Eight nutritional tips to combat chronic inflammation

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Eight nutritional tips to combat chronic inflammation

Women’s health, especially women’s 40+, appears to be more vulnerable than men’s. As women, we don’t just have more eating disorders; after the age of 40, the risk of thyroid problems, depression, osteoporosis, sleeping problems, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, and osteoarthritis, rheumatism or Crohn’s also increases. At least that’s what the average numbers say.

Today, therefore, all kinds of tips to avoid chronic or silent inflammations, which are the basis of many of these diseases. Do you light the fire or do you extinguish the fire in time?

What exactly is inflammation?

You’ve probably had a visible inflammation somewhere: a splinter in your finger that turned that spot red, warm, and thick over time. Or a wound that doesn’t heal properly and starts to get infected. What actually happens is that your immune system reacts to the splinter or wound.

Your immune system will try to expel the invader and repair the damaged cells. Inflammation is therefore a protective response of the body. In the event of visible inflammation with intruders from outside, such as a splinter, or from within, such as a boil, we can monitor the process and intervene where necessary. Your immune system will continue to work until the invader is expelled. Problem solved? Inflammation gone!

Eight nutritional tips to combat chronic inflammation

It becomes more serious when we cannot see the inflammation or when it becomes chronic instead of temporary. These are also referred to as chronic, silent, or low-grade inflammation and are becoming more common. They are also often overlooked because blood tests don’t always show them.

Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases

Acute inflammation is not a problem; the body is healing itself. However, chronic inflammation is not healing for our body, but rather destructive. Ultimately, chronic inflammation leads to damage to cells and tissues and to a depleted immune system, which can lead to an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself.

More and more people are living, consciously or unconsciously, with chronic inflammation. In the Netherlands, for example, there are approximately 2 million people with some form of joint inflammation. Many women suffer from osteoarthritis, which, according to the latest insights, is not a matter of wear and tear, but of inflammation. ( See research by W. Robinson of Stanford University School of Medicine, 2011  (1)) Furthermore, chronic inflammation plays an important role in cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, fibromyalgia, depression, osteoporosis, rheumatism, many skin problems, chronic fatigue, and even cancer. Not to mention all kinds of misunderstood pain complaints.

Certain foods can lead to chronic inflammation

As mentioned, inflammation is a reaction of your immune system, which tries to do restorative work in your body; it tries to keep you healthy. It is therefore good to know that more than 70% of the cells of your immune system are located in the lining of your digestive tract; especially in your gut flora. That also seems logical: this is the area that comes into contact with the “outside world”, namely your food. That is why nutrition plays such an important role when it comes to strengthening or weakening your immune system.

A good way to prevent inflammation is to avoid foods that can trigger chronic inflammation and eat plenty of foods that can cure chronic inflammation. Again: are you adding fuel to the fire or putting out the fire?

Foods that can fuel inflammation

There are many foods that can fuel the fire of inflammation like a dash of gasoline. I’ll list the most important here:

Eight nutritional tips to combat chronic inflammation

  • Food from a factory with chemical additives or artificial sweeteners
  • Omega 6 fatty acids and trans fats (vegetable oils such as sunflower, soy, and corn oil (such as frying fat) and all hardened (hydrogenated) fats from a factory, such as margarines)
  • Arachidonic acid is found in animal products (particularly pork and dairy)
  • Gluten-containing grains because they can quickly damage our intestines (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, kamut)
  • All forms of sugars, fructose, and fast carbohydrates, especially in drinks (insulin production causes belly fat, which is another major cause of inflammation)
  • Cow’s milk and other pasteurized dairy, especially from the cow (also because of irritation of the intestinal wall)
  • Too much sugar, coffee, alcohol

Foods That Will Inhibit Inflammation:

Many inflammations start in the digestive tract. All foods that are beneficial for the intestinal flora are also beneficial to inhibiting inflammation.

Eight nutritional tips to combat chronic inflammation

  • All plant-based foods, including fresh (organic) vegetables (choose green vegetables and vegetables with a bright color, don’t forget garlic and onions)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (walnuts, linseed (oil), hemp seed, rapeseed oil, fatty fish, algae oil)
  • Olive oil (cold-pressed) is an anti-inflammatory, especially for cardiovascular diseases and intestinal inflammation.
  • Herbs are very strong antioxidants (especially ginger,  turmeric, and all Provencal herbs such as coriander, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc.). Use them extensively.
  • (Organic) apples and grapes also contain anti-inflammatories.
  • Gluten-free grains (such as quinoa, oats, teff, and buckwheat)
  • Proteins, but preferably vegetable proteins (green vegetables, seaweed, raw nuts, seeds, kernels)
  • Vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can fuel inflammation in your body. In the USA we generally get too little vitamin D. Therefore, choose a well-absorbable supplement.

It is especially important to eat a large variety. A one-sided diet promotes allergies that will eventually lead to inflammation. Think of homemade almond or oat milk, kefir drinks, coconut oil, wild rice, raw nuts, seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, legumes, and fermented soy such as miso, natto, or tempeh. In particular, consider superfoods as a supplement and for variation.

What else can you do?

Of course, there are other things you can do yourself to keep your immune system strong and reduce the chance of chronic inflammation. I mention the most important here:

  • Stress undermines your immune system like no other. Therefore, ensure sufficient relaxation, set your own goals in life, and learn to say “no” without feeling guilty
  • Take good care of your teeth and visit your dentist and/or dental hygienist regularly (inflammation in your mouth can spread throughout your body)
  • Stop smoking and drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
  • Avoid toxic substances in cosmetics, personal care products, and in your household
  • Pay close attention to possible food allergies, food allergies also lead to inflammation
  • Make sure you sleep well and enough
  • Exercising in the open air is doubly good because exercise is already fine, but in the open air, you will also produce vitamin D, which is necessary to combat inflammation.

What do you do with a sick plant that is dear to you?

Our regular healthcare often only treats symptoms and does not look for the root of the problem. That is comparable to picking the brown leaves of a diseased plant, removing the dead branches, cutting out a growth, spraying away from the insects that are in it, and removing the fungus that it has, but at the same time leaving the plant in the poor soil that made it sick. Make sure you do it smarter! Report a diseased plant and give it fresh, healthy soil (food!) and a nice place to stand. Then the plant can heal itself. And do the same with yourself when you’re sick. You are too precious to do it for less!

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