June 13, 2024
Health

Foods, benefits and meal plan


Ignore chronic inflammation at your peril. Recognised as a contributor to many deaths globally, half of these are partly attributable to inflammation-related diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.

“Whilst helpful in the short term – as part of the body’s healing process in response to injury or an infection – inflammation becomes harmful if it becomes chronic,” says Dr Sammie Gill, a dietitian and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) specialist. 

“And it can cause damage to tissue and cause disease.” 

Diet is a huge influence. “Some foods such as the highly processed Western style diet, with high levels of saturated fat, fuel inflammation. Others, such as a Mediterranean-style diet, with its plant-based healthy fats and lean protein content, have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can be helpful in preventing and managing chronic diseases.” 

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Chronic inflammation is low-grade (most people won’t know they have it), but persistent and can cause long-term collateral damage to tissue and organs, as well as affect immune function, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and tumours.

“Chronic inflammation can be silently damaging your body and the effects will only become noticeable over time,” says Dr Gill.

Conditions associated with chronic inflammation include:

  • Cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure and raised cholesterol).
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Some types of cancer.
  • Neurodegenerative disease (such as Parkinson’s).
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Sarcoma.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
  • Mental illnesses such as depression.

“An anti-inflammatory diet is not one diet per se, more of an umbrella term for an approach to eating a largely plant based diet, with wholegrains, legumes and lean proteins such as fish, including oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, and poultry, and only a small amount of saturated fat,” says Dr Gill.

“This approach is the foundation of the Mediterranean diet, the dietary approach to stopping hypertension (DASH) diet and the Nordic diet, which all focus on plant-based foods, healthy fats such as (oily fish, nuts and avocados), rather than red or processed meat.”

Dr Gill says diet has been shown to be a good predictor of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the blood, (high levels are a marker for inflammation in the body). “Studies have consistently shown that higher intakes for fruit, vegetables and fish are linked with lower levels of CRP. Saturated fat, red and processed meats are linked with higher CRP levels.”



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