Acupuncturists treat many patients with inflammation – for example, arthritis – but did you know that inflammation is also a component of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and strokes?
Inflammation itself is not a bad thing – it is a normal part of the body’s healing system, needed to repair injuries or defend against infection. The problem is when we get generalized or uncontrolled inflammation in the body. Many people believe that our diet may be a major factor in this.
The inflammatory process in our body is regulated by hormones, which can either increase or reduce the level of inflammation. However, the foods that we eat can dramatically affect these hormone levels, and thus activate or inhibit inflammation in the body.
Fortunately there is a growing understanding of how different foods can affect inflammation in the body. The leading proponent of this is Dr. Andrew Weil, who has developed the Anti-inflammatory Diet. This diet is designed to reduce inflammation in the body and promote good health.
If you are interested in the full details of the diet, I recommend that you visit his website (www.drweil.com). What follows is a brief overview.
The first principle of the anti-inflammatory diet is that we need a balance of foods. That means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and as little processed food as possible, and that each meal should contain a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
By getting a full range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients from fresh food, and eliminating the unhealthy elements that are typical in most Americans’ diets you will go a long way to improving your health.
This means eating less of the following:
- Foods made with wheat flour and sugar (for example, bread, and packaged snack foods such as chips and pretzels).
- Saturated fat (e.g. butter, cream, cheese, other full-fat dairy products, un-skinned chicken, fatty meat, coconut and palm kernel oils).
- Safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, mixed vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, and anything containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Other features of the diet include:
- Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids regularly – these can help to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, herring, black cod, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and omega-3 fortified eggs, or in the form of a fish oil supplement.
- Grains: Choose whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat – these are preferable to whole-wheat flour products.
- Eat more beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes.
- Use only extra-virgin olive oil cooking.
- Eat avocados and nuts – especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of pure water a day.
Overall this is a diet that will promote good health. Inflammation plays a role in many age-related diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease), so by following this eating plan you will be reducing your chances of falling victim to most of the biggest killers in our society.