Anti-inflammatory diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason. Studies have shown that consumption of certain foods can lower the risk of chronic inflammation, which has been linked to cancer, heart disease, depression and a host of other conditions.
But what does inflammation actually do to the body?
Inflammation is the body’s response to infection, injury or illness, and is a protection mechanism.
Short term (or acute) inflammation can be seen in the form or redness, swelling or pain, whereas chronic long-term inflammation occurs inside the body without any noticeable symptoms, and has been associated with diet and stress. This type of inflammation starts a vicious cycle: it causes processes in the body to be slowed down, which continues to stress the body out. If the body becomes stressed, excess cortisol (the stress hormone) is produced and cell-signaling molecules that cause inflammation are released.
Classic signs of inflammation include fatigue, fever, abdominal or chest pain. Experts believe that factors such as alcohol, smoking, obesity and stress as well as diet can all contribute to inflammation.
Diet is important because when lots of acid-forming foods are consumed, your body has to work harder to keep your pH in balance. Over time, with acidic build up, your body can experience acidosis. Normal pH for blood is 7.4 (when the body is in homeostasis) and metabolic control of pH occurs with the help of healthy kidney, lung, blood stream and urine functions.
If your body slows down, this process becomes harder (putting pressure on your system), as your body battles to maintain a safe and healthy pH level for normal functioning.
In cases where there is too much acidity, the body will actually use buffers that come from bone tissue - like phosphate and calcium - to counteract it. This can lead to weak bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis. It’s also been observed that cancer cells thrive in acidic environments.
How can diet help?
Foods that are alkalizing to the body can help counter the effects of inflammation. It’s important to note that ‘acidic’ and ‘acid forming’ foods are different however; it all comes down to the final product after the body has metabolized it.
Inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Hydrogenated vegetable and canola oils (trans fats)
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Refined flours (and gluten in some cases)
- Processed foods (fried for example)
- Meats (especially processed)
- Excessive Alcohol
Alkalizing foods to add to your diet
Celery: A great treat for kids and adults alike is slathering half-cut stalks with almond butter and sprinkling seeds and raisins on top. You can try the ever-so-popular trend of juicing celery and enjoying it alone or with apple, lemon, spinach and/or kale. It’s also one of the most flavorful additions you can make to soup.
Avocado: Who doesn’t love a good slice of warm, multigrain toast for breakfast? Instead of topping with butter or jelly, try mashing an avocado and using it as a spread with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. You can even kick it up a notch with thinly sliced radishes and microgreens, pea shoots or sprouts.
Alkaline Water: Drinking as much water as you can is already one of the best things you can do - but making that water alkaline is even better.
Green Tea: This is a great swap for coffee or black tea. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, which are deeply alkalizing.
Flax, Chia and Hemp Seeds: To replace eggs in baking in order to make recipes vegan, you can mix 1tbsp of flax or chia seeds combined with 2.5tbsp of water and let sit for about 10 minutes. They are also great for sprinkling over the top of yogurt, pancakes, avocado toast, adding to smoothies and are very high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which many of us don’t get enough of.
Broccoli: A perfect addition to stir fries, or as a simple yet flavorful side dish when tossed with some light oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic and roasted in the oven.
Foods high in Resveratrol: Very similar to the antioxidant family, this plant compound can be found in grapes and in purple and red varieties of berries.
Magnesium: used in well over 100 bodily processes and functions, magnesium is very important. Dark chocolate, seeds, legumes and nuts as well as tofu all have a high magnesium content.
Food has the power to both hurt and heal us, and every choice either fights or feeds disease. While it’s not always easy changing eating habits that we have formed throughout our lives, all it takes is some simple swaps and additions here and there to head down the path of wellness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Madison Eubanks is Holistic Wellness Practitioner and a graduate of Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Nutrition and Urban Farming are not only her areas of expertise, but her passion; she loves educating people on the healing powers of food and how they can allow it to “be thy medicine”. Madison also has certifications as a health and life coach and is a 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She has been a dedicated vegan for over four years, believing it to be one of the best choices she has ever made: ‘there is no better diet that takes in consideration for human health, the environment and animal welfare’.