Health Benefits Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Looking for a new healthy way of eating? Anti-inflammatory diet might be the option for you, especially if you're recovering from an illness. Learn how to start this healthy diet.

A happy woman eating a healthy meal in her home as part of her anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense system and healing process. However, when it becomes chronic, instead of helping protect you from disease and injury, it can cause serious health problems.

Chronic inflammation happens when the body is out of balance, because of diseases such as diabetes or obesity, or if the immune system is over-stimulated.

In Western countries, inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases are more and more common. Dietary habits play a part. Processed food and a lack of fiber and nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, fuel chronic inflammation and disease.

Studies that show an anti-inflammatory diet plan containing nutrient-rich foods may be a powerful tool to help you damp down harmful inflammation and prevent disease.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine have effective ways to counteract inflammation. Chief Physician Chu I Ta from the Real Health Medical Clinic explains the advantage of using anti-inflammatory diets to restore balance to your body.

What Is Inflammation And How Does It Affect The Body?

A man having a fever is laying down on a sofa while touching his forehead
Swelling and high temperature are the symptoms of inflammation in your body.

The body’s defense system uses inflammation to protect the body. However, too much inflammation for too long a time can cause a discomfort, joint pain, tissue damage and illness. Common signs of excess inflammation are persistent redness, pain, swelling, and heat, lasting for more than a few weeks. Some examples are skin inflammation in psoriasis, joint inflammation in gout and Rheumatoid Arthritis, kidney inflammation in lupus, gut inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gland inflammation in Sjogren’s syndrome. To counteract these effects, an anti-inflammatory diet plan can be essential.

What Is Inflammation From A TCM Perspective?

TCM recognizes inflammation is related to balance in the body. Physician Chu says that the relationship between inflammatory symptoms and systemic balance can be seen in heat syndrome, for example. It presents as a fever that is experienced in acute inflammation, perhaps related to an infection. Inflammation is also seen in cold syndrome. That’s when you get cold limbs during winter or cold weather and experiences loose watery stools after eating cold and raw foods or fruits.

Inflammation-related symptoms also include phlegm, dampness, and blood stasis, which are classified as metabolic waste product in TCM perspective. They may be symptoms of deficiency syndrome, a condition in which the body is devoid of nutrients and feels tired or sleepy easily. When the body is weak, it also cannot get rid of waste. For instance, the waste products of gout are phlegm and damp, and will not allow the body to get rid of uric acids. This eventually leads to inflammation, since the body cannot find a balance.

Who Can Benefit From An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

A young woman and an elderly woman talking to each other in the kitchen
Old or young, an anti-inflammatory diet can be beneficial for everyone — especially for those who have ailments.

Most people with recurring or chronic inflammation, causing achy joints, repeated ulcers in the mouth and throat, or autoimmune disease, can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet plan. In TCM, it is designed to help anyone who is seeking a balance in the body due to inflammation.

The COVID-19 Benefit

Since the rise of COVID-19 scientists have been studying how a protein in this virus produces an inflammatory response to the infection. An anti-inflammatory diet plan could be vital to help prevent COVID-19 infection and reduce the severity of the disease.

Who Should Avoid An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Anti-inflammatory diets are generally safe for everyone to consume, but people with poor digestion may need to be more careful when taking too many green or high-fiber vegetables. They can cause digestive upset.

Does The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Suit The “Balance Your Plate” Principle In TCM?

A plate of rice, chicken, broccoli, peas, and other vegetables for anti-inflammatory diet
An anti-inflammatory diet with a balanced plate will result in a well-balanced body.

Balancing your plate — just like balancing your body — is key for a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and coincides with TCM’s dietary point of view, according to physician Chu. In Western terms, a balanced plate is half-filled with vegetables; a fourth is filled with whole grains; a fourth is with protein; you use healthy plant-based oils and drink water, tea or coffee.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Types Of Food

A plate of white bird's nests with goji berries on a red Chinese silk table top
Bird’s nest contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help the skin and lungs

A balanced, anti-inflammatory diet contains colorful vegetables (non-starchy). Those that provide inflammation-fighting antioxidants include spinach, broccoli, garlic, onion, ginger, tomato, pumpkin, avocado, nuts, almonds and beetroot. The diet also contains foods rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna are good sources of omega-3s and soybeans, nuts and seeds contain omega-6. The TCM remedy, Bird’s nest, has a neutral property that aids in the reduction of phlegm and produces anti-inflammatory responses in the skin and lungs. You can consume bird’s nests chilled or warmed.

Herbs And Antioxidants

Most herbs can be used to fight persistent inflammation symptoms, depending on your medical history and symptoms. The herbs commonly found to have antioxidant properties are:

  • Gingko leaves (yin xing ye, 银杏叶)
  • Ginseng(ren shen, 人参)
  • Goji berry (gou qi zi, 枸杞子)
  • Ganodorma lucidum (ling zhi, 灵芝)
  • Gynostemma pentaphyllum (jiao gu lan, 绞股蓝)
  • Schisandra fruit (wu wei zi, 五味子)
  • Notoginseng (san qi, 三七)
  • Fleeceflower root (he shou wu, 何首乌)
  • Salvia root (dan shen, 丹参)
  • Atragalus(hong jing tian, 红景天)
  • Rhodiola rosea (hong jing tian, 红景天)
  • Cndium (chuan xiong, 川芎)
  • Turmeric (jiang huang, 姜黄)

Type Of Foods To avoid

  • Sugar — cakes and ice creams
  • Diary products
  • Trans fats
  • Processed food and meats
  • Alcohol
  • Red meat
  • Refined grains
  • MSG products

Side Effects/Precautions

Before starting any meal plan or diet it is crucial that you understand what your body needs and can consume. Everyone processes foods and nutrients differently, so keep in mind your medical history, any chronic symptoms, and allergies to certain herbs and foods you might have before starting an anti-inflammatory diet. You also want to know your TCM diagnosis so you can individualize your nutritional plan. So, consult a doctor and TCM physician before starting this or any new diet.

References

  1. The Journal of Inflammation Research. 2014. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. [Accessed January 13, 2022]
  2. StatPearls. 2022. Chronic Inflammation. [Accessed January 13, 2022]
  3. The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 2022. Healthy Eating Plate.  [Accessed February4, 2022]
  4. The Journal or Traditional Complement Medicine. 2011. Anti-inflammatory activity of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. [Accessed January 13, 2022]
  5. Immunity. 2014. Diet, metabolites, and “western-lifestyle” inflammatory diseases.  [Accessed January 12, 2022]
  6. Nutrients. 2020. COVID-19: The Inflammation Link and the Role of Nutrition in Potential Mitigation. [Accessed January 12, 2022]
  7. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2015. Anti-Inflammatory Diets. [Accessed January 12, 2022]
  8. Clinical Nutrition Journal. 2019. An anti-inflammatory diet as a potential intervention for depressive disorders: A systemic review and meta-analysis. [Accessed January 12, 2022]
  9. Nutrients Journal. 2019. Anti-Inflammatory Diets and Fatigue. [Accessed January 12, 2022]
  10. Nutrition Journal. 2018. A randomized controlled cross-over trial investigating the effect of anti-inflammatory diet on disease activity and quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis: the Anti-inflammatory Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis (ADIRA) study protocol.  [Accessed January 13, 2022]

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