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Reducing Inflammation with Diet

By Kristina Gorden, RN

Chronic illness is something that many of our patients deal with daily. If you are dealing with chronic illness, it is likely you are also dealing with chronic inflammation. Inflammation can contribute to different health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Crohn’s disease to name a few. To assess inflammation, we can check inflammatory markers to see the degree of inflammation a patient is dealing with. These labs can include but are not limited to: C reactive protein, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), homocysteine, and hemoglobin A1C. The good news is inflammation can be greatly reduced through simple changes that can be made through diet.

One of the first things that can be done to help decrease inflammation, is to remove processed foods. Although these foods can be convenient, highly processed foods often contain high amounts of salt, sugar, and inflammatory oils such as canola oil. They can also contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and monosodium glutamate. These ingredients are added to foods to make them more appealing and addicting to the consumer. Unfortunately, children are often targeted with these snacks, treats, and desserts. Even snacks marketed as healthy can contain these ingredients. It is important to always turn the package over and check the ingredients before purchasing these items. It is almost impossible to avoid packaged foods, but when you do choose a packaged product, make sure the ingredients are simple and contain ingredients you understand.

Instead of consuming a lot of processed foods, it is best to focus on whole foods. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends eating 4-5 servings of vegetables a day. One serving is equal to 2 cups of salad greens or ½ cup of cooked, raw, or juiced vegetables. He also recommends consuming 3-4 servings of fruit per day. One serving is equal to 1 medium-sized piece of fruit, ½ cup of chopped fruit, and ½ cup of dried fruit. Other examples of whole foods include nuts and seeds, eggs, oats, rice, and legumes. Chicken and turkey breast, as well as oily fish (such as salmon), are also good sources of protein. Incorporating healthy fats such as avocado and extra virgin olive oil can help reduce inflammation as they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh turmeric and garlic can be found in the produce section and can be added to dishes such as stir-frys and soups to further decrease inflammation. High-quality organic green tea can be enjoyed as it contains antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. Eliminating gluten and dairy can also be helpful in this process.

When making dietary changes, it is important to start by making a few small changes at a time as drastic sudden changes can be hard to stick with long-term. Be patient if you are not seeing results right away. Small changes made over time can make a substantial impact on your health. As inflammation decreases, you may experience more energy, less pain, lower blood pressure, clearer skin, and better blood sugar control. As Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.“


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