Let food be thy medicine - Hippocrates

 

The short answer? Just about everybody. The average person is wandering around with more inflammation going on than is healthy.1 There are certain conditions, though, that can really see improvement by following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. In fact, depending on the condition and severity, dietary changes have led to improvements greater or equal to those of medications. Here’s a list of conditions that are related to inflammation and can be improved by incorporating some anti-inflammatory changes to your diet and lifestyle:

  • Obesity – high levels of excess fat, especially fat around the waist, are associated with an increase in overall inflammation in the body, which can lead to insulin resistance (diabetes’ slightly less ugly cousin) and heart disease1
  • Diabetes – insulin resistance (mentioned above) is the precursor to diabetes, and is caused largely by inflammation1
  • Heart Disease – atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition in the arteries that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or clots2, 3
  • Arthritis, Gout, and Chronic Pain – these conditions obviously lead to painful joints, and it’s not always true, but in this case, pain = inflammation4,5
  • Frequent Headaches – again, usually (but not always), pain = inflammation6
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Celiac Disease – these conditions are all linked to inflammation in the gut, which then leads to, well…you don’t want to know
  • Dementia (prevention) – there are quite a few connections between chronic inflammation and the progression of dementia, unfortunately it seems we have to nip this one in the bud before it happens7
  • Endometriosis, PCOS, PMS/Cramps, and other Reproductive Health Issues – each of these has a different link to inflammation, but it typically boils down to either pain or, in the case of PCOS, insulin resistance.8 Not based on any research, I can say from personal experience that eating the anti-inflammatory diet made a significant decrease in my cramps (and I’ve seen this for several clients and friends as well).

If you have one of these conditions or just hope to be a happy, healthy human – click here to learn more about anti-inflammatory eating!

Disclaimer: To be clear, I do not recommend that you cease taking medications prescribed by your doctor without his or her approval. Dietary changes do not always replace medication, particularly in severe cases or with specific conditions. Discuss your goals with your doctor and find a Registered Dietitian to assist you in improving your overall health. If you live in Washington state, come see me!

  1. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis
  3. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/105/9/1135
  4. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammatory-diet.php
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432803004650
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395913003965
  7. Pawlak, L. The Hungry Brain. 2012. Biomed books.
  8. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028207002026

173BD5F2-8F3A-43AD-BF60-656EED836064

Thanks for being patient with me as I navigate the land of the computer-less. I’m still on the hunt for a new Surface Pro.

Meanwhile, I finished my anti-inflammatory diet on Monday. I was telling my husband that this has to be in the top two for the most enjoyable eating style I’ve tried (tied with carb counting). You can still eat most anything, and it truly makes a difference for me to mentally focus on getting in good stuff rather than cutting out “forbidden” foods (like when I was on Paleo – miserable!).

I can’t say that I felt much different necessarily, with the exception of one noticeable thing. Plug your ears if it weirds you out guys, but when the natural disaster occurred this month, my normally 4-6 level cramps were easily only 1-3. I’ve noticed before that there is a connection between my hydration/diet and my cramps, but this was pretty dang sweet.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet was mildly restrictive, but largely enjoyable. I didn’t mind adding chia seeds and avocado to stuff and including lots of spices – they add tons of flavor and keep food interesting! Overall, anti-inflammatory is one of my favorite eating styles to date. I will blog more soon about the specific types of conditions/people that can benefit from eating this way. In the meantime, enjoy your Father’s Day weekend!


As I’ve continued with anti-inflammatory eating, I’ve frequently found myself at BBQs – summer is starting! Depending on the context, anti-inflammatory eating can be tricky at BBQs because there may not be very many options, other people are bringing the foods, and sometimes the sides are just junk food. Tough anti-inflammatory noogies for Becki93DDDAA0-3BAE-435D-A4A1-BA8404525C5F.

So, I’ve had to be creative: eat small at the BBQ and fill in the gaps with fruits or veggies at home after or bring a fruit or veggie to the BBQ.

Fruit has become my go-to anti-inflammatory snack, and that is fine with me. I’m sprinkling chia seeds on nearly any edible object that will allow it, and using lots and lots of spices, which is so fun! I’ve really enjoyed the food I’ve been eating and it’s anything but bland. The anti-inflammatory diet definitely makes for colorful, visually pleasing, and delicious healthful eating.

