Is there a connection between diet and inflammation?

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Answered by: kelli, An Expert in the Diet and Health Category
Inflammation in the body is actually designed to protect our health. When you have an injury or infection, the inflammatory response alerts the immune system that something is wrong. The immune system springs into action by releasing substances designed to fight off the problem and promote healing. Inflammation is only designed to be temporary, however; when it becomes frequent and prolonged, it can wreak havoc on the body in numerous ways.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, cancer and autoimmune conditions to name a few. The inflammatory response is complex and no one thing can likely keep it completely under control, but diet and inflammation may have some links. Making certain changes to your eating habits may help.

Diet and inflammation are connected because many of the foods you eat either contain substances that directly influence inflammation or cause certain reactions in the body that can promote inflammation. While research is lacking to make any firm conclusion about the links, many health professionals advocate certain dietary changes to address this problem.

Making better choices when it comes to the types of fats you eat is an important part of managing inflammation through diet. From fats, your body produces hormone-like chemicals and other substances that either provoke inflammation or prevent it. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation; good sources include salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Omega-6 fatty acids on the other hand, lead to inflammation when you eat them in large amounts. The average Western diet is very high in these types of fats, which in part may explain the high incidence of inflammatory conditions in these populations. Cut back on vegetable oils such as soybean oil and corn oil and foods made with them. Saturated fats found in animal products are also problematic.

Eating unhealthy carbohydrates may also add to inflammation woes. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and sugary drinks and foods all contain carbohydrates that break down very quickly in the body, leading to high levels of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar levels lead to larger releases of insulin, a hormone that helps move the sugar into the cells for energy. Elevated insulin levels may pose problems on numerous fronts and it has been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Cutting back on these types of foods is necessary to ease inflammation. Not only will choosing whole grain products naturally help by serving as a replacement for these foods, but they may actually directly combat inflammation.

The idea that you should eat more fruits and vegetables has probably been drilled into your head since you were a little kid and for good reason. When it comes to diet and inflammation, these food are a key ally. They are packed with inflammation-fighting antioxidants. For best results, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in all different colors as they each have antioxidants unique to only that color plant.

Eating foods known to influence inflammation can benefit your health in numerous ways and allows you to take an active role in your well-being.

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