Diet & Inflammation

Diet & Inflammation

Author Katie Mazzia MS RDN CDE is a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator at Vail Valley Medical Center.

Inflammation is an important part of the healing process following an injury. Sometimes it's easy to see inflammation take place with an area becoming noticeably red warm and swollen. Other times it's not visible and can occur during infection immune reactions obesity poor diet and is sometimes a part of our genetic predisposition. Acute inflammation (i.e. muscle tear) leads to repair of the tissue whereas chronic inflammation (i.e. poor diet) may contribute to health issues like heart disease cancer and other illnesses.

Medical Tests
The most popular laboratory test used to confirm inflammation is the C-reactive protein test (CRP). CRP is produced from a protein known as interleukin-6. Interleukin-6 is increased during inflammation and signals the immune system. However the CRP test cannot diagnose where in the body or why the inflammation is occurring.

Reducing Inflammation

Researchers have found that skimping on your shut-eye can increase the level of stress hormones and CRP in our blood. Regular exercise and smoking cessation also help as does practicing stress reduction techniques such as mediation or yoga. In addition it appears crucial to maintain a normal body weight BMI < 25. (BMI=Body Mass Index).

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

  • *Weekly consume at least 2-3 servings of fatty fish such as wild-caugh tuna salmon or barramundi mackerel trout or sardines. Check out "Seafood Watch" to select environmentally friendly fish and seafood.
  • *Include daily servings of green leafy vegetables (1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked).
  • *Aim for 30-35 grams of fiber per day from fruits especially berries beans high fiber vegetables whole grains that are naturally occurring in foods vs. added to fortify foods (nutrition bars cereals etc.). Don't forget to increase your water intake as you increase fiber!
  • *Choose healthy fats--olive oil avocado oil avocado nuts olives seeds.
  • *Eat more plant protein than animal protein. Limit lean red meat (lamb game pork beef) to 2-3 servings per week and avoid processed meats include omega-3 fortified eggs (up to 7 per week) consume poultry without skin and limit to a few times a week. Try vegetarian and vegan meals!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids in foods appear to lower the production of inflammatory proteins. Research has shown that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may decrease inflammation to the same extent that some medications do. Omega-3's come from plant sources like ground flax chia or hemp seeds and whole grains plus fish and seafood.

Selenium and Zinc
Foods rich in selenium and zinc can decrease inflammation too. Selenium is found in whole grains (>3gm fiber per serving) onions meat and Brazil nuts. Zinc is found in oysters shellfish herring legumes wheat germ roasted pumpkin seeds.

Vitamins C E and A
Vitamins C E and A also are also powerful antioxidants in the fight against inflammation. Vitamin C is found in berries peppers citrus fruits broccoli cabbage brussel sprouts strawberries cantaloupe and tomatoes.

The highest content of vitamin E is found in plant products such as spinach mustard greens swiss chard kale whole grains nuts and oils. Good food sources of vitamin A are dark green leafy and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables. Especially rich sources include carrots sweet potato cantaloupe dark salad greens and apricots.

Foods to Limit or Avoid

  • Use caution when consuming added sugars which have a possible connection to inflammation. Limit to not more than 25 grams of "added" sugar per day 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams! Natural sugar from milk yogurt and whole fruit are better choices.

In general avoid any diet that recommends foregoing an entire food group. Remember no definitive research exists to show this is detrimental to our inflammatory response.

Use caution! Supplements that claim they will end your problems with inflammation are not approved or regulated by the FDA. Evaluate these advertisements carefully and check with your doctor and pharmacist some herbs can interact with prescription medications.

It's believed that supplement usage can not replicate the benefits garnered from eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and may be harmful in some cases. Aim for 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and choose add other foods high in antioxidants and phytonutrients to decrease inflammation--dark chocolate > 70% cocoa (1 bar per week) green or black tea spices and fresh herbs.

For More Information
Author Katie Mazzia MS RDN CDE is a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator at Vail Valley Medical Center and can be reached at (970) 479-5058.