Tune in later this week to learn about who can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, and tips on eating out while on an anti-inflammatory diet.


Depending on who you ask, you might find anti-inflammatory recommendations that encourage complete elimination of sugar and carbohydrates to decrease inflammation. As is frequently the case, though, those recommendations are likely unnecessary extremes and everything is case-by-case. For one thing, you can probably achieve the anti-inflammatory benefits you’re looking for while still including well chosen, nutrient dense complex carbohydrates. Secondly, why over-restrict if we can still enjoy some tasty treats in moderation? That’s how we balance meeting health goals and living a life we love! So what does the research actually say about carbs and inflammation?

Multiple studies have linked consumption of concentrated sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption with increased levels of inflammation.1-2 A long time ago I talked in this post about what happens when we eat carbs and how we break them down into blood sugar to use as fuel. Those fuels are stuck in the blood until insulin comes around to let them in to our cells. High blood sugars, especially over the long term, correlate with inflammation in several types of tissue in the body, including fat cells.3

A strong link has been drawn between chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.4 This is a vicious cycle because (as you may remember from this post) insulin resistance means that blood sugars get stuck in the blood without a way out, causing fat storage and inflammation. Stored fat then produces inflammatory factors which make insulin resistance worse! Not fair.

So what can we do about it? Well, we can aim to cut inflammation off at the pass by changing parts of our lifestyle and the foods we eat to combat inflammation and give our cells a helping hand with that blood sugar. With regard to carbohydrates, we can do a couple of things specifically:

  1. Focus on eating more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates like sugar. What does that mean? Well, complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugars that take much longer to digest, break down, and enter our blood, thus making our blood sugar much more stable (and preventing inflammation from blood sugar spikes). Simple carbohydrates are individual sugars or tiny chains of sugars that break down very quickly and enter the blood rapidly, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar that is inflammatory. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and vegetables are connected with lower levels of inflammation.5 Same goes for high-fiber carbohydrates like fruit.

Photo from wearewhatweeat1.blogspot.com

 

2. Avoid eating too much carbohydrate at once. Just like with diabetes, the key to preventing carbohydrate-induced inflammation is keeping the blood sugar from going too high. Eating controlled amounts of carbohydrate throughout the day can help keep your energy up and your inflammation down.

  1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/2/479.short
  2. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/509502/abs/
  3. http://www.jbc.org/content/280/6/4617.short
  4. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/19451
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17391554

Today marks the end of my first week following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I haven’t posted much this week because we were busy (or actually, quite un-busy) camping and relaxing with family this weekend! So far, anti-inflammatory is going pretty well and I’m enjoying the food I’m eating. It’s not really any more expensive than our food usually is.

What’s working well: Activity has been so easy with the beautiful weather! We spent the weekend (besides lounging and reading in hammocks and lawn chairs) kayaking and playing volleyball, badminton, and croquet. The other big key to easing anti-inflammatory eating is keeping my mindset focused on two things: 1) I focus on the importance of getting in anti-inflammatory foods – it’s not just about limitations and restrictions, and 2) thinking about the effect that all of the anti-inflammatory foods have on my body. It helped me to think about those consequences, then I still might decide the food was worth it to me to eat, but I had a balanced perspective and it was typically easier to avoid treats I really didn’t care about as much and limit my portions of those I did. Here are some photos of foods I ate throughout the week:

729689BB-8384-42D8-88D1-150813B74411

Some struggles I’ve had: Choosing food this weekend was definitely tough! We assigned meals to different family members for camping so I didn’t have a ton of control over what was available at each meal. I chose as best I could by loading up on the veggie and fruit and limiting any entrees, sides, or desserts that were particularly high in sugar or saturated fat. Thankfully, my family is relatively health-conscious so there tended to be plenty of fruit or veggies available. My aunt made some lavender lemonade that was TO DIE FOR and we had a birthday party during the weekend as well, so I had tiny bits of treats spread out throughout the four days. I scraped the frosting off of a small piece of cake and chose only bites of the superb homemade ice cream my brother and sister-in-law made. The holiday weekend was definitely more “pro-inflammatory” than the rest of my week, but hey, that’s life! Check out the photos below to see some of the meals and snacks I ate this weekend.

EE9D9EB6-3655-4996-B57D-1F1CBA4FD78B