Healing Inflammation with Food—The “Alphas” Are the “Omegas”
Have you heard the word “nutraceutical” yet? If not, no doubt you soon will. The term was coined in nutritional circles and is slowly leaking out to the population at large. It refers to using food to heal: if the pharmaceutical approach involves drugs, the “nutraceutical” approach uses food. The people at AchieveTrueHealth.com have a maxim they live and work by: “Food is medicine, or food is toxin.” Inflammation, the cause of so many of our chronic illnesses, responds extraordinarily well to diet modification: there are foods that heal inflammation and others that cause it. Thus, everything from inflammatory bowel disease to osteoarthritis to cancer can be treated through nutraceutical means.
Changing to an anti-inflammatory diet can be an excellent “ounce of prevention” and a way to remain healthy for life. In addition, the right anti-inflammatory supplements can work in tandem with your diet to help you keep inflammation under control. Try to eat a variety of foods every day, and as much as possible, choose fresh and whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, and others). Avoid processed foods as much as possible; these are high in sugar, hydrogenated oils, and highly refined carbohydrates, all of which can cause chronic inflammation or make it worse.
A good place to start is with Omega 3 and Omega 6 PUFA polyunsaturated fatty acids—the “Alphas” are the “Omegas,” if you will! Our bodies don’t produce these, so we need to ingest them. We have an abundance of Omega-6 in relation to Omega-3 in our diet, due to our overuse of processed vegetable oils. We are deficient in Omega-3, so Dr. Turbide recommends finding ways of supplementing it. The level of inflammation in your blood can be measured by examining your C-reactive protein level.
In addition to being good for the heart, these fatty acids help keep a balance between igniting the body’s inflammatory response (to fight infection) and stopping the process once the infection has subsided (to prevent inflammation from becoming chronic). The Omegas work in a systemic way throughout the infection process: Omega-6 is a pro-inflammatory; it triggers inflammation at the first sign of infection, continuing to fuel the body’s defense mechanism until the bacteria are killed. Once the infection has subsided, Omega-3 puts a stop to inflammation before it can become a chronic condition and devolve into inflammatory illness.
Sources of Omega 3 include:
Flax seed oil
Deep sea fish
Sources of Omega 6 include:
Wheat germ oil
There are also many nutritional supplements available on the market today that are natural inflammation-fighters. Listed below are some of the most common and highly recommended anti-inflammatory supplements.
It is definitely possible to treat the whole spectrum of inflammatory illnesses through simple changes in diet. They have one great characteristic over pharmaceuticals—no side effects! (That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t have food allergies. You should add these natural inflammation fighters to your diet gradually, to see how your system reacts to them.)
No single anti-inflammation diet works for everyone; what is ideal for one person may cause digestive upset in another. The right anti-inflammation diet for you is the one that works for you.
Look for more on “nutraceutical” foods in upcoming posts!
William Ferro is a freelance writer/editor who lives in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. He specializes in holistic health and wellness.