WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?Anti-inflammatory Foods for Health*
Inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection, the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants or pathogens, and to begin the healing process. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is trying to heal itself. Inflammation does not mean infection, even when infection causes inflammation. Infection is caused by a bacterium, virus or fungus, while inflammation is the body's response to it.
The word inflammation comes from the latin word 'inflammo', meaning "I set alight, I ignite".
"A fundamental pathologic process consisting of a dynamic complex of histologically apparent cytologic changes, cellular infiltration, and mediator response that occurs in the affected blood vessels and adjacent tissues in response to an injury or abnormal stimulation caused by a physical, chemical or biologic agent, including the local reactions and resulting morphologic changes; the destruction or removal of the injurious material; and the responses that lead to repair and healing.” (www.medilexicon.com).
The Five Cardinal Signs of Acute Inflammation
The Latin names of these signs, with the English translation, are:
- Rubor. Redness - this is because the capillaries are filled up with more blood than usual.
- Calor. Heat - as with the reason for the redness, more blood in the affected area makes it feel hot to the touch.
- Tumor. Swelling - caused by an accumulation of fluid.
- Dolor. Pain - the inflamed area is likely to be painful, especially when touched. Chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released, making the area much more sensitive.
- Functio laesa. Immobility - there may be some loss or reduction of function.
Acute inflammation starts rapidly (rapid onset) and quickly becomes severe. Signs and symptoms are generally only present for a few days, but in some cases may persist for longer.
Examples of diseases, conditions and situations which can result in acute inflammation include acute appendicitis, acute bronchitis, sore throat from a 'cold' or 'flu, acute dermatitis, acute tonsillitis etc.
The Process of Acute Inflammation
Within in a short time after a tissue is injured, acute inflammation starts to occur. The damage may be a physical one, or might be caused by an immune response.
There are three main processes that occur before and during acute inflammation:
- Arterioles, the small branches of arteries that end in the capillaries that supply blood to the damaged area, dilate. This results in an increased blood flow to the area.
- The capillaries become more permeable, so fluid and blood proteins leak into the interstitial spaces (the spaces between the tissues).
- Neutrophils (white cells that contain enzymes that digest micro-organisms) and possibly some macrophages (specialised phagocytic white cells that ingest foreign material) migrate out of the capillaries and venules (the small veins that go from the capillaries to the veins) and move into the interstitial spaces.
Neutrophils are the body's first line of defence, they are the main cells that protect us from bacterial infections. Their protective function is a positive one, however they may have inflammatory properties.
Inflammation is part of our innate immunity. Innate immunity is what is naturally present in our bodies when we are born, and not the adaptive immunity we get after an infection or vaccination. Innate immunity is generally non-specific, while adaptive immunity is specific to one pathogen.
Chronic inflammation means long-term inflammation, which can last for several months and even years. It can result from:
- Failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation.
- An autoimmune response to a self-antigen. The immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it (them) for harmful pathogens.
- A chronic irritant of low intensity that persists.
Examples of diseases and conditions involving chronic inflammation include asthma, chronic peptic ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, chronic sinusitis etc.
External versus Internal Inflammation
When there is external inflammation, the presence of the classic five signs and symptoms of inflammation declare its presence: the signs are obvious, and are seen and felt on the outside of the body.
But what about inflammation on the inside of our bodies? Internal inflammation can happen for a host of different reasons, such as eating processed foods, sugar, trans fats etc. High levels of inflammation within the body can cause many health problems.
Blood Test for Inflammation ... C-Reactive Protein
The levels of certain chemicals in your blood are known to increase with increased levels of inflammation. One of these chemical markers for inflammation is a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP). A CRP level of less than 5 milligrams/litre of blood is considered normal. "Normal" may not be optimal. Many medical researchers believe that even slight elevations of CRP are tied to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and many other diseases.
Controlling Inflammation with Diet
How can we combat the internal inflammation caused primarily by poor eating habits?
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods and eliminate the inflammatory foods.
Your body makes both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals, called "prostaglandins" from nutrients in the foods you eat. Imbalances in your diet can lead to the creation of excessive amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins, which fuel your body's inflammatory response. Conversely, the consumption of certain nutrients, allows your body to produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which it uses to reduce inflammation.
The Inflammation Factor (IF) Rating System was created by Monica Reinagel, summarised in her book The Inflammation Free Diet Plan (2006). It includes IF ratings for 1,500 common foods.
A negative IF Rating for a food means that the food is considered to be inflammatory, ie increases inflammation.
A positive IF Rating indicates that the food is considered to be anti-inflammatory, ie reduces inflammation.
There is no upper or lower limit for the IF Ratings, so there is a wide range of values reported in the different literature. IF Ratings are also dependant on serving size and the form of the particular food. For example, whole milk versus skim milk or wheat grain versus wheat flour. The different web sites, set out below, give ratings that often conflict with each other. The disagreement results from these factors. The actual values of the IF ratings set out below should therefore be taken as indicators only of the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory property of the particular food.
Inflammation Factor Ratings
The following IF Ratings were obtained from various sources and, as indicated above, should only be used as a guide to the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory property of the particular food.
The most common inflammatory foods (those with a negative IF Rating, which cause an inflammatory response in the body) include:
Sugar has an IF rating of -83. Sugar seems to be everywhere! Processed foods which contain 'sugar' in a variety of forms should be avoided.
