Anti Inflammatory Diet

What Is An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter have told you many times about the dangers inflammation poses to your health. Often, the best way to reverse these dangers is by participating in an anti-inflammatory diet.

Inflammation is necessary to keeping the body healthy. But when your body is repeatedly assaulted by various harmful stimuli such as pathogens, injuries, or poor lifestyle habits, the inflammation never ends and can eventually cause long-term damage.

What is inflammation?

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute is the healthy kind, in which the body mounts a defense against sudden injury or illness like the flu or COVID-19. Chronic is the dangerous kind, in which the body spends months or years attempting to fight off constant, lower-level threats, such as pollution, poor diet, and the effects of ongoing stress.

Chronic inflammation has been implicated in either causing or exacerbating such conditions and diseases as:

  • allergies
  • Alzheimer’s
  • anemia
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • colitis
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • gout
  • kidney disease
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • psoriasis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • wrinkles and other signs of aging

Confirmed link

The deadliest illness with a confirmed link to inflammation is cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A landmark study released in 2017 included over 10,000 patients who had previously suffered a heart attack and were then were given a drug meant to reduce inflammation. The drug, which costs about $200,000 per year, is not only prohibitively expensive, but its fatal side effects offset any gains in cardiovascular mortality reduction.

Then why were cardiologists so excited about this research? Because it proved that reducing inflammation in the body will result in fewer heart attacks. (The drug also proved effective against certain forms of cancer, another illness thought to be tied to chronic inflammation.)

The drug had no effect on cholesterol, which is what is reduced with the use of statins, thereby proving that reducing inflammation was solely responsible for the 15 percent reduction in deaths seen in the study.

Prevention is the best cure

While medical science offers various drugs and treatment that can address all these illnesses and diseases, the best approach is to reduce inflammation before it becomes a problem in the body.

Some causes of chronic inflammation are beyond our control. These include environmental pollutants and certain genetic factors.

But many other causes are within our control. The steps we can take to reduce dangerous inflammation include regular exercise, stress reduction, and healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking and avoiding the sun.

Non-diet diet

A prime prevention tool is an anti-inflammatory diet. And we don’t mean that in the traditional sense of counting calories and planning each bite, but in the sense of the types of foods you eat regularly.

“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Harvard Health Publishing.

“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation,” he said. “It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.”

Common food culprits implicated in causing inflammation include:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta
  • fried foods such as French fries
  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • red meat (steaks and hamburgers)
  • processed meat (hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats)
  • margarine, shortening, and lard
  • refined sugars, including cookies, cakes, candy, and ice cream
  • snack foods such as crackers and chips

What’s left?

You may be thinking that the above list doesn’t leave at lot left to eat. Actually, there’s quite a bit of healthy foods to choose from.

The Mediterranean diet—high in seafood, nuts, fresh produce, olive oil, and beans, and low in red meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat—is a classic anti-inflammatory diet, which is no doubt why it works so well to not only aid weight loss but to improve health overall.

This diet is based on studies during the 1990s that found those in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea tend to live longer, healthier lives than those in other developed countries, and have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Other anti-inflammatory foods that can help fight inflammation include:

  • tomatoes
  • green leafy vegetables
  • beets and avocados
  • whole grains
  • fatty fish (tuna, sardines, salmon, and mackerel)
  • nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, and almonds
  • berries
  • fruits such as cherries, oranges, and melons
  • water, tea, and red wine if you drink alcohol

Finally, because the anti-inflammatory diet is a way of eating for life (in both meanings of the word), don’t stress over every bite you put into your mouth. Don’t think of the inflammation-triggering foods as “forbidden foods,” but try to minimize them as part of your diet. Simply prefer fresh food over processed as often as possible, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

tea good health

Tea Leads to Good Overall Health

To our concierge family practice doctors in Jupiter, Florida, tea is the second-best beverage you can drink for good health. It comes as a close second, of course, to drinking water.

The practice of brewing leaves appears to go back at least 5,000 years, but its actual origins are hazy. The most persistent legend concerns a Chinese emperor who drank a bowl of hot water that was boiled for sanitary purposes. He was in his garden when a few leaves fell into his bowl, surprising him with the resulting pleasant flavor.

But a great deal of recent research has found there’s far more to be found in a cup of tea than a soothing drink.

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best diet

The Best Diet for You

The start of a new year is traditionally the time to turn the page on the bad habits and disappointments of the previous year.

Usually near the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions that people make is the decision to lose weight. And from a health perspective, our concierge doctors certainly applaud that one.

Overweight or obesity is responsible for a host of chronic diseases, from type 2 diabetes to backaches to joint pain. So you want to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, right? But which diet is best?

The problem with keto

What about the popular keto diet? Studies show that 80 percent of those who try it struggle to stick with it. Why, when it often results in huge and rapid amounts of weight loss?

First, it can it cause numerous side effects—body aches, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue and lethargy, constipation, and brain fog. Plus, all their friends are eating garlic bread and mashed potatoes (not cauliflower) with gravy and pasta. Or because they lost their job and need a regular intake of brownies to help them feel better. Or because they’re stressed about the pandemic—possible job loss, not being able to see friends and family, worried about catching the coronavirus. And that chocolate cream pie dulls the loneliness and anxiety, at least for a little while.

