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Dr Russ Blog - Foods Can Help Manage Inflammation?
Foods Can Help Manage Inflammation?
Created on 3/6/2012

R sent in a good question, asking what foods and supplements might help control inflammation?

It's a timely question, too, be cause so many people are experiencing illness where persistent or misplaced inflammation plays a role.

Recall that inflammation is actually an important part of a healthy immune system - when invaded by microbes, injured, or exposed to toxic substances the body normally responds with inflammatory changes. These changes might include the release of chemical compounds that help destroy invaders, the calling of specialized cells to the area, and an increase in the size of local blood vessels to help deliver these cells and more nutrients to support"the fight."

Problem is, when inflammation continues past the time the initial problem has been taken care of, or develops where there has been no problem in the first place, healthy tissue can be damaged and symptoms can develop. Improper inflammation has been tied to a wide variety of illnesses including heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and even some forms of cancer.

A good thing to keep in mind is that healthy dietary habits can not only help prevent undesired inflammatory changes, but even help treat improper inflammation if it has already developed.

It might seem crazy at first - in this day and age of pharmaceuticals and high tech medicine, diet can play a big role? Indeed, it's true.

And what type of diet?

Fortunately, one that is very tasty and that most people are well-acquainted with.

People in the field of Integrative Medicine often speak of an "anti-inflammatory diet" as developed by Andrew Weil, MD - essentially, this is a mix of Mediterranean- and Asian-styled eating habits. This is good news because most everyone enjoys some kind of Mediterranean or Asian-style food!

In addition, the "diet" really isn't a diet (a term that usually means a pattern of eating we go on and off of repeatedly) - it's more a lifelong pattern of healthy eating that can be enjoyed relatively easily.

The basics are: plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy forms of protein (including the plant-based varieties such as soy), healthy fats (such as those found in cold water fish and extra virgin olive oil), green tea, and maybe even a little dark chocolate from time to time (!). And you don't have to be vegetarian to use the diet successfully!

As far as food to limit, fast food and highly processed carbohydrates (think boxed goods with plenty of hard to pronounce ingredients) top the list.

Beyond following an anti-inflammatory diet, the following supplements might also be of benefit:

- Turmeric

- Ginger

- Fish oil supplements

However, each of these supplements can 'thin" the blood, meaning that you might run the risk of bruising / bleeding more easily than usual. This is very important to keep in mind, for example, if you are taking blood thinning medication or are scheduled to have an invasive medical procedure in the near future.

These kinds of supplements should not be taken all together - one at a time can often be helpful and is a safer way to go. regardless, be sure to ask your doctor first before you buy.

There are plenty of medications available that can help to cool the heat of improper inflammation, but eating in a manner that lessens inflammation is certainly more enjoyable (!), likely safer, and often very effective. Use of one of the supplements mentioned above might help you lessen the need for prescription anti-inflammatories, too.

Thanks for a great question, R. I hope this helps.

Be well.
Dr Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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