An anti-inflammatory diet consists of foods that will create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins rather than pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, made from dietary fats, have many functions; for example, they are involved in vasodilation, bronchodilation, inflammatory reactions and the regulation of cell proliferation. The main idea of an anti-inflammatory diet is to avoid "bad" fats and to consume only "good" fats.
The reduction of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins is purported to improve joint pain due to arthritis, aid in digestion, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, as well as relieve symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. Proponents of this diet believe that disease is the result of a pro-inflammatory state, which leads to chronic pain and other degenerative conditions. It is thus thought that many chronic conditions described in clinical practice may have similar biochemical causes, and can be treated with diet.
Some studies suggest that there may be a link between inflammatory response and insulin resistance. However, more research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
One study conducted in children with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory condition involving the gastrointestinal tract, found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids helped patients sustain remission longer than patients who did not receive supplements.
Another study found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids improved the inflammatory status of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), an inflammatory disorder of the lungs.
Matsuyama W, Mitsuyama H, Watanabe M, et al. Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on inflammatory markers in COPD. Chest. 2005 Dec; 128(6):3817-27.
Romano C, Cucchiara S, Barabino A, et al. Usefulness of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in addition to mesalazine in maintaining remission in pediatric Crohn's disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2005 Dec. 7;11(45):7118-21. 12 May 2006.
Seaman DR. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Mar-Apr;25(3):168-79.
"Bad" fats are polyunsaturated and partly hydrogenated fats and oils. These fats lead to the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and should be eliminated from the diet. However, these fats are found in most processed foods and are hard to avoid.
Trans-fats, most often found in margarine and shortening, should also be avoided. Olive oil can be used as an alternative to margarine or shortening. Olive oil contains omega-9 fatty acids, which work with omega-3 essential fatty acids to increase its benefits on the body.
Good fats include omega-3 fatty acids, which are found mainly in fish of cold-water origin. These fish include mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
Other foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include fruits, vegetables and grains. Fruits and vegetables included are blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, peaches, mango, cantaloupe, apples, carrots, squash, sweet potato, spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Grains include lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, wheat germ and non-instant oatmeal. These food items are all high in vitamins A, C and E.
Two other important components to the anti-inflammatory diet include ginger and turmeric.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.