- Cooking oils
Cooking oils include safflower, soy, sunflower, corn, peanut and cottonseed. These oils promote inflammation, especially those that have been repetitively heated. Cold pressed virgin olive oil and coconut oil are exceptions, and are recommended. Safflower oil that is high in linoleic acid has IF rating of -98, but if it is high in oleic acid, the rating is +85. Likewise, sunflower oil high in linoleic acid is -82, but if it is high in oleic acid, the rating is +108. This can be confusing since you have no way of knowing the amount of linoleic or oleic acids in the oil you are using.
- Trans fats
See my November 2008 newsletter Trans Fats. Trans fats are highly inflammatory and are found in processed or fast foods, especially those that are fried.
- Dairy products
See chapter 10 of my book How to live to 100+ Years Free from Symptoms and Disease (see home page). Whole milk has an IF rating of -72.
- Red meats
These are high acid-forming foods and should be avoided. Examples of IF ratings are Pork -39, Lamb -47.
- Processed foods
All these should be excluded from the diet.
See my September 2012 newsletter What is a Standard Drink?.
All grains are inflammatory. "Refined" products have very little fibre and have a higher glycemic index than their unrefined forms. Refined grains should be replaced with minimally processed grains: they will still be inflammatory, but less so. One example is wheat: refined white wheat flour has IF rating -141, unrefined whole wheat flour has IF rating -89 and wheat bran has IF rating +7. Another example is rice: white rice flour has IF rating -220, brown rice flour has IF rating -192 and cooked rice has IF factor -153 to -188 (depending on the grain size).
- Artificial food additives
There are many food additives, and aspartame and MSG are highlighted here as these both trigger strong inflammatory responses.
Anti-inflammatory foods are the key to a long and healthy life. These will help in your fight against autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disease.
In general, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, certain oils and fats, as well as certain spices and herbs, are anti-inflammatory.
Fruits are the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory power sources effective against a number of diseases, especially when chronic inflammation is present.
Avocado (+181), Guava (+131), Cantaloupe (+76), Pineapple (+65), Kiwi fruit (+34), Papaya (+33), Strawberries (+28), Lemons (+19), Grapefruit (+18), Tomatoes (+14).
The following vegetables are major allies in the anti-inflammatory warfare.
Kale (+439), Cabbage (+384), Sweet potato (+378), Chard (+243), Broccoli (+222), Carrots (+209), Pumpkin (+95), Spinach (+78), Watercress (+36), Asparagus (+26).
- Nuts and Seeds
These are a healthy source of quality protein and fatty acids.
Flaxseed (+823), Macadamia (+636), Hazelnuts (+437), Almonds (+312), Pecans (+174), Cashews (+107), Brazil nuts (+80).
- Oils and Fats
Certain oils and fats contain an abundant supply of polyphenols and monounsaturated fats which reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system, including the heart and blood vessels. These also assist in the management of autoimmune disorders such as Rheumatoid arthritis, and allergic conditions. Healthy fats are those high in omega-3 fatty acids and unhealthy fats are those high in omega-6 fatty acids (found especially in processed and fast foods). Ideally the ratio of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid should approach 1:1. In a typical Western diet the ratio can be as high as 1:30. It is this imbalance between the two that promotes inflammation (in the body).
Salmon oil, sardine oil, cod liver oil and herring oil are strongly anti-inflammatory. The levels of IF ratings for these oils vary (see comments made above under ‘cooking oils’), but can be in excess of +10,000. Other oils with high levels of the essential omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil and the oils in foods such as nuts (especially walnuts) and chia seeds.
Avocado has been listed under fruit. Avocado oil is a very effective anti-inflammatory agent.
In contrast, foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids are the cooking oils (safflower, sunflower, corn oil, soy, peanut and cottonseed), as discussed earlier.
- Fish and Seafood
The various kinds of cold water fish are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These include most importantly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There are numerous benefits of these omega-3 fatty acids which include a healthier heart by reducing the chance of heart diseases, preventing and fighting cancer, and helping against autoimmune disease. All of these benefits result from the excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mackerel (+2661), Salmon (+2502), Herring (+1380), Roe (+1046), Sardines (+763), Tuna (+698), Oysters (+676), Anchovy (+595), Trout (+520), Caviar (+415).
- Spices and Herbs
Garlic (+4863), Turmeric (+1523), Cayenne pepper (+1481), Ginger (+1447), Onion (+794), Curry powder (+371), Parsley (+301), Chilli peppers (+274), Paprika (+39).
Green tea is rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoids, with great benefits to health. (See my September 2007 newsletter A Cup of Tea = A Cup of Good Health.)
Water has been shown in many studies to accelerate the body’s metabolism and to assist in the removal of the toxic by-products of metabolism.
Anti-inflammatory foods are an essential for a long and healthy life. The anti-inflammatory diet is composed of healthy, wholesome, unprocessed foods. Anti-inflammatory foods are essentially alkali-forming foods. The importance of alkali-forming foods is detailed in my September 2005 newsletter Acid / Alkaline Balance - The Ideal Diet.
We are what we eat.
We eat what we buy.
Therefore, we are what we buy.
*Copyright 2013: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.Back to the list Print friendly version