Written by Amanda Leach MS, RD, LD, CLT
It can be discouraging when you’re dealing with pain, skin problems, diarrhea or any number of other health issues and nothing seems to help. It can be even more frustrating when your doctor has ordered testing and everything comes back looking good, but you’re not feeling good. Looking at many of these problems, we can see they have something in common, that something is underlying inflammation. Inflammation can be a healthy response to an injury or infection, but when it becomes chronic it can wreak havoc on the body and contribute to many diseases. The foods we choose to eat can either feed disease or optimize our health. Making dietary changes that help your body fight inflammation can help in the management of many of these problems.
One way is to increase your intake of food that contain anti-inflammatory compounds. There are lots foods that contain these compounds. For instance, anthocyanins are a chemical compound found naturally in some plants. They are responsible for giving these plants their red, purple, or deep blue color. Anthocyanin help decrease concentrations of pro-inflammatory chemicals. As you may have guessed, cherries, blackberries, and blueberries are rich in anthocyanins. Another food you may be familiar with for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits is ginger. Ginger contains an anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol. Gingerol can help silence pro-inflammatory genes and suppress enzymes in the body that produce inflammatory compounds. Ginger is also well known for the benefits it can have on the digestive system. Including these, along with many other foods that contain other anti-inflammatory compounds, while also minimizing foods that feed chronic inflammation, can often help you feel better.
To make matters a little complicated, sometimes even healthy foods can be a problem for some individuals. What I am referring to is when an individual has food sensitivities. These are different than food allergies, but they can still involve your immune system and can contribute to inflammation. Food sensitivities can be difficult to identify and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure them out. This is often because some adverse reactions can be delayed for up to 72 hours and some can be dose dependent. Many people even end up eliminating many foods unnecessarily by trying to figure out the culprits. There is testing available that can help not only identify which foods are most likely the triggering culprits for you, but also which foods may be the best foods for you to eat. This test is called a Mediator Release Test. From the results, a trained dietitian can create an individualized elimination diet for you that may help support pain management, digestion, skin health, and energy. Many symptoms that have underlying inflammation contributing to them end up improving when an individual follows an eating plan designed specifically for them, based off from the results of this testing. The eating plan is more than about removing offending foods, it’s about including foods that do well with your body and help give your body what it needs to feel it’s best.