Lifestyle Nutrition

Eat Well & Thrive

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Understanding Inflammation

Posted on October 31, 2015 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (1)



Over the last decade, an increasing amount of medical research has focused on the role of inflammation in aging and disease. While ongoing research is underway to pinpoint exactly how inflammation relates to many of these conditions, there is good evidence that elevated inflammation markers are a risk factor that has been linked with diseases that include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. Inflammation also appears to be a key factor in skin aging and other age related concerns.

Ok – So is inflammation bad and anti-inflammation good?

Not really; again everything in moderation and balance. Don’t be confused by the fact that some health problems have been associated with the inflammatory process so that means inflammation is some sort of disease. Actually inflammation can be a good thing as it is a vital part of a healthy immune response. Your body depends on inflammatory responses to defend you from bacterial and viral invaders and even cancer cells. Inflammation also helps the body heal from injuries.

The attention I give to the overall inflammation factor when designing the composition and portions in a Lifestyle Nutrition program  has a common thread- it all comes down to balance. Too much of one thing and not enough of another can get us out of balance in every aspect of our lives. Whether it is work, play, alcohol, food and yes even exercise – there is a delicate balance that we must strike in order for us look and feel our best. When we get out of balance as a result of diet or other lifestyle challenges orevents,  our bodies tend to over-produce inflammatory chemicals. If we lose focus on healthier eating habits we don’t get enough of the nutrients that naturally reduce inflammation. This usually results in carrying around a few extra pounds which further increases your risk of inflammation-related illnesses. Those ugly old fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals at a rate far greater than other cells. When you gain weight (or fail to lose it), you are putting your body under an additional inflammatory burden that increases your risk of disease and accelerates the aging process. The threat is double-edged, because excessive inflammation can make your body think it is sick which can make it more difficult for you to lose unwanted fat.

So here’s the plan: Embrace healthier lifestyle habits such as consistent activity. Quit smoking, limit your alcohol use, maintain a healthier weight, and minimize environment and other external stresses - all help to reduce inflammation

Food Choices and Inflammation

It isn’t as simple as these choices are good and these choices are bad.

One of the biggest factors in chronic, low-level inflammation may be the food you eat every day. You might assume that all “good foods” are  anti-inflammatory and all “bad foods” are inflammatory. If this were the case, your eating model would resemble any other healthy eating plan.   But it’s not quite that simple. Some wholesome foods, such as certain fresh fruits, grains, and lean protein sources, can have mildly inflammatory effects in the body. That’s not to say that you should eliminate these foods from your diet. But to avoid excessive inflammation, you want to balance your intake of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory nutrients and foods. To do that, you need to know which are whi

What makes foods inflammatory?

There are at least two dozen factors that affect a food’s inflammatory potential, including the amounts of various fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients, and the food’s glycemic impact, or effect on blood sugar levels. Many foods have a combination of inflammation-producing and inflammation-reducing factors. An orange, for example, contains antioxidants that quell inflammation. But it also contains natural sugars that can have a mild inflammatory effect. Likewise, a piece of lean beef contains both inflammatory saturated fats as well as a surprising amount of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats. Popular advice about ”anti-inflammatory” foods is often based on just one or two nutrients, such as omega-3 fats or antioxidants and fails to consider the whole picture. To understand the importance of portion and composition when eating a meal or snack remember that type of fats, oxidation of protein, kind of fiber and the overall Glycemic impact are all part of the equation. Along with this come the available vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and anti-inflammatory that you find in or add to your dietary choices.

For each of these factors, points are added or subtracted based on the amount of that nutrient present compared with the documented effects of various portions of that nutrient on inflammation in humans. The result is a single number that estimates the net effects of all of these factors. (You may recall that you received information about your inflammation factor as a part of your nutrition analysis.) A negative IF Rating suggests that a food or meal may have inflammatory effects; a positive IF Rating indicates an anti-inflammatory effect. The higher the number, the stronger the effect. The IF Ratings of individual foods and ingredients can be combined to estimate the effects of meals and recipes that is why you need to follow your specific composition with attention to the right amount of the right food group in the right place. Yes; even the free veggies can move from an anti-inflammatory state to an inflammatory state if you do not follow your program. 

Example of what I ate for a recent Sunday lunch.

5 oz. of grilled chicken breast = -37.5, 1 slice of  Angel food cake = -71, 1.5 C of mixed green leaf lettuce = -63, 1 T light ranch dressing = -8 (Total here was minus 179.5)  ½ C cooked carrots = + 130 with ½ t smart balance= neutral, ½ C cooked green beans= +224 with ½ t smart balance= neutral, ¼ t garlic powder = +234, 1 t  low sodium real bacon bits=+1, ¼ C radishes = +2, ¼ C cucumbers=+1, 1 C strawberries = +28 (Total here was Plus 620)

By eating the right amount of each choice, combining all my required food groups and making my meal rich with color and variety I accomplished a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory meal with a score of PLUS 440.5


Eat Well & Thrive

Nancy Love-Martin CNC, AADP®74392605



This information is solely provided to assist you in a conversation with your physician. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any information provided to your symptoms or medical condition. Only your physician is qualified to determine what is right for you and your specific health concerns.  This information in not  intended to replace the medical advice of your health care provider. Only your doctor can diagnose or prescribe treatment for disease.