Stop the Inflammation

Inflammation is our body’s normal reaction to protect ourselves from things that might harm us. The swelling around a wound is part of how our immune system promotes healing. Occasional inflammation is a sign that our immune system is working properly to respond to infection and injury.

Chronic inflammation is a sign that something is not right. Our body is being stressed in some way. Reducing chronic inflammation can help us reduce our risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease.

 

Reduce Chronic Inflammation

There are several steps you can take to reduce the chronic inflammation in your body:

Be physically active

When people exercise in moderate amounts, markers of inflammation decrease. However, when people do not exercise or over-exercise, inflammation flares up. Exercising for hours each day or focusing on working out one part of the body can cause inflammation [ii].

Your exercise routine should include a variety of impact, cardio, weight lifting and active strength, and recovery exercises (like pilates, tai chi and yoga) can help keep your metabolism up and inflammation at bay.

 

Enjoy a Mediterranean diet

Several studies have examined the effects of different dietary patterns on long term health. Overwhelmingly, a Mediterranean diet is the most effective in preventing chronic diseases [i]. 

 

Med Diet, Explained

Following a Mediterranean diet isn’t just about what you eat, it’s also about how you eat it. People in the Mediterranean take time to enjoy meals. Meals are an activity — food is prepared and shared with family and friends. Outside of meals, people walk to the store, bike to see friends, and get plenty of low-impact exercise.

Many ingredients from the Mediterranean diet are well known to have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to lots of vegetables and fruit, the Mediterranean diet includes:

  • Fish and seafood twice a week
  • Poultry, eggs, and plain yogurt daily
  • Meats and sweets sparingly

 

 

Here are our favorite ingredients to prevent inflammation:

Red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables

  • Pomegranates
  • Eggplant
  • Red grapes
  • Red cabbage
  • Cherries

Green, orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables

  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemon

Whole grains

  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Kasha
  • Spelt

Plant-based protein

  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds

 

Spices and Herbs

Many of the herbs and spices utilized in a Mediterranean diet have similar anti-inflammatory effects as common NSAIDs (like Advil or ibuprofen). They are effective for reducing joint, muscle pains and overall inflammatory markers in the body:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Boswellia

Other herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are also powerful anti-inflammatories. They directly block prostaglandin synthesis, a molecule that causes pain and inflammation.

Green tea has anti-inflammatory catechins that are beneficial for warding off chronic diseases and minimizing joint pain. Try mixing ½ tsp matcha green tea in cold water with lemon for a refreshing summer treat

Omega 3s found in fish block the formation of prostaglandins, the molecules that cause inflammation. Try wild salmon, sardines (pacific), rainbow trout, shrimp (Oregon, Canada, spot) and mussels

 

Maintain a healthy weight

Imagine lugging around an extra 20 pound backpack every day. Eventually, our backs and other joints start to ache from the excess. Thought of dropping 20 pounds can seem overwhelming, but small changes make a big difference. Don’t push yourself to make drastic changes. Get a little more exercise and eat a little healthier.

 

References
[i] Barak, Y.; Fridman, D. Impact of mediterranean diet on cancer: focused literature review. 2017. Cancer Genomics Proteomics. 14(6):403-408
[ii] Pernille Hojman; Julie Gehl; Jesper F. Christensen; Bente K. Pedersen. Molecular Mechanisms Linking Exercise to Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Cell Metabolism. (2017). 27 pp 1-12
Hillary Sachs, MS, RD, CSO, CDN

Hillary is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO). She received her BS in Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and MS in Clinical Nutrition at New York University, and completed her dietetic internship at the James J. Peters Bronx VA Medical Center. Hillary works as an outpatient dietitian at the North Shore-LIJ’s Cancer Institute, where she counsels patients and their families before, during and after cancer treatment. Additionally, Hillary counsels clients on nutrition through her private practice, Recipe for Health, L.L.C., and has been invited to present at several nutrition-related events including the Breast Cancer Update Symposium at North Shore-LIJ (2013) and Adelphi University’s Farm to Table lecture (2014). Hillary strives to translate the science behind health, nutrition and prevention into practical and easy-to-follow recommendations.

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