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Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Joint Health

Eating healthy provides us with the energy to enjoy all life has to offer. There are countless motivations to clean up our diets, some of which include prevention or treatment of cardiovascular anti-inflammatory-diet-and-joint-health-nashville-tn-east-end-chiropractordisease and diabetes, a reduction in cholesterol levels, decreased risk of stroke, and weight loss. Did you know that a healthy diet can also decrease your back and joint pain? Following an anti-inflammatory diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) can play a role in maintenance of good joint health.

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation occurs when you injure yourself. For example, if you cut your finger, it will become inflamed. Inflammation is an important biological process that recruits the body’s immune system to prevent and fight infection while repairing physiological damage. Chronic inflammation is not as obvious as acute inflammation and has the potential to be damaging to your body. The body becomes chronically inflamed when it is constantly trying to remove harmful toxins. This can cause many issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Chronic inflammation can persist and evolve into joint pain in the back, knees, hands, feet, and more, as well as make an underlying joint issue much more painful.
Thankfully, there are many ways to treat joint pain. First and foremost, visit your chiropractor. They will be able to assess the cause of your joint pain and address any dysfunctional motor patterns or muscle imbalances that are occurring. Adjustments to restore proper joint movement are crucial to recovery. The next level of defense is proper diet and exercise. An anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help to reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body. Not only will this ease joint discomfort, it will also reduce your risk of developing other diseases characterized by inflammation. Coupled with consistent exercise to keep joints moving properly, an anti-inflammatory diet is a lifestyle change that will keep you feeling healthy and pain free.

Foundations of an anti-inflammatory diet:

Fruits & Vegetables
The foundation to any healthy diet is fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and veggies low in calories, but they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants are a focus of the Mediterranean diet as they decrease the presence of harmful free radicals in the body, greatly reducing inflammation. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but those with bright colors pack the highest nutritional punch.
Nuts & Seeds
The Mediterranean diet includes nuts and seeds because of their high levels of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat. While high in calories and fat, nuts can help you maintain a healthy weight as they contain plenty of protein, fiber, and fat, all of which help to keep you satiated. The recommended serving is about 1.5 ounces a day, which is the equivalent of a handful. The best nuts and seeds to eat are walnuts, almonds, pistachios, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Fish is an absolute staple in Mediterranean cuisine due to their omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids aid in treatment and prevention of many health ailments, namely by reducing inflammation. The Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated as ‘SAD’) is heavy in omega-6 fatty acid foods such as vegetable oil, margarine, and other processed fats. While omega-6 is also crucial to our health, it must be maintained in proper balance with omega-3. When this ratio is skewed too far in favor of omega-6, the body becomes inflamed. Increasing the amount of fish in your diet can help to balance the amount of omega-3 to omega-6 in your body. Seafood that is highest in omega-3 is salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring. Don’t like fish? A fish oil supplement can still provide the benefits without the flavor.
Olive Oil
Full of healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, olive oil is the cooking fat of choice in anti-inflammatory diets. Substitute olive oil for vegetable oil or butter when cooking, and make olive oil based vinaigrettes for salad dressings. Extra virgin, cold-pressed oils are the best as they are minimally processed and therefore retain their nutrients.
Beans & Legumes
Superstars in a vegetarian diet, beans and legumes are praised for their high levels of protein and fiber. Beyond their satiating characteristics, legumes have been shown to decrease C-reactive protein levels, an inflammatory marker in the blood. Including legumes in the diet several times per week is a great way to decrease inflammation and help cut down on grocery bills when used as a substitute for expensive meats.
Whole Grains
Whole grains form a base for all of the delicious, anti-inflammatory foods eaten in this diet. Whole grains are rich in fiber and phytonutrients and have also been shown to reduce inflammation. It is best to pick grains closest to their natural state, such as bulgur, rye, steel cut oats, quinoa, and brown rice. Some people may have sensitivities to grains such as wheat, oats, and rye; in this case these should be avoided. Bread and pasta, even when whole grain, should be eaten in limited quantities.
Red Wine
If you choose to imbibe, red wine is the way to go. The beverage contains the antioxidant resveratrol, making it an appropriate choice for a low inflammatory diet. Most other alcohols increase inflammation and should therefore be limited. As always, moderation is crucial. Too much of any alcohol is detrimental to health.

Foods to limit:

Several groups of foods fuel inflammation and should be eliminated or eaten very sparingly to reap the most benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. Fried foods and processed foods should be avoided to reduce the amount of hydrogenated oils and preservatives you are ingesting. Refined grains and sugars are also discouraged. This includes foods such as bread, pasta, pastries, soda and other sugary beverages, and sweets. A treat every once awhile is okay, but extreme moderation is recommended. Red meat, especially fatty meats like bacon, should be eaten only on occasion. The saturated fat in these foods creates inflammation in our bodies. Lastly, dairy and eggs can be eaten a few times a week, but try to stick to low fat Greek yogurt and fresh cheeses and eggs if you can. These foods aren’t innately unhealthy, but the saturated fat they contain does contribute to chronic inflammation.

In conclusion:

Diet plays an important role in our overall health. An anti-inflammatory diet will ease joint discomfort by reducing the pressure within your joints and by helping you to lose any unnecessary weight, reducing the strain placed on your joints. While these benefits will make a considerable difference, it is unlikely that diet alone will eliminate your back and joint pain. However, it can reinforce other treatments and provide a foundation of wellness. Lowering chronic inflammation allows the body to better heal itself. This increases the effectiveness of chiropractic adjustment, as the body is more responsive to the treatment and better able to adapt to the new patterns adjustment creates. When your body has an increased ability to heal itself, you will spend less time in the doctor’s office and more time living a pain free life!
As you all know, Dr. Olsen is an expert in back and joint pain and wants to see you feel better! And with a background in nutrition and dietetics, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about anti-inflammatory diets. If you have any questions regarding this post or your joint pain, please don’t hesitate to call our office at 615-650-6533.

By on September 14th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , | 2 Comments