How Does Food Impact Inflammation?

Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read
4 min readOct 13, 2021

Inflammation is interpreted as our body’s natural response to a stimulus. It is the process by which our immune system protects itself from anything that it perceives as harmful to our body, this may be pathogens, external injuries, or effects of chemicals. Inflammation will be evident through the body’s physical reaction to a wound, injury, or allergy-when it hurts, swells, or turns red then it is a sign of inflammation. In other words, inflammation is simply a sign that the body is working against a harmful irritant.

While it helps the body when needed, too much inflammation or chronic inflammation may also generate problems. Some diseases such as certain types of autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases may mistakenly cause the immune system to fight against the body’s own cells. These are identified as chronic inflammatory diseases that may last for a long time. In order to treat these medications, various types of injections and even surgery may be suggested; the regimen will depend on your overall health, current medications, and severity of the disease. Beside all these treatments, one of the most significant aspects that will play a role in the body’s inflammatory response is food.

The connection between inflammation and food choices is due to our body’s mechanism to keep it healthy. Given that the body reacts to anything it perceives as toxic, a poor diet will trigger that inflammatory response. Research studies from Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study and Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) have revealed that “a diet with appropriate calories that is low in refined carbohydrates, high in soluble fiber, high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and high in polyphenols, all have anti-inflammatory effects on the body.” This indicates that any diet that incorporates those will most likely assist the body in reducing chronic inflammation. For instance, a Mediterranean diet typically includes fish, fruits and vegetables, legumes, high-fiber bread and whole grains, nuts, and olive oil-indicating that it is a diet that is rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, plant-based protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, those that cause more inflammation are saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, processed meat, high amounts of sugar, and excessive alcohol intake. Another study conducted by Kaluza et al. (2018) on the influence of an anti-inflammatory diet discovered that prioritizing anti-inflammatory food and avoiding pro-inflammatory food can reduce the risk of death from any causes by 18%, cardiovascular disease by 20%, and cancer by 13%.

Monounsaturated fats

Food that contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) has been recognized as having various health benefits. These include olive oil, certain nuts, and avocados. According to Robertson (2017), “other studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet high in MUFAs have significantly lower inflammatory chemicals in their blood, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).” Aside from decreasing inflammation, it may also help with weight loss and minimize heart-related diseases-hence, avoiding the risk of chronic diseases altogether.

Fiber

A high-fiber diet has been proven to protect the body from chronic inflammation. The bacteria in our guts absorb fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which decrease inflammatory processes and boost the immune system. Moreover, studies have also found that fiber has body weight-related anti-inflammatory activity with its low energy-dense food, i.e., water-rich and fiber-rich vegetables and fruit. A high fiber diet prevents the risk of developing obesity-a factor that may contribute to chronic inflammation.

Plant-based proteins

There are a variety of alternatives to meat and poultry such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. This substantiates why a Mediterranean diet is beneficial as their healthy meal plan generally limits red meat and includes more various plant-based proteins. In connection, having a plant-based diet is also another way to combat chronic inflammation. Switching meat for plant-based proteins like lentils, tofu, seitan, and tempeh is a great way to include more protein and fiber in your meals.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a combination of polyunsaturated fats that provide health benefits. They are categorized as important and healthy fats that should be included in your meals due to the fact that the body cannot produce its own omega-3s. To elaborate further, a study (2002) on omega-3 fatty acids revealed that “animal experiments and clinical intervention studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” Foods that contain high amounts of omega-3s are fish oils, fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. Omega-3 supplements are also available for those who do not consume or are allergic to fish.

In conclusion, food has a significant impact on inflammation due to its health-giving properties. While inflammation may be considered as a good sign that your body’s defense system is actively working, too much or too little of it is damaging. When the body is fed with nutrient-rich foods, its ability to fight chronic diseases reduces the chances of chronic inflammation. Having a healthy and well-balanced diet will always be the key as it is a natural health investment that will save you in the long run.

Dominique Fradin-Read’s practice, VitaLife-MD, offers weight loss programs based upon the Mediterranean diet, one of the best ranked diet for health and longevity.

Originally published at http://drfradinread.wordpress.com on October 13, 2021.

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Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read

Website: http://www.vitalifemd.com/ Dominique Fradin-Read, M.D., M.P.H., is board-certified in preventative and anti-aging medicine.