Because, in short, the keto diet restrictive. It has a long list of quite tasty foods that either aren’t allowed, or allowed only in small portions after a certain time.

“When you are on the keto diet, you drastically cut your carbs to only 20 per day. That’s less than one apple!” nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor, told the network.

The common problem

And this is the problem with all diets. Nearly all of them work as promised, but are difficult to adhere to over time. So you “cheat.” Then you cheat some more. Then you figure, why bother? You then start eating normally again and regain all the weight you lost. And you likely gain back even more.

But here’s the thing: It’s not you, it’s them. In other words, it’s the whole concept of dieting to begin with. Someone once pointed out that diet begins with the word “die,” so even if only subconsciously, the concept has a negative connotation.

In addition, our bodies were built to store calories. That’s because our ancient ancestors never knew when they’d be facing lean times, or even starvation if the mastodons they hunted migrated elsewhere. Even in more recent times, before there was such a thing as a food industry, mankind learned to store food over the winter. But it still wasn’t as abundant as during the summer months.

So we’re biologically built to store up calories to last through the lean times.

And speaking of the food industry, their entire reason for being is to get us to buy more of their product. Stores are laid out with enticing displays of sugary, fat-laden foods. Advertising constantly tempts us with photos and videos of delicious, fattening foods.

We succumb, we gain weight, and then it’s up to us to find a way to lose it. And we try a long list of diets, only to be disappointed with the results. So which one do we recommend?

The only real solution

The best diet is one that works for you, that helps you gradually lose weight, but doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or hungry all the time.

“For any given person, it’s really a matter of what they can stick with,” Michael Jensen of the Mayo Clinic told Psychology Today.

Keto might be the right choice for some people. For others, the Paleo diet, moderation, veganism, intermittent fasting, or simply cutting back on sugar and flour.

Above all, research shows the most successful diet is the one that you yourself designed. This gives you a sense of control, rather than being at the mercy of a set of restrictive rules.

“You have to have joy and pleasure in food,” Stanford University professor of medicine Christopher Gardner told The Washington Post. He has conducted numerous randomized trials to test the success rate of various diets, and found they are essentially the same.

“They agree more than they disagree,” he said. Instead, he counsels, “Limit added sugars and refined grains, and eat more non-starchy vegetables. [I]f you do those two things, you get 90 percent of the benefits.” 

If you enjoy what you eat, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life, he added.

“[The most successful way of dieting] will be different from one person to the next, and there will never be a randomized trial of it.”

We would add that for the most wholesome way to eat, consider the Mediterranean diet. It rates number one in surveys of diets, not only for long-term weight loss, but also for ease of adherence and the healthiest outcomes.

If you have any questions about weight loss, please talk with us. We can suggest the best approach specifically for you.

chocolate good for you

Check Out Chocolate for Your Health

Let’s face it—this has been a lousy year. We’ve either lost or postponed so many of our normal pleasures, it’s no wonder that we’re feeling deprived. But our concierge doctors have a prescription that can help cheer you up: chocolate.

And ‘tis the season for it, after all. Not to mention that, as we’ll explain below, it can be healthier than eggnog, frosted cookies and cakes, and all the other sugarplums we’re inclined to consume this time of year.

The good news

Many recent studies have found the right kind of chocolate consumed in moderation might benefit everything from the cardiovascular system to cognitive improvement. Some have even attributed consumption to a reduced risk of cancer and a lower risk of diabetes.

One study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in subjects who had consumed chocolate. This can help prevent clots—and thus, heart attacks and strokes—from occurring.

Another study published in the journal BMJ suggested that consumption could lower the risk of developing heart disease by as much as a third.

“Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders,” the authors wrote in a paper presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris.

Several studies have looked at this claim

In a 2017 study, researchers found that consuming raw almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa helped lower “bad” cholesterol in overweight or obese subjects.

A 2008 study found those who ate a small amount of dark chocolate each day had lower blood levels of a protein associated with inflammation.

A Canadian study of 44,489 subjects found those who regularly consumed chocolate were 22% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who abstained. That those who suffered a stroke saw a 46% decline in likelihood of death.

Other benefits attributed to this sweet include improved cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance, benefits to fetal growth and development, and lower cholesterol. (These tend to come from small studies that have not been confirmed.)

“(Chocolate) is a good antioxidant,” Dr. Owais Khawaja, a cardiology fellow at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, told CNN. “We think most of the beneficial effects are because of this.” Antioxidants are known to reduce the amount of free radicals in the body, those compounds known to cause cellular damage.

“More and more research is showing that [eating chocolate] is really more beneficial than we ever imagined,” said Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told Live Science.

The bad news

But it’s not permission to gorge on the stuff. As with other indulgences, moderation is key, and the right kind of chocolate makes all the difference. Experts recommend limiting intake to no more than one ounce a day.

