A balanced diet is key to maintaining healthy levels of inflammation.
We often think of inflammation as something to be avoided. This is why you hear about anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-inflammatory diets. In reality, without some inflammation we would be easy targets for microbial invasion and our physical injuries would never heal. But if that same inflammatory response is not allowed to subside, it begins to attack our body, leading to weight gain, earlier development of chronic diseases and acceleration of the aging process. You need a zone of inflammation: not too low, but not too high.
One reason there is so much misinformation about inflammation is because it is so complex. Our bodies have to turn inflammation on and also turn it off. Both actions are controlled by our genes and the hormones generated by our diet. If either the initial inflammatory response is too strong, or the resolution response of inflammation is too weak, you end up with chronic low-level inflammation (i.e., cellular inflammation) that is below the perception of pain. Because you feel no pain from this type of inflammation you do nothing to stop it. This type of cellular inflammation can linger for years, if not decades, until there is enough organ damage that we can eventually diagnose it as chronic disease. For some it could be diabetes, for others it might be heart disease or cancer, and still others Alzheimer’s. These are all inflammatory conditions that occur after a long-term inflammatory attack.
The primary driver of this type of chronic inflammation is our diet, and the main way to resolve that inflammation is also by the diet.
A pro-resolution diet should address the resolution of inflammation in each of these areas on a long-term basis if your goal is to maintain wellness. Like water finding some way to enter your house and cause eventual structural damage, cellular inflammation will always find the pathway of least resistance to establish itself. This means you should follow a lifetime program to keep cellular inflammation under control in each location of the body.
With a little practice, anyone can follow a pro-resolution diet. Personally, I think your future is worth the effort.
There are three locations in the body where cellular inflammation can reside:
Use these dietary practices to protect against too much inflammation:
- Eat some protein at every meal.
- Don’t leave the table before you finish all your vegetables.
- Always take your fish oil supplements.
- Eat small meals throughout the day so you aren’t hungry.
Know your nutrients
The nutrients that are most effective for reducing cellular inflammation in one location may not be the best for another.
For the blood, your best dietary tool for reducing cellular inflammation is maintaining hormonal balance through proteins and carbohydrates (adding non-starchy vegetables and fruits while reducing grains and starches) at every meal.
Additionally, you should reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory fats rich in either palmitic acid (like butter or lard) or omega-6 fats (like those in vegetable oils). It’s also important to increase your intake of monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, nuts and avocado).
For the gut, the best nutrients are polyphenols (the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color) and fermentable fiber. Both are primarily found in non-starchy vegetables and selected fruits.
The best nutrients for resolving cellular inflammation in the brain are fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Barry Sears, Ph.D., is a leading research scientist with more than 40 scientific articles and 14 U.S. patents. He is also author of The New York Times No. 1 best-selling book The Zone. His books on his Zone technology have sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 23 different languages. He is currently the president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation in Peabody, MA.