There's no doubt that your diet can cause inflammation. On the other hand, the foods you eat can also fight inflammation.
Whether your diet is to blame for your current inflammation is a different issue. Rheumatologic conditions involve a disease process that causes long-lasting inflammation no matter what you eat.
However, when you already struggle with inflammation due to a condition such as arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, or scleroderma, the last thing you need is to magnify the problem with inflammation-causing foods.
Behnam Khaleghi, MD, here at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center, has extensive knowledge about the effect of food on inflammation. He helps you get relief from your symptoms by thoughtfully incorporating dietary recommendations and anti-inflammatory supplements into your care plan.
In this blog post, we give a quick rundown of inflammatory foods to avoid, as well as foods that can improve your symptoms.
Two sides of inflammation
Inflammation isn't always bad. Acute inflammation is a natural immune response that begins as soon as you suffer an injury, have surgery, or get sick. This type of inflammation eliminates infection-producing bacteria and promotes healing, then it goes away, usually after a few days.
Problems begin when you develop long-lasting inflammation. Unfortunately, your immune system causes inflammation in response to many stressors, including certain foods.
Chronic inflammation damages your body, causing a vast range of potential problems. Inflammation erodes bones, contributes to plaque in your arteries, and increases your risk of many health conditions.
The longer you have bodywide inflammation, the more likely you are to develop conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune disorders.
Foods that trigger inflammation
If you have a rheumatologic condition (or any chronic disease), it’s important to avoid foods that boost inflammation. The top culprits come from the following three categories: processed foods, sugary foods, and smoked and fried foods.
Processed foods contain substances known to cause inflammation. They also alter the bacteria in your gut, which in turn affects your immune system and leads to inflammation.
Processed foods are whole foods (vegetables, whole grains, meats, etc.) that have added ingredients such as oil, sugar, and salt. However, some are worse than others. The top offenders for inflammation include fast foods, frozen entrees, and processed meats like lunch meats, hot dogs, and bacon.
Foods with added sugar
Blood levels of inflammatory substances increase after you consume foods with added sugars. Refined foods, with or without added sugar, have a similar impact. When a whole grain is refined, it loses its fiber, leaving only carbs that have an impact similar to added sugars.
Added sugar leads to inflammation through several pathways. They may combine with proteins in a metabolic process that produces inflammatory substances. Sugar increases your blood levels of bad cholesterol, which in turn causes inflammation. And if added sugar makes you gain weight, the excess fat triggers inflammation.
Foods can have many types of added sugars. It doesn't matter if it's table sugar, honey, fructose, or another form because they all have the same effect. The foods highest in added sugar include sweets like candy, chocolate, cakes, cookies, and doughnuts. Non-diet soft drinks are also high in added sugars.
Smoked and fried foods
Smoked and fried foods contain substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs cause significant inflammation. You can reduce inflammation and restore your body's immune health by cutting back or eliminating these foods.
Foods that reduce inflammation
Foods that reduce inflammation also build the foundation for a healthy diet. A few examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish
- Green tea
Anti-inflammatory foods generally include whole foods (not processed), such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids.
If you need help preventing or reducing bodywide inflammation, call Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center or book an appointment online today.