Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Manage and prevent inflammation with balanced, anti-inflammatory diet

As the root of much of what ails us, inflammation is usually an unwanted part of our daily lives.  Whether it fuels the fire of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, digestive problems or allergy, inflammation is something with which to be reckoned if we wish to stay well.  We fight it with medicine, try to keep it at bay with physical activity and even try to alleviate it with alternative treatments like massage therapy and acupuncture.  Sometimes we get so frustrated with its effects on us and how difficult it seems to conquer, that we give up on fighting it; the resulting chronic discomfort then wears upon us, rocking the balance of our mood and denying us of the hope of a healthier life.

Well, all hope is not lost.  Inflammation can be controlled.  Granted, it does take you deciding today is the day to start the fight.  To control it from all directions, thus piecing together your best made plan.  And, in case you wondered…yes…diet plays a significant role.

Outside of diet, work with a team of professionals to help you win.  Discuss medicines with your doctor to make sure you only take the necessary ones and avoid unnecessary over-the-counter remedies whose short term relief may in turn increase inflammation in the long run.  Next, consider alternative therapies such as massage or acupuncture if conventional remedies are not helping as much as you would like.  Be sure to discuss therapies with your primary care physician, as well as any herbal supplements you wish to consider.  Much like exercise, many alternative therapies work best when done as part of a regular routine.  For instance, getting massage therapy monthly may keep you in a better state of balance than having it done only a couple times per year.  And, of course, physical activity is one of the best ways to control inflammation, too.  While too much of it can fire up inflammation and put your body at risk of damage, too little can allow inflammation to spiral out of control.  If you are not sure how to best incorporate physical activity, including how to practice yoga and more mindful, stress-relieving activities, work with a personal trainer or ask for tips at a local studio/gym.  Ah, and stress – seek ways to reduce stress – either through the above mentioned techniques or in combination with psychotherapy (counseling).

Then, of course, back to nourishing your body from the inside out, aim to select anti-inflammatory foods as the core of your lifelong eating pattern.  Certainly, this means less processed foods and more natural foods.  However, there are other important nutrition tips to be learned, as well.  One of the more prominent figures in the anti-inflammatory diet is Dr Andrew Weil.  Visit his website www.drweil.com to read his tips.  Additionally, here are some smart things you can do to spruce up your diet:

  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables regularly – at meals and in between meals.  The phytonutrients, water content and nutritional profile of these foods spells relief!
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined ones.  Put away that sugar laden cold cereal and serve up a bowl of warm oatmeal or quinoa in the morning.  No white bread – choose whole grain natural bread without a lot of fillers or artificial ingredients.
  • Watch out for salt/sodium!  Avoid salting your food and select naturally lower sodium foods.  Read labels to identify hidden sodium.  Try not to go above 2000mg daily if you can.
  • Examine your fat intake.  Aim to select monounsaturated fats as your primary fat source, rather than saturated, trans or certain polyunsaturated fats which can fuel inflammation.  Monounsaturated fats are in canola oil, olive oil and in many nuts and seeds.  Omega-3 fats (an exception to the polyunsaturated fat rule) are in fact very anti-inflammatory and can be found in fatty, cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies, as well as in foods like walnuts, flaxseed, soy products, fortified eggs (i.e. Eggland’s Best) and in supplement form.  Discuss the possibility of taking a supplement such as fish oil with your dietitian (if you have one!) and physician.
  • Limit red meat and high fat animal products.  If you are underweight (or considering your infant’s diet), certain amounts of higher fat dairy products may have a healthy place in your meal plan (i.e. selecting whole milk over skim milk, etc.) Work with a dietitian to be sure.
  • Skip the fast food drive-through altogether!
  • Drink plenty of water and unsweetened, caffeine-free tea.  100% juice can play a small but healthy role in your hydration, too.  Other beverages to consider are milk products or milk alternatives.  Discuss what is best for you with a dietitian.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.  If you do choose to healthfully consume alcohol in your adult years, select red wine.  More than one or two 5-ounce glasses of wine daily can increase inflammation, though.
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