Handful of blueberries
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by Peninsula Physical Health and Nutrition (PPN) dietitians

What is inflammation?

Inflammation can be a normal response by our immune system when it incurs injury, stress, particular environmental factors or disease. It is a natural part of the body’s defence mechanism and is essential in the repair of damaged tissue. Unfortunately, inflammation can become harmful when it is ongoing or chronic, and is linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Additional factors that can contribute to chronic inflammation include a stressful lifestyle, poor quality diet, excessive alcohol intake and drug use.

What are the types of inflammation?

Acute

Short lived immune response to a potential threat

Chronic

Persists for months, or even years. Rather than attacking a potential threat, your body starts to attack healthy tissues and organs.

Low level inflammation can also occur, and this is commonly associated with other chronic health conditions such as obesity, smoking, a diet high in unhealthy saturated or trans fats and refined sugar, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and/or sleep disorders.

How to combat chronic inflammation with diet and lifestyle?

Anti-inflammatory foods

To assist with reducing inflammation in the body, eat foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate (in small quantities), avocado and dark leafy greens such kale.

Aim for at least 5 serves of vegetables per day. The general rule of thumb is to ‘eat the rainbow’ so make sure you stock up on loads of colourful fruit and veggies. Aim for at least 25-30g of fibre per day, as these levels have been linked to lower levels of inflammation. Herbs and spices such as turmeric, cumin, pepper, or chilli can also have an excellent anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Consume extra omega 3 fatty acids in your diet such as oily fish 2-3 times/week and include a variety of nuts and seeds for additional healthy fats. Consider adding nuts, nut butters or seeds to smoothies, cereals and salads.

Choose carbohydrates carefully

Not all carbohydrates are equal. Limit your intake of processed carbs and refined sugars from sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, biscuits, soft drinks, cakes, lollies, takeaways and fast foods.

Reducing your intake of calorie-dense carbohydrates automatically forces your body to burn fat stored around your midsection for energy, rather than the sugars it takes from carbohydrates. Additionally, cutting back on carbs should see your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels drop too.

Reduce pro-inflammatory foods

Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats such as fatty meats, fried foods, commercial pastries, cakes and pies. We also encourage you to limit pro-inflammatory foods such as red meat and alcohol.

Get moving

Research suggests that exercise can lower inflammatory markers, independent of weight loss outcomes. Start by moving your body for just 30 minutes per day with a walk outside or by playing your favourite sport.

For more information or to make an appointment, you can call your local PPN clinic.

 

This article is not intended to replace medical advice. Speak to your dietitian and medical practitioner for more information to suit your individual circumstances.