What causes inflammation?
Sure, you may feel fine, but somewhere in your body, something is inflamed. "Inflammation crops up constantly," says Sacha Elliott, a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor. "Wherever there's tissue damage, an infection, toxins, irritants or even in the process of making cellular energy, your white blood cells spring into action and inflammation kicks in." But sometimes your body's natural defence mechanism gets a little overzealous, causing chronic inflammation that can contribute to everything from allergies and arthritis to heart disease and dementia.
While it's important to see a doctor or a health practitioner to help you determine and, if possible, treat the underlying cause of any chronic inflammation, the right food can also help.
"Because more than about 70 percent of our immune-system cells are found in the lining of the digestive tract, you can deal with a lot of inflammation through diet," says Julie Daniluk, a Toronto-based registered holistic nutritionist and the author of Meals that Heal Inflammation.
"In general, eating foods that are fresh, decreasing your reliance on red meats and full-fat dairy and opting for more lean protein sources, as well as watching your refined-carbohydrate intake, will help with reducing inflammation," says Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian in Toronto. Here are some key foods that may help fight inflammation and some to help prevent the problem in the first place.
"Extra-virgin olive oil is loaded with polyphenols, which have properties that decrease inflammation," says Allidina.