Nutritional science is continually learning of the relationship between a typically Western diet and chronic low-grade inflammation “metaflammation” in the body. While diet induced inflammation may not be a direct cause, it does appear to underlie many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. And now, there is emerging evidence to suggest nutrition plays an important role in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis by having a direct impact on the nervous, immune and/or endocrine (hormone) systems.
It’s only in the last 50 years that we have seen a dramatic rise in the occurrence of many lifestyles diseases and unfortunately this is directly related to the modern world. What’s wrong with modern times? Simply, we’re more sedentary, we consume more processed foods, are overstressed and many of us are sleep deprived. Sadly, it’s not hard to see how the modern world can easily bring about an inflammatory lifestyle.
So, to better manage pain and become a healthier you, let’s take a look at four ways nutrition can calm, rather than fuel inflammation.
Naturally found in oily fish, walnuts, linseeds (flaxseed) and chia seeds, omega-3 fats are not only great for your heart health, they also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, studies looking at rheumatoid arthritis have shown that a diet rich in omega-3 fats can significantly reduce pain and the need for anti-inflammatory medications!
Limit Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel and are essential for a balanced diet. The problem lies in the consumption of too many processed carbs, which when digested are rapidly converted to blood glucose. This leads to a spike in insulin and in turn contributes to inflammation. The body thrives on blood glucose for energy; however, it is far better to have steady levels of blood glucose, than big peaks and troughs.
So, swap-up the processed ‘white and fluffy’ carbs for slow release ‘smart’ carbs like sweet potato, basmati brown rice, chickpeas and wholegrain bread.
In essence, phytonutrients are natural plant chemicals, of which many exhibit strong antioxidant properties. Phytonutrients go about the body cleaning up harmful free radicals, which when in excess can contribute to disease and illness. Free radicals are also being investigated as a contributor of pain by sensitising the nervous system.
To date, scientific studies have found phytonutrients to be of benefit in acute pain, fibromyalgia, period pain and diabetic neuropathy.
You can easily up the phytonutrient density of your diet by simply eating more plant foods, but more importantly – include variety! That’s right, kale can’t do it alone, so as the weather warms up enjoy colourful salads, grill veggies on the BBQ, snack on fruit and sip on green tea for an antioxidant boost.
Fibre really does so much more than keep us ‘regular’. It has the unique ability to lower cholesterol, slow the rise of blood glucose after meals, feed healthy gut bacteria, protect against colon cancer and even reduce inflammation!
As intestinal bacteria feed on dietary fibre they produce a digestive by-product known as butyrate, which not only benefits digestive health but also positively influences the immune system. The benefits of butyrate even go beyond the gut by exerting an anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body.
You can easily boost the fibre in your diet by making a few simple swaps. Opt for whole fruit instead of juice, wholegrain bread instead of white and when making a hearty casserole toss in a can of chickpeas. A few surprisingly high fibre foods include avocado, raspberries, artichoke, figs, barley and psyllium husk.