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Anti Inflammatory Diet

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine

Anti Inflammatory Diet.

Over the past few years, researchers have conclusively linked inflammation to most chronic disease. But this isn’t the kind of inflammation you can see. This deadly inflammation occurs deep inside your body and affects your blood vessels and organs.

This uncontrolled, invisible inflammation is a key villain in the development of arthritis, heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Unlike the healing inflammation you can see when you suffer an injury, this internal swelling leads to the breakdown of tissues and ultimately contributes to health problems that can affect the entire body.

Inflammation Nation

The inflammatory response is a basic mechanism of your immune system. But, if you have chronic inflammation, you are probably getting too much of a good thing. Suffering from perpetual inflammation upsets the normal checks and balances of your immune response. So instead of helping to heal your body, it does just the opposite.

Currently there isn’t a specific test for this invisible inflammation. The best conventional medicine can do is to measure your C-reactive protein (CRP) levels with a simple blood test. CRP is produced in the liver and is normally undetectable or very low. But levels greater than 2.0 are strongly associated with inflammation.

Fortunately, there are some common sense steps and a anti inflammatory diet you can take to keep inflammation from running amok. The first and most important is not smoking. Smoking automatically raises CRP levels, and hence, inflammation. And this continual assault inflames your blood vessels, attracting plaque which builds, eventually leading to atherosclerosis.

Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can also keep inflammation under control. Exercise lowers CRP levels, regulates insulin levels and creates muscle – all of which help you maintain a healthy weight. A healthy anti inflammatory diet plays a key role in tamping down inflammation, too. Avoid trans fat, saturated fat, red meat and highly refined foods like white flour and sugar. Instead, load up on anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, green tea, nuts and olive oil.

Quell the Swell

As important as an inflammatory diet is, it’s nearly impossible to get all the nutrients you need to reduce chronic inflammation. But adding the right supplements can be a powerful way to counter out-of-control inflammation.

Recently, I told you how betaine could help people with low stomach acid. But that isn’t all this supplement can do. Betaine can help reduce high blood levels of homocysteine, a potentially harmful amino acid that irritates the lining of blood vessels, causing inflammation. In a Greek study dubbed ATTICA, researchers found that participants with the highest betaine intakes had the lowest levels of inflammatory markers, including homocysteine, CRP and tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

Specifically, the study participants who took in more than 360 mg. of betaine daily averaged 10 percent lower homocysteine levels, 19 percent lower CRP and 12 percent lower TNF than those who got less than 260 mg. a day. Although betaine is found in wheat bran, wheat germ, shrimp, spinach and beets, it’s best to take a supplement to ensure that you’re getting enough of this anti-inflammatory nutrient.

Choline is another nutrient that plays a role in keeping inflammation levels in check. This relative of the B vitamins is a component of every cell in the body and it helps make neurotransmitters and fats in cell membranes, which may be important for reducing inflammation.

In the ATTICA study, the participants who consumed a daily dose of more than 310 mg. of choline averaged 22 percent lower CRP, 6 percent lower TNF and 26 percent lower interleukin-6, another inflammatory marker, than those who got less than 250 mg. a day. In other research, as choline levels dropped, homocysteine levels increased in the blood. The Institute of Medicine suggests taking 425 mg. a day for women and 550 mg. for men.

Valuable Vitamins

Vitamin D is critical to good health – and this nutrient’s ability to quell inflammation may be the main reason why recent research keeps finding more and more ways low levels are connected to inflammatory ailments like arthritis and gum disease. Now, researchers know that inflammation promotes insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. So it’s no coincidence that ample vitamin D is now often promoted as a disease defender.

German researchers investigated the anti-inflammatory diet properties of vitamin D in over 100 patients with congestive heart failure. Patients were supplemented with either 50 mcg. (2000 IU) of vitamin D3 plus 500 mg. of calcium, or a placebo with 500 mg. of calcium. After nine months of supplementation, significantly higher levels of the anti-inflammatory agent, cytokine interleukin 10, were found among patients in the vitamin D group. Those who didn’t get the extra D, however, experienced increases in pro-inflammatory markers with no increases in the anti-inflammatory substances.

Vitamin K is another important nutrient to tame inflammation. Already known to be important for blood clotting, researchers in the Framingham Offspring Study have linked elevated blood levels of vitamin K and high dietary intakes of K with reduced levels of 14 inflammatory markers.

Other studies have found that higher blood levels of vitamin K are associated with less risk of inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis and heart disease. But, since vitamin K can interfere with the action of the blood-thinning drug warfarin (Coumadin), it is important to let your doctor know if you suddenly start eating foods like spinach that are rich in vitamin K or are thinking about taking a vitamin K supplement.

One Last Thing ...

Most Americans get plenty of zinc in their diets. But chronic inflammation can send zinc levels plummeting – and lead to accelerated aging. The good news, according to a recent study, is that this zinc deficiency can be averted by supplementation.

In this clinical trial by Italian scientists, participants took 45 mg. of zinc daily for six months. At the end of the study, blood tests showed significantly lower levels of the markers that signal dangerous inflammation.

This Just In ...

Think you’re healthy just because you don’t have any symptoms? Think again. Italian researchers have discovered decreased levels of several antioxidants and atherosclerotic lesions in middle-aged people who were symptom-free.

Two hundred twenty men and women between the ages of 45 and 65 without a history of heart attack or stroke underwent an ultrasound of their carotid artery and had blood tests to measure lipids, CRP and plasma levels of vitamins A, E, beta-carotene and lycopene.

Among the participants, 125 people had atherosclerosis in their carotid artery. While these people tended to have a higher body mass index and HDL (good) cholesterol levels, they all had low levels of vitamins A and E. Most striking, however, was that their lycopene levels were half of those found in the participants who didn’t have atherosclerosis.

Of course, the best way to boost your antioxidant levels is by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it can be tough to get the recommended number of serving each day. Supplementing with a high quality multivitamin can bridge the gap and help you fight silent atherosclerosis.

***

References:

Detopoulou P, Panagiotakos DB, Antonopoulou S, et al. “Dietary choline and betaine intakes in relation to concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy adults: the ATTICA study.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87:424-430.

Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, et al. “Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004;80:1029-1035.

Riccioni R, Bucciarelli T, D'Orazio N, et al. “Plasma Antioxidants and Asymptomatic Carotid Atherosclerotic Disease.” The Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2008;53: 86-90.

Schleithoff SS, Zittermann A, Tenderich G, et al. “Vitamin D supplementation improves cytokine profiles in patients with congestive heart failure: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 83: 754-759.

Shea MK, Booth SL, Massaro JM, et al. “Vitamin K and vitamin D status: associations with inflammatory markers in the Framingham Offspring Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008;167:313-320.

Vasto S, Mocchegiani E, Candore G, et al. “Inflammation, genes and zinc in aging and age-related diseases.” Biogerentology. 2006; 7: 315-327.



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