Compounds called flavonoids exist in chocolate as well as wine, beer, tea, berries, fruits, and vegetables. They may be responsible for chocolate’s healthful benefits. Flavonoids are antioxidants believed to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

One reason chocolate has received its bad reputation is because of all the sugar it typically contains. This leads to heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, and myriad health problems.

The more nonfat cocoa solids chocolate consists of, the more antioxidants it contains. Steer clear of chocolate products with added fats such as “milk fats,” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” These will tend to cancel out the beneficial effects of chocolate, in addition to causing weight gain.

The closer you can get to the original cocoa, the better. So natural cocoa powder is best (though it tends to be bitter); dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips are better. Milk chocolate is the least desirable. Milk proteins may bind to the flavonoids and make them unavailable to the body. White “chocolate” contains no cocoa solids at all.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that chocolate can be part of an overall healthy diet, but the key phrase is “part of.”

Alice H. Lichtenstein, the Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, says, “If you enjoy chocolate, the important thing to do is choose the type you enjoy the most and eat it in moderation because you like it, not because you think it’s good for you.”

e. coli

Take Care with Leafy Greens

Our concierge doctors absolutely recommend a diet high in vegetables, especially leafy greens, for optimal health. But a new study released this month highlights a problem with this otherwise beneficial food: E. coli.

The report, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, found leafy greens are a common source of food-borne illnesses. It notes that they’ve been implicated in 40 outbreaks of a serious strain of E. coli between 2009 and 2018. These outbreaks resulted in 1,212 illnesses, 420 hospitalizations, and eight deaths.

Products to look out for

As you might suspect from the frequent reports in the news, romaine lettuce was involved most often. In of the outbreaks related to leafy greens studied for E. coli contamination, romaine lettuce was responsible for 54 percent of cases. Spinach and iceberg lettuce caused 17 percent each. Kale, cabbage, and green leaf lettuce were linked for four percent of the outbreaks.

The study also found outbreaks linked to mixed greens. This included three romaine and iceberg mixes, a butter lettuce and radicchio mix, and a spinach and spring mix.

Researchers were uncertain why romaine lettuce was so often involved in E. coli contamination. They speculated the green’s growing popularity over the study period accounted for some of the increase. Also the shape of the leaf itself contributed to contamination. Because romaine’s crinkled leaves grow in an elongated rosette shape, it’s difficult to wash it sufficiently to remove all of the surface contamination.

What’s causing the bacteria growth

Agricultural practices in this country have also been implicated in contamination outbreaks in leafy greens, but especially romaine lettuce.

Nearly all romaine lettuce grown in the U.S. originates from two main areas: the Salinas Valley in California and the Imperial and Coachella valleys in Southern California and around Yuma, Arizona.

E. coli is common in animals, including goats, deer, feral pigs, and especially cattle. One recent widespread outbreak in 2018 was attributed to contamination of surface water possibly used to irrigate and harvest the crop (with high-pressure water knives, which are used to cut the vegetables, as opposed by slicing them from the roots by hand).

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the outbreaks have occurred within weeks of the time when nearby farming operations fertilize their fields.

“We know from earlier outbreaks that a little bit of contamination in the field can lead to cross-contamination,” Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, told NBC News. Chapman was not involved in the current study.

Once the plant is contaminated, it’s “very difficult to remove,” he explained. Even though produce is triple-washed in processing plants and once at home, the consumer maybe be able to rinse off 90 to 99 percent of what remains. That may not be enough to ensure complete safety, he added.

Symptoms of an infection

Symptoms of E. coli bacterial infection include stomach pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days. It can take up to 10 days to begin feeling symptoms after consuming affected food. This makes outbreaks so difficult to track down.

An E. coli infection is normally self-limiting, meaning the body fights it off with no complications other than feeling fairly miserable for a few days. But it can also lead to more severe complications, especially for infants and children under five, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems.

Reducing the risk

As we said earlier, we still encourage consumption of leafy greens. They’re an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They’ve also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers, macular degeneration and type 2 diabetes.

So how can you keep your family safe? First, always assume leafy greens are contaminated, and rinse them thoroughly if you plan to eat them raw.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following advice to minimize the chances of contamination.

Check to see if your prepackaged leafy greens are labeled “ready to eat,” “triple washed” or “no washing necessary.” These leafy greens do not need to be washed again. Thoroughly wash all other leafy greens before eating, cutting or cooking.

Consumers should follow these simple steps:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before preparing leafy greens.
  • Discard outer leaves and any torn or bruised ones.
  • Rinse the leafy greens under running water and use your hands to gently rub the surface of the leaves.
  • Don’t soak leafy greens in a sink filled with water. They can become contaminated with germs in the sink.
  • Don’t soak leafy greens in a bowl filled with water, which can spread contamination through the water to other leaves.
  • Dry leafy greens with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Do not wash vegetables with soap, detergent, or produce washes.
  • Do not use bleach solution or other disinfectants to wash produce.

If you think you have become ill from eating contaminated foods, be sure to talk to us. While food poisoning may result in nothing more than a few days of misery, it can also be dangerous. We can advise you on the best ways to recover.

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