Breaking up with bad food

Why starting an ani-inflammatory diet will benefit you.

Our Faircape Pharmacists have put together a useful guide on how breaking up with bad food and going on a ‘diet’ will benefit your body, and your heart.

Your diet (and diet choices) have an effect on inflammation in your body.

When you cut your finger, it becomes red and inflamed, and when you hurt your knee, it gets swollen and inflamed. But what, exactly, does inflammation mean for your internal organs?

A little bit of inflammation contributes to your body’s healing when it is injured, but when inflammation becomes chronic, it can trigger disease processes. Chronic inflammation can damage your heart, brain, and other organs; it also plays a role in nearly every major illness, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

Inflammation can be brought on by specific foods and medical conditions, much like the inflammation that follows an injury.

The food we eat—and don’t eat—can reduce and even prevent inflammation. 

Chronic illness

If you are living with a chronic health condition, you may be living with chronic inflammation as well. A few general acute inflammation associations include refined starches, processed meats, and gluten and dairy. Conditions associated with inflammation include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis

Food sensitivities

Even if you don’t have a chronic condition, you may experience inflammation when eating foods your body is sensitive to. When you have an acute immune response to food, your antibodies increase, causing inflammation.

But foods that cause inflammation in one person might not cause it in others—for example, you can enjoy the occasional slice of pizza without issue, whereas doing so causes severe internal inflammation in someone else with a gluten sensitivity. It is important to remember that, although you may not notice any physical signs of inflammation, all processed foods can cause internal inflammation. Even if you don’t have a particular sensitivity to a food type, keep this in mind. 

How your body experiences inflammation

Even though some physical symptoms can alert you to this type of hidden inflammation in your body, you might not even be aware of it. You could develop hand and foot swelling, skin rashes, redness, or puffiness. Your abdomen might also feel constricted. Other clues of inflammation can include fatigue, weight gain, achy joints and muscles, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues. Inflammation may also cause your immune system to be more sensitive to colds and the flu, which may linger longer. 

How to start an anti-inflammatory diet

Your body’s inflammatory responses can be suppressed by the foods you eat (and avoid), which can help to relieve and even prevent inflammation. However, because not all bodies are the same and inflammatory triggers are different, there is no one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory diet.

Below, we help you understand how foods can trigger inflammation in your body:

Reduce your processed foods

The first key to minimising inflammation is cutting out foods that cause it. This usually means avoiding anything in a box or a bag, as well as anything with a long list of ingredients, especially if they begin with sugar, salt, or a processed oil and includes ingredients you don’t recognise.

Examples of these foods are:

  • Sweets –  commercial baked goods, pre-packaged desserts, ice cream and sweets
  • Snack foods – potato chips and microwave popcorn
  • Processed meats – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, polony, and salami.
  • Processed cheeses – individually wrapped cheese
  • Sugary beverages – some juices and gas cooldrinks
  • Fried foods – fried chicken, burgers, fried fish and other deep fried foods
  • Some healthy snacks –  granola bars, trail mix and baked chips; these may have processed ingredients, including added sodium and sugar.

Focus on whole foods

Whole foods are a healthy alternative that can help with any type of inflammation. A whole food is a one-ingredient food, an unprocessed food type, such as an apple, an orange, or a cucumber. Whole foods are anything that can be found in nature. 

In addition to fruits and vegetables, other examples include:

  • Brown or wild rice
  • Chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Oily fish  – salmon, tuna, herring or mackerel
  • Legumes – dried beans, peas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oats

Certain foods with more than one ingredient can still be considered a whole food—for example,  hummus, dried fruit and nut snack mix, or a pasta sauce. Choosing whole grain-based, minimally processed, minimally preserved breads and pastas is the solution.

The key is to always review the ingredient list.

The best anti-inflammatory diets to try

There is no one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet are two successful and proven ways of eating when attempting to reduce internal inflammation. These ways of eating can also help with cholesterol, weight loss, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a heart-healthy eating style popular among people living along the Mediterranean Sea. A foundation of this diet is fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which has been proven to reduce inflammation. This diet focuses on whole foods and omega-3 fatty acids. It also eliminates processed oils, which are found in many ultra-processed foods.

The DASH Diet

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to reduce high blood pressure. This diet reduces inflammation and blood pressure and promotes weight loss, both of which are associated with acute inflammation. The DASH diet limits protein, sweets, and processed foods but includes more dairy, and it does not specifically encourage fish or extra-virgin olive oil.

Is eating vegan beneficial?

Certain types of meat can assist with the effects of inflammation. However, reducing animal products does not necessarily mean eating healthier.

Eating a plant-based diet can help suppress inflammation, but vegetarian, pescetarian, and even vegan diets can still unhealthy foods.

If needed, try an elimination diet

You might need to take additional steps if you’ve stopped eating processed foods but are still experiencing inflammation-related symptoms. Finding out which foods trigger inflammation in your body can be difficult. The best way to get started is to try an elimination diet and gradually eliminate each potential trigger food.

There are a lot of different ways your body can react to an anti-inflammatory diet. These include:

  • Improved skin health
  • Decreased muscle and joint pain
  • Decreased swelling in the hands and feet
  • Fewer headaches
  • Improved gastrointestinal health
  • Better sleep
  • Less anxiety, stress and/or brain fog
  • Less bloating
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lower blood sugar
  • More energy
  • Weight loss

When will results be visible?

Depending on how severe your inflammation and intolerance are, an anti-inflammatory diet will have different effects on you.  You might start to feel better as soon as two to three weeks after cutting out the food you have had a significant inflammation reaction to it.

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