Inflammation: Fuel It or Cool It

Wardha Hussain Rizvi Jan 13 2015
inflammation-fuel-it-or-cool-it

Have you ever had a red, swollen, puss-filled, painful lesion? It could be after falling on the road, after receiving an injection or even acne. That lesion is essentially formed due to a process termed inflammation. In medical terms, inflammation is a sign of an active immune system and the initiation of a healing process. But is inflammation always a good thing? If it is, then why do we take anti-inflammatory drugs?  Inflammation, although necessary, is not always the best medical process our bodies perform, especially if the inflammation is chronic (meaning the inflammation is persistent or long-lasting). It can heal that little wound you get when you fall off your bike, but sometimes its effect can prove to be fatal.

Typically, doctors do not want chronic and unchecked severe systemic inflammation because when it serves no purpose, it can start causing illness and damage to the body itself, which is the exact opposite of what it was meant to do. However, localized inflammation is not harmful and should not be taken as anything serious. Although the pus needs to be drained once in a while, it just remains an unsightly view on your body.

There are many things occurring in your body every minute and, a lot that can go wrong. To keep the risks low and maintain certain amount of control on yourself, the best thing you can do is eat right. Inflammation is something that you can either fuel or cool, depending on your diet, or lifestyle.

Fueling Foods

An individual food cannot be accused of causing inflammation. In fact, it is the combination and the balance of nutrients that you are taking. Do you consume fast food frequently? What about those fried samosas and rolls from vendors outside your office building or college? This kinds of foods are what readies and preps your body for a full-blown inflammatory reaction.

What do these foods contain?

  • Trans fats: Many processed foods contain trans fats. They are found in vegetable oil which is hydrogenated to keep foods fresh while they wait for you sitting on a grocery store shelf. According to doctors, inflammation also plays a role in heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers, and Trans fats do the same. So you may want to cut on that and reach out for Trans-fat-free foods.
  • Sugar: Take these beloved crystals in control. They tend to raise an alarm in the body so that millions of cytokines are released. These are tiny pro-inflammatory substances that stimulate an inflammatory response.
  • Refined grains: such as white bread, white rice and white pasta. Processing and refining sucks away all the nutritional characteristics, leaving only carbohydrates and calories behind.
  • Saturated fats: although some are needed, they should be consumed in moderation. They can change the bacteria in the gut in such a way that our system recognizes them as foreign and acts against them leading to inflammation. They are present in all the fast foods and high grilled meaty steaks and stuff fried in reused oil. Even full cream milk can turn out to be harmful.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: Although omega-6 fatty acids is the only one on this list that is healthy for the overall body, it can still cause a break out of unnecessary inflammation. Avoid foods made in vegetable oil.
  • Gluten: gluten is another protein found in ice cream, ketchup, and ready-made dough as a stabilizing agent. Many people with gluten sensitivity are unaware of consuming it and may have inflammatory response.

Cooling Foods

We need to learn about specific foods that influence the inflammatory response beneficially to reduce risks of long term disease. Dr. Weil’s food pyramid gives us the best synopsis of what we need to add to our daily diet and make our life better, or make us better at life.

Work on creating a pleasant experience inside your body and make as many organic foods as you can a part of you. Consume foods that contain nutrients below:

  • Antioxidants: vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and cauliflower are rich in antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals that lead inflammatory reactions. Green and black tea are also rich source of antioxidants as are fruits such as berries, plums, apples and pears.
  • Whole grains: boil the basmati rice, consume oat and barley, and stock up on whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread.
  • Omega-3 fats: another anti-inflammatory nutrient, these are found in a variety of seafood including sardines and tuna
  • Proteins: try replacing your meaty proteins with vegetable proteins such as daal and soy.
  • Vitamins and minerals: boost your immune system. Vitamins and minerals are like weapons for your army of immune cells. Obtain these from fruits, vegetables and beans or from supplements as an alternative
  • Water: replenish your body with water, wash away uric acid and harmful oxidants from your body.

The Takeaway

In a nutshell, put some effort into knowing the nutritional value of the food you are consuming. Check food labels and avoid foods that contain words such as “trans fats”, “saturated fats”, and generally oily looking foods. Try to reach out for fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and keep yourself hydrated.

Wardha Hussain Rizvi

Wardha Hussain Rizvi:

Wardha is currently a student of M.B.B.S second year in Ziauddin University and aspires to be the best dermatologist in Pakistan. Due to her dissatisfaction with the current health industry she is doing her bit in creating health awareness by freelance writing for HTV, Pakistan's most effective health platform.