Inflammation is an important part of the human immune system. When you’re injured or attacked by a harmful virus, inflammation is part of your body’s natural response. But when the body is constantly inflamed, what is supposed to be the body’s immune response can quickly feel like self-sabotage. In most cases, chronic inflammation can lead to the breakdown of arteries and vital organs, as well as overall health.
Over the years, researchers have found that one of the best ways to reduce chronic pain and inflammation is by altering your diet, instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet. Eating more anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding others that contribute to chronic pain can help boost the immune system and better protect your health. Moreover, research has shown that anti-inflammatory diets are not only good for warding off chronic inflammation, but can also improve heart health.
If you suffer from chronic inflammation, here are some foods that could be contributing to your pain.
Artificially sweetened drinks & Added sugars
Because the body doesn’t process artificial ingredients well, foods containing aspartame and mono-sodium glutamate may trigger an immune response from the body. A common ingredient in soft drinks, aspartame is often registered by the body as a ‘foreign substance’ and thus may trigger inflammation.
Moreover, avoiding foods containing excessive amounts of sugar can further help cut back on chronic inflammation. Breads, granola bars, crackers, and salad dressings are all foods frequently containing added sugar.
According to researchers, cutting back on refined carbohydrates, like white pasta and white bread, can be key to reducing chronic inflammation in the body.
“Not only are these types of foods empty calories, but overindulging in them can contribute to easy weight gain and thus trigger inflammation,” said Dr. Andrew Luster of the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Because processed meats, like hot dogs and bacon, contain high amounts of saturated fat, research has shown that these foods often cause inflammation. Furthermore, studies have also shown that high intakes of these meats can lead to other health issues, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
People with Celiac disease are all too familiar with body inflammation. For people who have this chronic disease or a gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause damage to their intestinal tracts and other parts of the body, as well as contribute to the body’s overall inflammatory immune response.
Maybe this is why up to a third of Americans are cutting back on their gluten intake. According to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center published in 2014 a full 63% of Americans believe that a gluten-free diet could improve their mental or physical health.
Vegetable and Seed Oils
Some experts believe that certain vegetable oils can promote inflammation due to their high omega-6 fatty acid content. Some studies suggest that these oils can promote inflammation, however more research is needed to draw any conclusions.
Because many Western diets usually contain excessive amounts of omega-6 fats, many experts recommend consuming more omega-3 fats instead. Omega-3 fats, which can be found in fatty fish and flaxseed oil, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can improve heart health and help reduce chronic pain.
Although moderate alcohol consumption is fine, heavy drinking over an extended period can lead to major health issues, including intestinal inflammation. In the long-term, this inflammation can lead to organ dysfunction throughout the body, specifically in the liver and the brain.
Great. So what can I eat?
Some anti-inflammatory foods that may help reduce chronic pain include tomatoes, edamame, flaxseeds, olive oil, tuna, spinach, cherries, coffee, kale, almonds, oranges, walnuts, salmon, sardines, and strawberries. These nutritious foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective plant-based compounds, which can help fight chronic pain and overall inflammation in the body.
“The goal is not to consume a certain amount per day, but to incorporate as many of these foods as possible into your regular meals,” explained Dr. Luster.