s look at a few common causes of chronic inflammation.
Chronic, systemic inflammation naturally occurs during healthy aging, which can have an effect on cognitive function and cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the gut microbiome ages as we age, which leads to the start of many age-related diseases.
When the gut microbiome is unstable, it loses its ability to help reduce inflammation in the body. This can lead to a condition called leaky gut where the gut lining becomes compromised and allows the passage of food particles and other substance into the blood stream, triggering inflammation.
An unhealthy gut can also lead to disruptions in neurological functions that show up in your body as anxiety, depression, features of schizophrenia and even autism, showing a significant link to a decline in mental wellness as well.
Diet & Nutrition
The standard American diet is high in convenience foods, fast foods, sugary beverages and packaged items. This has led to a society plagued with chronic inflammation, resulting in obesity, chronic diseases and overall poor health.
Some studies estimate that up to 60% of chronic diseases could be prevented by a healthy diet. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can not only prevent inflammation from happening in the first place but can reduce inflammation after it has occurred. This should come as a relief, because everyone can adopt a healthier diet.
Consulting with a Registered Dietitian may beneficial in helping you transition to a healthier diet if this is not something you can do on your own.
Symptoms of Inflammation
There are many symptoms that you may feel if you have inflammation in your body. Some of the most common symptoms of chronic inflammation include digestive issues, skin rashes, fatigue, body aches, low grade fever and gas.
Inflammation can be treated in multiple ways, including home remedies, herbal treatments and conventional medical treatments. The right treatment is the treatment that you prefer and offers the results you are looking for. I lean toward natural treatments, when at all possible, but sometimes that is not enough.
For example, a couple of years ago I had sacroiliitis (inflammation of the joints where the lower spine and pelvis connect) and I don’t know that any number of herbal treatments would have touched the amount of inflammation and pain that I was suffering from. You have to do what is best for you in the moment.
Simple Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You may find it surprising that fighting inflammation starts with the items you decide to put on your plate and into your mouth each day. Likewise, your diet is also the easiest way to cause inflammation in your body. Therefore, following a simple anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to decrease inflammation in your body.
Following a Mediterranean diet is one of the best ways to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, according to research. The Mediterranean diet is rich in flavonoids and carotenoids because it is largely plant-based, plentiful in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. You can learn more about the specifics of the Mediterranean diet here.
If you are looking for a meal plan to follow, Registered Dietitian Su-Nui Escobar provides a 3-day anti-inflammatory diet meal plan that you can download as a free resource.
- Soda & sugary beverages (Ex. fruit punch, sweet tea)
- Sweets & sugar (Ex. table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cookies, cakes, candy)
- Refined Carbohydrates (Ex. white bread, white rice, pizza, waffles, pastries, donuts)
- Processed Meat (Ex. deli meat, hot dogs, pepperoni, beef jerky)
- Convenience foods (Ex. fast food, chips, crackers, junk food)
- Margarine, trans fats, vegetable oils
- Excessive alcohol
- Non-starchy vegetables (Ex. tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli)
- Olive Oil
- Nuts (Ex. almonds, walnuts)
- Fatty Fish (Ex. salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Berries (Ex. Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries)
Eating fiber-rich foods triggers the production of the short-chain fatty acid, butyrate. Studies show that butyrate may help delay age-related degeneration and inflammation of the brain through its anti-inflammatory properties.
What about Dairy and Gluten?
It is not generally necessary to eliminate dairy and gluten from your diet. However, if you are dairy or gluten sensitive or intolerant, consuming these items will create an inflammatory response. Reducing or eliminating them from your diet should be a priority in that case. Thankfully, there are a plethora of both dairy-free and gluten-free products available in most stores today.
I hope this blog post has brought massive clarity to you about the simple anti-inflammatory diet. My goal is for you to learn actionable items that feel “doable” and not too overwhelming. Don’t forget to download your handy tip sheet “The Mental Wellness Dietitians Guide to Anti-Inflammatory Foods”.
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
Karakula-Juchnowicz, Hanna et al. “The study evaluating the effect of probiotic supplementation on the mental status, inflammation, and intestinal barrier in major depressive disorder patients using gluten-free or gluten-containing diet (SANGUT study): a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical study protocol.” Nutrition journal vol. 18,1 50. 31 Aug. 2019, doi:10.1186/s12937-019-0475-x
Limketkai, Berkeley N et al. “Dietary interventions for induction and maintenance of remission in inflammatory bowel disease.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2,2 CD012839. 8 Feb. 2019, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012839.pub2
Maroon JC, Bost JW, Maroon A. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surg Neurol Int. 2010;1:80. Published 2010 Dec 13. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.73804
Matt, Stephanie M et al. “Butyrate and Dietary Soluble Fiber Improve Neuroinflammation Associated With Aging in Mice.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 9 1832. 14 Aug. 2018, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01832
Shivappa, Nitin et al. “Dietary Inflammatory Index and Cardiovascular Risk and Mortality-A Meta-Analysis.” Nutrients vol. 10,2 200. 12 Feb. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10020200
“The Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle.” UW Integrative Health, Oct. 2018, www.fammed.wisc. edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout_ai_diet_patient.pdf.
Willett, Walter C. “The Mediterranean diet: science and practice.” Public health nutritionvol. 9,1A (2006): 105-10. doi:10.1079/phn2005931
Angela Lewis Lago MS, RDN, LDN is a Registered Dietitian. She specialized in Clinical Nutrition Management , Malnutrition, Gut Health and Mental Wellness. Angela holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.