An Overview of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet: No Brisket, No Beer, No Bon-Bons!
The root of arthritis pain is inflammation. Not that inflammation is necessarily a bad thing. It’s part of the normal healing process, but when it becomes chronic, it threatens the health of the individual. Barry Sears, creator of the Zone Diet, says that inflammation is a silent epidemic that triggers chronic diseases over the years. “You could feel fine but have high levels of inflammation,” he warns. Chronic inflammation fuels not only auto-immune diseases, but heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Certain hormones in the body increase inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet seeks to eliminate the foods that are used by the body to create these hormones and replace them with foods that produce anti-inflammatory hormones. Inflammation decreases because it lacks fuel to produce the redness, pain and swelling that afflicts the arthritis sufferer.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Do’s and Dont’s
Foods to avoid:
- Gluten: Which include wheat, wheat germ, rye, spelt, kamut, farro, bulgur, semolina, farina and triticale. Focus on fresh whole natural gluten-free foods, not processed gluten free foods available at the supermarket. Gluten-filled foods include beer, bread, cakes, candy, cereal, cookies, deli meats, flour, gravies, pasta, pasta sauce, pastries, salad dressings sauces, soy sauce.
- Sugar: All processed sugars including corn syrup and fructose
- Artificial or processed foods
- Corn and corn products
- Nightshades: Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tobacco
Foods on the Brink
Foods on the brink increase inflammation in many individuals, but not for everyone. For me, red meat and pork are deadly. If I eat a juicy steak for dinner, I know that I’ll be suffering by bedtime. You might be able to eat meat, but I’ve had to eliminate it from my diet. Use an elimination diet to see if any of the foods on the brink will aggravate your condition.
- Dairy: Try goat’s milk and cheese instead.
- Feedlot Animal Products: If you must eat meat, make it organic and free range from reliable providers.
- Eggs: Focus on organic free-range eggs and organic pasteurized eggs. Try to not overcook your eggs, but instead soft-poach them.
Foods to enjoy:
- Vegetables: Especially allium vegetables, i.e., onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and scallions
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fruits: Especially berries
- Bone broth
- Coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
- Dark Leafy greens
- Fish – wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and halibut.
- Salmon esp. High in omega-3s
- Gluten free grains: quinoa and brown rices
- Natural sweeteners: maple syrup in moderation
- Nuts and seeds
- Root vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips and celery root.
- Sustainable organic non-red meat: Lamb, chicken, turkey
- Winter squashes
Diets to Consider
There are many flavors of diets with anti-inflammatory benefits: vegan, paleo, primal, and my favorite, the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet became popular in the 1990s and is based on the dietary patterns of people living in Greece, Spain and Southern Italy in the mid-20th century. The diet emphasizes the consumption of fish, olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables. Dairy products may be used in moderate amounts, but servings of red meat and pork should be very limited.
Scientific research has shown that the Mediterranean Diet can reduce deaths due to cancer and heart disease and incidences of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers are reduced. The diet has also been shown to reduce inflammation and high blood pressure. The fly in the ointment is that the diet can include high levels of gluten, which can lead to coeliac disease and other gluten related disorders. Some researchers believe that gluten helps fuel RA., so with as some other foods, you might try an elimination diet to see is gluten is a problem for you.
Don’t expect the anti-inflammatory diet to miraculously cure your arthritis or other auto-immune disorder. It’s possible you might slip into remission because of the diet alone, but not likely. Dealing with RA takes several paths at the same time. Right after last Halloween, I was beset by a massive flare affecting my hands, my shoulders and my knees. Pain was my constant companion. I realized that the flare may have been sparked by eating too much of my daughter’s Halloween candy, specifically Tootsie Rolls. I love Tootsie Rolls.
After talking with a nutritional counselor, I embarked on the No Brisket, No Beer, No Bon-bon diet, forgoing beef, sugar, gluten, corn, soy and alcohol. It hasn’t been an easy road, nor has my RA completely gone into remission, but I am feeling better than a month ago and I’ve dropped a ton of weight. I still pursue other strategies to help reduce my discomfort including exercise, essential oils and medical marijuana. I’ll write about those in later blog articles. Good luck.
- A Diet for New America by John Robbins
- The Zone Diet by Barry Sears
- Eat, Drink, Be Healthy by Walter Willettt (Mediterranean Diet)
- The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain
- Primal Blueprint Reprogram by Mark Sisson
Websites and Articles
- WebMD Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Saving Dinner: The Difference between the Paleo and Primal Diet
- Mark’s Daily Apple (Primal Diet)
- The Elimination Diet