Your Facebook questions answered: Inflammatory foods

RGBstock photo-somadjinn

RGBstock photo-somadjinn

“Have you known anyone who has done the diet where they removed all inflammatory food intake, Rosie? I’ve heard of one person it’s apparently worked for in terms of her arthritis pain . . .”, asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Karen Resta.

Karen, the area of  inflammation and disease  is certainly emerging as  a key issue in nutrition and disease prevention.  It is, though, a very complex one.

It’s now known that inflammation is not only linked arthritis but also to a growing list of chronic illnesses  such as heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s disease,  diabetes and even some types of cancer.

Researchers can now assess various diet and  lifestyle factors through measuring blood levels of inflammatory compounds (such as  C-reactive protein (CRP) and cytokines) in relation to these various ailments. Consequently, they have made great strides in identifying both sources of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory dietary patterns.

But here is where it can get complicated. If you focus on specific foods alone, you may not reap the rewards.  Research is showing that individuals may respond differently to  the various  compounds in foods due to their genetic make-up.  This area of study, nutrigenomics, or  nutritional genomics, is a somewhat  new field of investigation where scientists are determining the impact of various foods and their constituents along with nutrients on specific genes of an individual.

It’s what called gene expression. Certain genes may be turned on or off by specific foods. So that one person who cut out particular items from their diet may have eliminated arthritis pain by doing so but for another, there may be no relief in sight.

As a result, as a dietitian, I would suggest putting the focus on  the pattern of eating rather than on individual foods. And there is indeed science to back this up.

Research shows that certain patterns rev the inflammatory process while others calm the fires of inflammation. Therefore it’s important to aim for both: avoiding inflammatory triggers and including anti-inflammatory foods.

Here are a few inflammatory triggers to modify or get rid of:

•    Increase your omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio
Omega-6 fats (from sources such as corn, sunflower  and safflower oil)  possess inflammatory properties while omega-3s (found in cold water fish such as salmon and sardines, along with plant sources such as walnuts, flax, canola oil and dark leafy greens) offer anti-inflammatory action.  Many experts blame this imbalance on a variety of inflammatory conditions.

•    Lighten your glycemic load
Eating too much in the way of  foods with a high glycemic index (GI), such as sugar and refined grains,  is a known promoter of inflammation.

•    Trans fats
These fats are just plain toxic to the body and should be avoided by everyone. In the U.S., regulations are in place to rid them from the food supply. Not so in Canada where the government, in spite of pressure from health groups, says voluntary measures are adequate.

•    Slash your Ages
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)  are compounds produced through high temperature cooking and frying.  Decreasing your AGEs consumption will help to reduce your inflammatory load. As for upping your anti-inflammatory weaponry,  here are a number of strategies to keep in mind.

I think you can see, Karen, that the issue of inflammation is indeed complex. But for a simple strategy,  consider that the Mediterranean diet is thought to be a regime that minimizes inflammatory action.


Have you put a focus on eliminating foods that promote inflammation while boosting your anti-inflammatory choices? What success have you had? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: Inflammatory foods”

  1. Fern Sanders
    October 8, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Going off Nightshades and oranges helped me. The original list of inflammatory foods I was given was huge so I concentrated on what I could handle. There are times where I will occasionally stray but this seems to have somewhat helped me.

    • October 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      That’s great to hear, Fern! You’re lucky that you chose the foods that brought you relief rather than unnecessarily eliminating a whole range of foods. I’ve seen many clients that have eliminated those particular foods with no symptom relief. It seems to be about the genes!

  2. October 8, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    I am in the process of reducing inflammatory foods from my diet. I’m a southern girl and felt like I couldn’t eat anything I’ve had all my life and gave up. So now I am working on adding anti-inflammatory foods to my diet. The first think I did was make a green smoothie with anti-inflammatory ingredients. I have one everyday and I can already tell a difference in my joint pain. I am working on changing how I cook.

    • November 8, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      It’s great to hear that you are working on both adding anti-inflammatory foods while reducing the inflammatory foods! All too often, people focus on what they’re cutting out rather than what they are including. This way you can get much more of an impact. I hope your pain keeps diminishing!

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