You’ll notice plenty of talk and press about anti-inflammatory foods, supplements and medications these days. Inflammation certainly sounds bad, but is it always so? And what exactly is this seemingly pesky thing? Inflammation is part of our body’s innate immune response—we’re born with it. Without it, we wouldn’t heal. When something harmful is irritating your system or a body part sustains a blow, the signs of inflammation are ready and on the scene to attempt to remove, care, heal and protect.
Acute inflammation due to things such as intense training, a cut on your skin, or a banged up knee will show symptoms of rapid onset, lasting for a couple days to maybe a week or two depending on severity (Just how banged up was that knee?). Symptoms include pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, lasting a few months to several years, is seen in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and asthma, or when acute issues become chronic. Although a certain amount of inflammation is needed to heal, the continual onslaught over time will start to damage and destroy cells and tissues. More and more research is indicating links between chronic systemic inflammation and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Hopefully most of the inflammation you’re dealing with is acute inflammation stemming from things like a tough training week, a strained joint that won’t keep you down long, skin irritation due to a new laundry detergent, or a random sinus infection. To keep acute inflammation acute, and to keep chronic inflammation from wreaking havoc on your system, make sure you stack your diet with healthy, clean anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients from the list below.
WILD CAUGHT SALMON
Wild salmon is packed with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two polyunsaturated fatty acids considered essential as we cannot make them ourselves. We must consume them either via food or supplemental sources. Along with salmon, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, tuna, trout, and anchovies also make the list, with wild salmon usually winning the title of most popular and appetizing with fewest toxins. Along with being anti-inflammatory, wild salmon also supports cardiovascular, cognitive and immune function.
This spice is found predominantly in Indian and Asian cuisine and can be identified by its bright orangey-yellow color and slightly bitter, peppery warm flavor. Curcumin, one of its major compounds, should be of interest to athletes as well as anyone dealing with pain and inflammation, due to its ability to mimic the power of popular anti-inflammatory meds without the negative side effects. Other benefits include antioxidant, immune and cardiovascular support.
BERRIES & TART CHERRIES
Blueberries may be small in size, but their phytonutrient content keeps them standing with the big boys, thanks in great part to their powerful antioxidant rich anthocyanins. All berries show promise, so include a variety in your diet, but blueberries most likely take top spot. Not as sweet as berries but just as potent, tart cherry juice has been shown to help reduce post-exercise pain and soreness leading to shorter recovery times.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Long revered as an important part of the Mediterranean style diet (known to decrease risk of heart disease), olive oil’s extensive list of polyphenols make it a major contributor in the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory departments. Although its weaker tolerance for heat may not make it the best cooking oil (go for higher smoke point coconut oil and avocado oil instead), drizzle garlic infused olive oil over your steamed greens to make your possibly picky taste buds quite happy with that broccoli.
ON THE FLIP SIDE…You want to cool inflammation, not fuel it! The following are some pro-inflammatory foods that are best to avoid/minimize.
Foods containing trans-fats:Avoid these as they’re known to increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, and cause increased general inflammation.
Foods containing high sugar levels:Minimize foods containing high levels of added sugar, as it can increase inflammation and stress the immune system.
Conventionally raised, grain fed meats:Go for organic/grass fed/pastured instead.
Processed foods:Check any bag of cookies, crackers or packaged snack items in your pantry, and you’ll see that they typically contain high levels of omega-6 rich safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, etc. When eaten in abundance without the regular balance of omega 3’s (like those in wild salmon) inflammation is increased.
Gluten and Dairy:For some individuals, gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, possibly oats) and dairy can be pro-inflammatory. Whole, unprocessed gluten free items such as sweet potatoes and quinoa as well as low sugar milk substitutes like unsweetened almond and coconut milks are great alternatives.
In addition to a proper diet, adding a high quality glucosamine & chondrotitin supplement will help keep your joint inflammation down. Just ask Don Frye, Duane Ludwig, or any of the members of Team Alpha Male. They all rely on GLC 2000 to keep their mobility smooth. A 90 Day Supply is $56.95. Buy online at www.glcdirect.com