Firstly please allow me to introduce myself, I am Jo Saunders, a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist (dipCNM BANT) passionate about the potential impact that combining body work, such as Ben's brilliant Biodynamic Osteopathy, with nutrition and lifestyle changes to improve our health and wellbeing.
Further to Ben's intriguing email about the potential damage of using NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) to control pain and inflammation, I felt compelled to share my tips on how to help manage inflammation naturally through some simple dietary additions without the use of NSAIDS (or at very least helping to reduce your need for medication).
It is all too easy to become overwhelmed with the plethora of conflicting nutritional and health information, fuelled often by the media promoting the next best diet which promises to help you live forever in perfect health.
I however prefer to work from an evidence based perspective, using research to help sort the facts from the myths.
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most well studied diets and has repeatedly demonstrated its benefits in helping to control inflammation, improving insulin resistance (the way our bodies manage sugar) and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
To summarise, I have chosen my top 10 foods for helping to manage systemic inflammation.
Include these in your diet as much as you can, preferably daily, and you're sure to reap the benefits of nature's pharmacy.
My top 10 anti-inflammatory foods :-
1. Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring)
Anti-Inflammatory Agent:Salmon is an excellent source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two potent omega-3 fatty acids that douse inflammation. The benefits of omega-3 have been backed by numerous studies and they range from preventing heart disease and some cancers to reducing symptoms of autoimmune diseases and psychological disorders. Be sure to include some oily fish such as wild Alaskan salmon in your diet twice a week. Alternatively, you can also get omega-3 fatty acids from high quality fish oil supplements.
Sidekicks: Anchovies, mackerel and sardines are also rich sources of omega-3 fats. Flaxseeds and walnuts also supply omega-3 fats called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can be converted into EPA and DHA inside the body. But the conversion has been found to be low, and hence they may not be reliable sources of EPA and DHA.
Arch-Enemies: Polyunsaturated vegetable oils. You may be surprised to see polyunsaturated oil (like those from safflower, soybean, corn and sunflower) listed here, but polyunsaturated fats have been found to be unstable and easily damaged by oxygen. High consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, present in higher amount in polyunsaturated oil, have also been linked to inflammatory response in the body, leading to heart disease and cancer. While omega-6 is important to health, the key is to balance your omega-6 and omega-3 intake so that you don’t end up becoming a factory for pro-inflammatory compounds.
2. Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries)
3. Nuts & seeds
5. Olive Oil
Anti-Inflammatory Agent:Virgin olive oil is Mediterranean’s secret to longevity. Its rich supply of polyphenols protects the heart and blood vessels from inflammation. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are also turned into anti-inflammatory agents by the body that can lower occurrences of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Sidekicks: Avocado oil. Also known as alligator pear, avocado produces oil that has a fat composition similar to olive oil, containing high heart-beneficial monounsaturated fats. But it has an even higher smoke point than olive oil, making it the ideal oil for cooking.
Arch-Enemy: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This commercial oil contains trans-fatty acids that lowers the ‘good’ cholesterol and raises the ‘bad’ ones — a shortcut to contracting cardiovascular disease.
6. Green Tea
Anti-Inflammatory Agent:The flavonoids in green tea are potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Sidekicks: Water. What can be more cleansing for the body than zero contamination water?
Arch-Enemy: Processed cow’s milk. Non-organic milk carries antibiotics and growth hormone residues that can irritate immune system when they are consumed long-term. Many people, especially those in the East, also cannot digest milk properly, causing distress to the digestive tract.
Anti-Inflammatory Agent:Kelp such as kombu contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative. A few studies on fucoidan in recent years have found promising results in using the brown algae extract to control liver and lung cancer and to promote collagen synthesis. The high fiber content of kelp also helps to induce fullness, slow fat absorption and promote weight loss. But whenever possible, get only organic kelps harvested from unpolluted sea.
Sidekicks: Need another good reason to re-visit your favorite Japanese restaurants? Besides kombu, wakame and arame are also good sources of fucoidan. A marine vegetable native to the Tongan Islands called limu moui is also a fucoidan powerhouse.
Arch-Enemy: Seaweed snack. Go easy on seaweed snacks as they can be heavily salted and coated with a thick layer of vegetable oil. Check the ingredients list before buying.
There is also an increasing body of evidence informing us of the role digestive health plays in overall health, as well as implications of gut bacteria in controlling inflammation (did you know we actually are more bacteria than human?! Bacteria cells outweigh human cells by 10 to 1!). I will share more fascinating information on this topic with you another day :)
Jo sees clients at her Nutritional Therapy practice near Newbury in Berkshire. She works on a completely personalised basis, often taking into consideration complex medical needs, helping clients to find a realistic and achievable path of optimising health. She has a website called Cooking them Healthy, www.cookingthemhealthy.com, which provides quick, easy & delicious recipes for busy families, focusing on optimising nutrition. It also offers the ever useful Supercharged recipe section focusing on recipes to boost key nutrients for specific health conditions.