By now, you've probably heard the terms "inflammation" and "anti-inflammatory" thrown around quite a bit. But, do you have any idea what they mean?
Inflammation is your body's helpful natural immune reaction to physical injury, germs, even exercise. "For example, the 'acute' inflammation that results after exercise when muscles experience microtears is actually a 'healing' kind of inflammation that ultimately makes muscles stronger; it's productive and beneficial for the body," says Ann Kulze, M.D., author of the Eat Right for Life book series, and private wellness coach.
"Excess inflammation is the body's response to a host of modern irritations like smoking, lack of exercise, high-fat and high-calorie meals, and highly-processed foods," Kulze explains. These external factors are unhealthy and cause "harm" to your body, so the more you eat junk, drink alcohol, and smoke cigs, the less your body is able to regulate inflammation.
When this happens, your body is no longer triggering inflammation as a healing or protective measure. "In this context, the 'excess” inflammation is disruptive to normal cellular processes, particularly metabolic function, and can damage vital cellular structures (for example the cells lining our arteries)," Kulze says.
What's more, chronic inflammation from these modern-day aggravators can trigger the onset of inflammatory diseases. "Science is now showing us excessive inflammation plays a major role in the development of a broad range of diseases, including heart attacks, some cancers, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disease, and allergic conditions," Kulze explains.
How You Can Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
To dampen inflammation, Kulze suggests avoiding trans fats (think: margarine); white flour products (i.e. baked goods and white bread) that spike glucose, insulin, then inflammation, and cut out oxidized fats, meaning foods that are fried or oil heated to its smoking point. On the flip side, move more and make sure you load up your diet with anti-inflammatory foods.
Here are the hardworking nutrients, phytochemicals, and compounds that combat inflammation in the body:
2. Vitamin D
Click through to see what foods are the richest sources—and get eating.