Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv.Dip Nut.Med)
Inflammation; the body’s natural response to illness or injury, characterised by pain, redness, swelling and heat. It is designed to be a short lived protective mechanism to aid the healing process within our bodies.
The pain alerts our bodies to the problem, the heat burns off any bacterial or microbial infection and the swelling allows increased blood flow of our white blood cells which assist in cleaning up the damaged site, with this increased blood flow to the area, redness occurs.
Sometimes this response may get out of control in response to dietary or lifestyle triggers; poor diet, lack of physical activity and stress. Chronic or long-term inflammation ages us. It can occur within the body without us even knowing it. This low-grade, chronic inflammation is the driver of almost ALL disease states; obesity, asthma, eczema, acne, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, autoimmune conditions, fibromyalgia, arthritis and diabetes.
It is now believed that reducing inflammation through lifestyle and diet may be the most important factor in contributing to overall health and longevity.
How to Balance...
As mentioned above, a poor diet can lead to chronic inflammation.
Inflammatory foods to reduce include;
Refined sugars; soft drinks, lollies, confectionary, baked sweets
Fried Foods; fries, fried chicken, coated fish, onion rings, deep fried mars bars! (obviously ha!)
Gluten; doesn’t mean everyone should be ‘gluten free’ (actually a lot of gluten free products can actually be worse for us, best to choose naturally gluten free grains, mentioned below) however, it is an inflammatory food. Best to cut back on its more refined forms such as white breads, pastas, cakes & chips and swap for a sourdough, rye or wholegrain varieties
Dairy; again, not to be completely cut out for everyone as it does come with it some good minerals, fats and proteins. Good quality dairy should be chosen as is mentioned in the list to follow. But, this does include cheeses and milk as technically being inflammatory…
Vegetable oils; sunflower/safflower oils, rice bran oil, canola oil, margarine ‘spreads’, sauces, dressings, chips & crackers
Refined flour; breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, pizza, white breads, pasta - ‘white flour’ as this has been stripped of its bran, fibre and nutrients
Artificial sweeteners and additives; ‘sugar free’ soft drinks, chocolates, protein supplements and bars, flavoured waters, packet sweeteners commonly found in cafes and restaurants – Equal, Splenda etc, again – most packaged and processed foods will have listed different additives within them, if you can’t understand or identify them it’s likely your body won’t be able to either!
Anti-inflammatory options to include/replace;
We can’t be expected to remove whole food groups from our diet but should really be focusing on what to include into our diets…
Instead of using refined sugars, try using more natural forms; dates or maple syrup in baking, raw honey on cereals or in tea/coffee, rapadura or coconut sugar – instead of the white stuff. You also still need to be mindful of how much added sugar you’re having each day. Craving something sweet? Try opting for a piece of whole fruit to satisfy that tooth!
Fried foods may be replaced with baked foods – bake chicken, fish and potato/roast veg. Even try crumbing your chicken and fish at home with wholemeal bread crumbs, crumbed nuts or quinoa! Delicious!
Gluten-free grains – quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice, oats – all wonderful options! Eating a variety is key & always soak in water before cooking – this aids digestion and increases nutrient availability
Dairy – whole milk, natural and unsweetened yoghurts, grass-fed butter, or for dairy free alternatives there’s an abundance of nut milks available (super easy to make! And be mindful that store bought products may be secretly laden with sugars and additives), coconut milk and cream, coconut yoghurt, ghee (lactose removed from the butter).
Vegetable oils – swap out for olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter
Refined flour – change it up and use buckwheat flour, almond meal, coconut flour (if gluten free) or selecting wholemeal products instead
Artificial sweeteners – again, can use any of the sugar alternatives listed above, or just cut it out completely. Try replacing soft drinks with mineral water with fresh fruit, lemon juice, mint etc to change it up!
Other anti-inflammatory foods to include are fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, lentils, whole grains, ‘good fats’ – avocado, olive oil, fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), grass fed beef, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and spices; cinnamon, ginger, turmeric & paprika!
Stress can create much inflammation within the body and is vital to incorporate some relaxation techniques into your day to combat the effects. This might look different for everyone as not all of us have the time, or the will to sit in silence, meditating on a mantra for hours during the day but could be as simple as 10 deep breaths while making your cup of tea, or even in the bathroom, turning off your phone at night and taking a bath, going for a walk in nature – without your phone or even some gentle exercise like yoga or pilates.
I’m not here to tell you when, where or how to exercise (that’s out of my scope of practice) but to encourage you just to move your body each day, work while standing at your desk, walk to work, just walk anywhere/everywhere you can, get in touch with some friends and organise a social bike ride together or a bush walk on weekends, or, get in touch with a trained professional/personal trainer to tailor an exercise program just for you. Our bodies were made to move, exercise not only helps us to cope with stress but also increases endorphins, helps with brain function and memory, bone density, muscle strength and body structure.
For more information, or advice with how to incorporate dietary changes whilst still maintaining nutrient density and variety you can book an appointment
Yours in health,