Burn Baby Burn: Why Inflammation Is Only Good When You Need It, and Which Foods May Help

Topics: Aging and Costs of Aging

Inflammation, better known as redness, heat, swelling and pain that come with a twisted ankle or a sunburn, for example, is evidence that the body is trying to heal itself.

But inflammation that doesn’t shut off can backfire and injure arteries, the brain, the heart, the joints, even our gums: flossing your teeth makes your RealAge 6.4 years younger.

Inflammation that goes on in our bodies all of the time can be a vicious cycle, and cause disease: heart attacks, diabetes, certain cancers, stroke, dementia, arthritis, even depression: depression, heart disease and inflammation are strongly related.

As a new scientific theory, inflammation is being studied. And certain foods improve or worsen the immune response to inflammation. We are studying the effect of a specific, timed anti-inflammatory diet and supplement combination on osteoarthritis knee pain with rheumatology patients in Chicago: our pilot will be complete by October.

For example, omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids promote it, though we need both. Omega-3s are in cold water marine fish, and in hempseed, flax seed, walnuts and purslane. Ginger and turmeric–components of most curry powder!–can be anti-inflammatory foods too.

Foods that cause inflammation are those with saturated fats (red meats, whole fat dairy, fatty poultry); trans fats (others’ baked goods, with hydrogenated oil or shortening), fried foods (including fried fish), highly processed foods, and regular margarine. Harvard researchers found that the more trans fats, the more inflammation among thousands of women.

Trans fats are known to raise LDL cholesterol: which is easily lowered with the right food as medicine. Find some trans fat free recipes here…and cool the fires of inflammation.