Known as the “Month of Transformation,” September is an ideal time to incorporate new habits into your routine. If you suffer from chronic inflammation, altering your diet – a key factor in the development of many health issues – can result in major long-term improvements.
When we talk about inflammation, we’re referring to the process by which our immune system responds to foreign invaders or trauma to our body, like infection or tissue damage. A cut, for example, provokes an inflammatory response that is designed to cure the infection and encourage healing. Redness, swelling, pain and heat all are signs of acute inflammation, as is a fever. In most instances, acute inflammation helps the body by fighting off pathogens.
It’s only when inflammation becomes chronic, with the body existing in a heightened state of defense for months or years, that it becomes a problem. Contributing to a startling number of serious illnesses including certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, chronic inflammation can also lead to arthritis, aging skin, and, according to a study published earlier this year in the medical journal, Neurology, dementia.
While getting enough sleep and engaging in regular exercise can certainly help, one of the single most effective ways to fight chronic inflammation is by improving our diet. Red meat, refined starches and sugars, and unhealthy fats – all staples of the North American diet – trigger a chronic inflammatory response in our bodies and should be limited or avoided altogether.
Anti-inflammatory ingredients are plentiful, however, in fruits, vegetables, oily fish and whole grains. According to Leslie Beck, RD, Medcan’s director of food and nutrition, “Nutrients such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and many natural plant compounds may reduce free radical damage.” Fibre-rich foods and prebiotics, like whole grains, beans and lentils, can help create a protective intestinal barrier that reduces inflammation.
Need a hand in improving your diet? Medcan’s three-month Anti-Inflammatory Diet program pairs you with a registered dietitian to provide assistance throughout the process. If you have a condition that causes inflammation, changing your diet can help to reduce uncomfortable symptoms. Research also suggests that an anti-inflammatory diet can help everything from arthritis to depression to heart disease.
This program includes an hour-long initial assessment during which a dietitian reviews your existing diet and lifestyle. You’ll complete the Dietary Inflammatory Index – a scientifically-validated questionnaire that scores your diet on its inflammatory potential based on your intake of 45 inflammation-promoting and anti-inflammatory food components. Medcan is currently the only Canadian wellness provider to offer the Dietary Inflammatory Index as a service. In addition, blood tests will measure inflammatory markers and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Next, your dietitian will take you through an anti-inflammatory diet review and provide a personalized anti-inflammatory meal plan. In the weeks to follow, you’ll attend five 30-minute sessions designed to assist in goal-setting, meal and snack ideas, label reading and recipes. During a final 45-minute session, blood tests will be repeated to determine improvements in inflammatory markers and nutrient levels. You’ll also measure the improvement in your Dietary Inflammatory Index score and receive strategies to help ensure that you continue to stick with your anti-inflammatory eating regime.
Addressing the inflammatory potential of your diet can not only reduce symptoms of conditions you may already have, but also reduce your risk of developing future health problems – from major physical ailments like cancer and heart disease, to mental and cognitive health problems like depression, memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.