Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101: How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally
Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm.
However, inflammation is harmful if it becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or years—and may lead to various health problems.
That said, there are many things you can do to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health.
This article outlines a detailed plan for an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body's way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury.
As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases its production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.
Classic signs of acute (short-term) inflammation include redness, pain, heat, and swelling.
On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation often occurs inside your body without any noticeable symptoms. This type of inflammation can drive illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).
When doctors look for inflammation, they test for a few markers in your blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, TNF alpha, and IL-6.
Inflammation is a protective mechanism that allows your body to defend itself against infection, illness, or injury. It can also occur on a chronic basis, which can lead to various diseases.
What Causes It?
Certain lifestyle factors—especially habitual ones—can promote inflammation.
Vegetable oils used in many processed foods are another possible culprit. Regular consumption may result in an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which some scientists believe may promote inflammation (21, 22, 23).
Eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or sugary beverages, and getting little physical activity are all associated with increased inflammation.
The Role of Your Diet
If you want to reduce inflammation, eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods.
Base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants — and avoid processed products.
Antioxidants work by reducing levels of free radicals. These reactive molecules are created as a natural part of your metabolism but can lead to inflammation when they're not held in check.
Your anti-inflammatory diet should provide a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fat at each meal. Make sure you also meet your body's needs for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
In addition, vegetarian diets are linked to reduced inflammation (35).
Choose a balanced diet that cuts out processed products and boosts your intake of whole, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods are associated with an increased risk of chronic inflammation.
Consider minimizing or cutting these out completely:
- Sugary beverages: Sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juices
- Refined carbs: White bread, white pasta, etc.
- Desserts: Cookies, candy, cake, and ice cream
- Processed meat: Hot dogs, bologna, sausages, etc.
- Processed snack foods: Crackers, chips, and pretzels
- Certain oils: Processed seed and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil
- Trans fats: Foods with partially hydrogenated ingredients
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption
Avoid or minimize sugary foods and beverages, processed meat, excessive alcohol, and foods high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats.
Foods to Eat
Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.
- Fruit: Especially deeply colored berries like grapes and cherries
- High-fat fruits: Avocados and olives
- Healthy fats: Olive oil and coconut oil
- Fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies
- Nuts: Almonds and other nuts
- Peppers: Bell peppers and chili peppers
- Chocolate: Dark chocolate
- Spices: Turmeric, fenugreek, cinnamon, etc.
- Tea: Green tea
- Red wine: Up to 5 ounces (140 ml) of red wine per day for women and 10 ounces (280 ml) per day for men
It's best to consume a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods that can reduce inflammation.
One-Day Sample Menu
It's easier to stick to a diet when you have a plan. Here's a great sample menu to start you out, featuring a day of anti-inflammatory meals:
- 3-egg omelet with 1 cup (110 grams) of mushrooms and 1 cup (67 grams) of kale, cooked in olive oil
- 1 cup (225 grams) of cherries
- Green tea and/or water
- Grilled salmon on a bed of mixed greens with olive oil and vinegar
- 1 cup (125 grams) of raspberries, topped with plain Greek yogurt and chopped pecans
- Unsweetened iced tea, water
- Bell pepper strips with guacamole
- Chicken curry with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli
- Red wine (5–10 ounces or 140–280 ml)
- 1 ounce (30 grams) of dark chocolate (preferably at least 80% cocoa)
An anti-inflammatory diet plan should be well-balanced, incorporating foods with beneficial effects at every meal.
Other Helpful Tips
Once you have your healthy menu organized, make sure you incorporate these other good habits of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
- Supplements: Certain supplements can reduce inflammation, including fish oil and curcumin.
- Regular exercise: Exercise can decrease inflammatory markers and your risk of chronic disease (36, 37).
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is extremely important. Researchers have found that a poor night's sleep increases inflammation (38, 39).
You can boost the benefits of your anti-inflammatory diet by taking supplements and making sure to get enough exercise and sleep.
Rewards of an Improved Lifestyle
An anti-inflammatory diet, along with exercise and good sleep, may provide many benefits:
- Improvement of symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders
- Decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, and other diseases
- Reduction in inflammatory markers in your blood
- Better blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
- Improvement in energy and mood
Following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle may improve markers of inflammation and reduce your risk of many diseases.
The Bottom Line
Chronic inflammation is unhealthy and can lead to disease.
In many cases, your diet and lifestyle drives inflammation or makes it worse.
You should aim to choose anti-inflammatory foods for optimal health and wellbeing, lowering your risk of disease and improving your quality of life.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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