Inflammation happens when our body is injured or infected. The body responds by attacking the problem to promote protection and healing. Acute inflammation is normal and healthy.
Too much of a good thing, chronic inflammation, can have a negative impact on our body. Growing research is finding a potential link between chronic diseases and chronic inflammation.
Lifestyle changes can decrease our risk of chronic inflammation. We can make changes that improve our chances for a better immune system while lowering our risk for chronic disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation. Here are some tips to help start building an immune system ready to fight any attack:
- Increase foods with anti-inflammatory benefits in our diet
- Regular exercise
- Reduce stress
Foods that contain antioxidants, omega-3’s, and vitamins and minerals are considered anti-inflammatory. Increasing fruits and vegetables can promote a healthier immune system and are rich in antioxidants. Tomatoes, berries, and leafy green vegetables are just a few examples. Use this handout (Vegetables) if you need some new ideas. Rich sources of omega-3’s decrease inflammatory factors. Add almonds or walnuts to oatmeal and salads or eat salmon a few times a week.
Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is considered anti-inflammatory and has also been shown to lower heart disease risk.
Reducing processed food, added sugar, and saturated fats can make a big difference when moving towards an anti-inflammatory diet. Replacing these foods with some of the options mentioned above can help even more with chronic inflammation.
Exercise improves health in several ways, including improved circulation. The relationship between exercise and inflammation is not fully understood, but researchers say it is safe to link exercise as an anti-inflammatory factor. Use this handout to Be Active Your Way. Before beginning any new exercise program please consult your PACT provider.
Reduce stress wherever you can. Stress can have a negative impact on our health and can lead to overeating, obesity, and other negative health consequences. Mindful Eating, Dealing with Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, and Dealing with Boredom provide tips to help combat the negative impact stress can have on our lives.
Overwhelmed by one more diet? Pick one thing on this list instead of trying to change everything overnight. Small steps take you on a journey toward a healthier lifestyle. Don’t do this alone, we are here to help. Contact your local VA dietitian. Let us help you start your steps to becoming a healthier you.
Cheryl Monroe is a clinical dietitian at the Jack C. Montgomery VA in Muskogee, Oklahoma.