One of the precautionary steps you can take to avoid chronic inflammatory conditions is to improve your diet.
While some foods increase the risk of chronic inflammation and its symptoms, a healthy diet rich in the right foods can help keep chronic inflammation in check, even when its causes may be beyond our control, as in the case of autoimmune conditions.
What’s more, a healthy diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity – itself a major cause of chronic inflammation.
On the positive side of the ledger are all the foods that contribute to a nutrient-ritch dietary pattern, including healthy fats, fruit, vegetables, and whole cereals and grains.
What we call the “Mediterranean diet” contains many of these foods that are high in antioxidants, compounds that may help fight inflammation.
Foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as linseed oil and walnuts, have been found to help reduce inflammation, particularly when it’s associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Some of the compounds in broccoli and related vegetables such as cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts may help prevent a range of chronic diseases, and this may be thanks to anti-inflammatory actions of the antioxidants they are rich in.
What we call the ‘Mediterranean diet’ contains many of these foods that are high in antioxidants, compounds that may help fight inflammation.
Foods that can make inflammation worse
1. Added sugar and refined carbohydrates
Diets high in added sugar have been linked to inflammatory uric acid, insulin resistance and heart disease. Apart from direct inflammatory effects, excessive added sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease and cancer. Avoid sugary drinks, and choose whole grains over refined white breads and cereals.
Although some studies have shown that light-to-moderate consumption of red wine can have anti-inflammatory benefits, too much alcohol can cause inflammatory problems in your gut and liver. Alcohol can also cause gout, an inflammatory form of arthritis.
3. Artificial trans fats
While the bad publicity these have received in recent years means they are being used less, trans fats are still found in some highly processed and deep-fried takeaway foods. They are created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make them more stable. The telltale words to look for in the ingredients list are “hydrogenated oils”.
4. Processed meat
Processed meat, including sausages, bacon, salami and ham, have been linked to cancer, particularly bowel cancer, with the World Health Organization classifying them as a Group 1 carcinogen. One of the mechanisms underlying this link is believed to be an inflammatory response by colon cells.