Ginger, herring, kale … at first glance they have nothing in common. But they have one thing in common: They are among the products that are said to have anti-inflammatory effects. In what cases are they recommended?
Inflammation is known to play an important role in some chronic diseases, especially in rheumatic complaints such as gout or osteoarthritis, or in some skin diseases such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis.
Diet can affect this. “Some substances contained in food can promote inflammatory reactions in cartilage, joints and tissues,” says internist Matthias Riedl from Germany.
A valuable prevention
Conversely, there are substances that have an anti-inflammatory effect. If you give these things enough space in your menu, they can alleviate discomfort and, ideally, reduce the amount of pain relievers. “In addition, an anti-inflammatory diet is very valuable in the area of prevention,” says health educator Sarah Mörstedt.
According to Riedl, this maxim applies very much to overweight people, “because they have a higher risk of suffering from inflammatory processes. This happens because visceral fats make them hormones that promote inflammation ”. Those who follow an anti-inflammatory diet can ultimately avoid secondary diseases such as diabetes mellitus or a stroke.
What should you watch out for in an anti-inflammatory diet? If a person eats a healthy and balanced diet, he has already taken the most important step towards change. The next step is to consciously and regularly eat foods that prevent inflammation.
Cut down on foods that cause inflammation
The counterpart is the food that ignites. First of all, these are the ones that should be reduced. Among other things, animal products such as pork fat or beef liver, cakes or baked goods with sugar and fats, sweets and fast food are not good at all. All of these products contain arachidonic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.
“This acid forms so-called eicosanoids, which play a role in regulating inflammation in the body,” explains Riedl. If the body has little arachidonic acid available, few eicosanoids are formed, which weakens inflammatory processes.
If you not only avoid such products, but also consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, you prevent your body from converting arachidonic acid into eicosanoids. “Avocado, linseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and pecans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids,” says Mörstedt.
Oily fish, like herring, mackerel, or salmon, make a good contribution if you eat them at least once a week.
Why spinach is a great choice
Phytonutrients are another great help against inflammation. “These substances are produced by plants to protect themselves against fungi or bacteria, for example,” explains Mörstedt.
Around 10,000 phytochemicals are found in human food. While there is still much research to be done, many of them are known to be anti-inflammatory, so eating leaves like spinach or kale, like the apple, grape, tomato, chili pepper, and grapefruit, are good choices.
Many other products also have anti-inflammatory effects, such as garlic, onion, turmeric, and ginger. “The ideal is not to take it in powder form, but in its natural state and raw,” says Mörstedt.
Find support in changing your diet
In general, it can be said that it can be very useful to seek professional help and, for example, consult a nutritionist if there is a pathology or illness and someone wants to change their diet.
“It is also good to get a fatty acid profile in the blood so that you can know whether you have a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids,” recommends nutritionist Riedl. It is an analysis that can be indicated by the family doctor. In some countries there are even test kits that can be purchased privately.
Start with more vegetables
The basic indication is to eat a few 500 grams of vegetables a day. “It is important to have variety on the plate, because that increases the chance of taking in anti-inflammatory elements,” says Mörstedt.
In addition to frozen vegetables, you can also take small steps to make these foods easier to absorb, such as: B. Add ginger to muesli in the morning or prepare in shots so you never miss them at home.
Spinach, an important food. Photo: Flickr.
What effects are to be expected?
There is no consensus among experts on how much to expect from an anti-inflammatory diet as part of therapy. For the rheumatologist Peer M. Aries from Hamburg, this form of nutrition does not of course have the same weight as the medication.
“Theoretically, it is logical that an anti-inflammatory diet works,” says Widder, but the expert points out that, from his point of view, the effect has not yet been satisfactorily proven by scientific studies. “Of course it doesn’t harm people to eat healthily, but it shouldn’t arouse exaggerated expectations,” he emphasizes.
The nutritionist Riedl emphasizes, however, that “nutrition is an important pillar in therapy” and that “improvements can be recorded in many situations”. Riedl believes it is essential to understand the therapy as a whole and, in addition to medication, to plan a nutrition plan, exercise, sleep times and stress management. All of these components are important in order to be able to live better despite the inflammatory diseases.