The human body and its immune system excels at fighting foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.
Signaling chemicals called interleukins tell cells whether they are needed to fight illness or they should wait in the wings. While these immune defenders are doing their jobs, soreness, fatigue and swelling can occur — the natural side effects of an immune system response — but will soon dissipate.
However, many people deal with immune systems that are consistently revved up, even when no invaders are present. This is the problem with many chronic diseases and immune system dysfunction. Unfortunately, the inflammation that is a hallmark of immune defense becomes a daily problem that may result in chronic pain and other complications. What many people may not realize is that the foods that they are putting into their bodies may exacerbate inflammatory responses, while others may help keep inflammation at bay.
People with rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, Hashimoto's, and other chronic illnesses may find that turning to the right diet can tame inflammation and other symptoms. Recently, many health experts, including Dr. Barry Sears, founder of the Inflammation and Research Foundation and author of the "Zone Diet," and Dr. Andrew Weil, who offers the Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, have begun to tout certain foods that are purported to reduce inflammatory response over an extended period of time.
As beneficial as some foods can be, it's important to note that individuals are unique and certain foods may produce a particular response in some but not in others. Systematically isolating certain foods can help paint a picture of foods that can be problematic. But generally speaking, refined carbohydrates, sugar-sweetened beverages, fried foods, and processed meats may increase inflammation, advises Harvard Health Publishing. Conversely, certain foods and beverages that have been identified as reducing inflammation for many people. These include:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables
- nuts, like almonds and walnuts
- fatty fish
- green tea
- dark chocolate
Including these foods in one's daily diet may help to relieve the pain, bloating and fatigue associated with inflammation.
It is important to speak with a doctor before making any dietary changes. Discuss any inflammation issues you have been having and which foods might help. Generally speaking, a diet full of diverse, antioxidant-rich foods can provide relief for those with various levels of inflammation.