Anti – Inflammatory Diet
“What you choose to put on your plate is the most important health intervention you can make.”
Dr Rupy Aujla @doctors_kitchen
I think that diet, along with sleep, is an undervalued part of health and well-being. Although I think we all fundamentally know that we feel better when we eat a wide variety of fresh foods and consistently get enough sleep, we mostly let “life get in the way” and disrupt our good intentions.
Inflammation is our body’s natural response to threats or injury; our immune system sends out chemicals to repair damage and increase blood flow to the injured area or fight infection. Inflammation can be acute, e.g. when you get an infection or injury, or chronic, lasting months or years.
If inflammation continues for long periods, it can have a negative impact on our health. Long-term inflammation is linked to many major diseases including dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. It follows that if we are able to tackle inflammation, we may be able to reduce our risk of developing these conditions.
Recent research has shown that what we eat can be an important cause of long-term inflammation and, therefore, it is important that we understand how to eat to reduce our risk of these conditions.
Some of my other posts refer to an anti-inflammatory diet, but what is it? It is based on a Mediterranean diet which is a style of eating, rather than a prescriptive diet; it emphasises:
- eating at the table
- good quality healthy fats (i.e. plant based, such as olive oil, nuts and avocado)
- herbs and spices
- lots of colours and variety of fruits and vegetables
- beans and pulses
- fewer animal products (i.e. meat and dairy)
- plenty of water
- swapping refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, rice and pasta) for wholegrains like quinoa, wholegrain rice and wholemeal bread
- minimal processed foods and added sugars
I think these broad principals are much easier to implement than a long list of foods that you should eat or foods you should avoid. It is always easier to sustain small changes than to try to change everything at once. For example, if you know you don’t drink much, start carrying a water bottle around with you or, if you rarely eat at the table, try to sit there for one meal a day.
There is not enough evidence currently that inflammation causes weight gain but there is clear evidence that increased weight causes inflammation. There is also a known link between poor sleep and increased weight so, as always, we need to think broadly about our health and lifestyle. Have a look at my post on behaviour change for ideas about how to make changes stick.
I am sharing some of my favourite resources if you would like to delve deeper.
Dr Andrea Furlan talks you through the basics of an anti-inflammatory diet and how it can help with many inflammatory conditions and persistent pain. It’s short (~10 mins), straight forward and easy to understand.
After she was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella) managed to regain her health through dietary changes. All the recipes in this book are both dairy and gluten free and I’ve not made anything I’ve not liked (note: I sometimes use gluten/dairy in the recipes).
Identical twin brothers (both doctors) explore the effects of eating ultra-processed food in this fascinating podcast series.
Mr Megan Rossi specialises in gut health and there’s a huge link between gut health and inflammation. She knows her onions!
Dr Rupy is my go to when it comes to nutrition – a medical doctor who produces great content and cook books and now has a recipe app.
If you would like any further information or resources, or have any suggestions on how I could improve this blog, please let me know.
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