Chiropractors understand the need to treat the whole person when it comes to helping decrease pain relief. Part of this holistic approach involves reviewing the lifestyle of the individual, including the role diet plays in reducing inflammation and pain.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
When our immune system is working properly, it fights infection by becoming activated when the body recognises anything that is foreign entering the system. This could be chemicals, plant pollen, or invading microbes. The body then sends more white blood cells to the affected area that is fighting off an infection or healing an injury. Chiropractic care helps to promote a healthy immune system by gentle manipulation, and removal of any blockages to the nervous system. This allows the natural flow of blood and nutrients around the body, boosting the immune system and helping the individual fight off infection.
If the immune system is activated by what it sees as a threat to the system, such as a microbe, this can trigger a process called inflammation. Usually, this is short lived in order to protect the body and the organs, but sometimes it carries on even when there is not a perceived threat to the system. There are a number of debilitating diseases linked to chronic inflammation. A few of such diseases are arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. However, changes to the diet can be made to incorporate foods that boost the immune system, and foods to avoid, as they can exacerbate inflammation and pain.
Foods that cause inflammation in the body
The following foods should be avoided, or at least limited as much as possible from the daily diet:
- Processed meat such as sausages and hot dogs
- Red meat for example steaks and burgers
- Refined carbohydrates found in white bread and pastries
- Fried foods which are high in trans fats such as chips and French fries
- Excessive alcohol
- Gluten and white pasta
- Margarine and lard
- Sugary beverages and soda drinks
The foods listed above are perceived to be unhealthy. Some of them have been associated with chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns Disease and psoriasis – all of which are associated with chronic inflammation. They contribute to excess weight gain which also can be a risk factor for inflammation.
What foods should be included in an anti-inflammatory diet
Fortunately, there are foods that should be included in the diet as they are associated with the reduction of inflammation. These foods are:
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach
- Fish rich in omega 3 like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel
- Olive Oil
- Fruits in particular blueberries, oranges, strawberries and cherries
- Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Red wine (in moderation)
There are some foods on this list that are high in natural antioxidants such as apples and blueberries (an apple a day keeps the doctor away is an old saying with a lot of truth behind it!). Other vegetables, particularly the leafy greens, also include polyphenols as well which are protective compounds that are found in plants. Coffee has been found to contain anti-inflammatory compounds, so it may also provide some protection. Just remember to drink coffee in moderation as it is high in caffeine as well.
Antioxidants are reactive molecules found in food that medical studies show can reduce the number of free radicals in the diet. A free radical is a molecule that has the potential to alter and damage the cells in our body. Damaged cells increase the risk of some diseases such as cancer.
Vegetarian and vegan diets
There have been a number of studies that have looked at the vegetarian diet and it suggests that those who follow a vegetarian diet have a higher level of plasma AA. This is a marker of a person’s overall health which is known to be associated with lower levels of inflammation. (Source: Nutrition Vol. 20 Issue 10, Oct 2004 pp863-866). Vegan diets also have been linked to a lower level of inflammation. The key here is to go for a balanced anti-inflammatory diet and include chiropractic care in your lifestyle in order to minimise pain and inflammation to the joints.
Managing a balanced anti-inflammatory diet
It is very important to discuss the options available with your chiropractor when it comes to managing pain relief and inflammation in the joints. Changing your diet can be quite a big adjustment for those who tend to eat different sorts of food. Your chiropractor can also discuss forms of gentle exercise that can be undertaken which will aid in pain management as well.
Drinking more water to maintain a healthy spine and getting the right amount of sleep would help as well. Reducing the number of takeaways and fast food, as well as planning shopping lists that include healthy snacks such as nuts and seeds, rather that sugary cakes and sweets will make the transition to an anti-inflammatory diet a lot easier.
Take control of your pain management and start making those important lifestyle changes that will help decrease inflammation in your joints. Book an appointment with a chiropractor today and discuss what treatment plan is best for you when you are suffering from pain due to inflammation.