Fight Inflammation from the Inside Out… Today!

IMG_9363By Olivia Wagner MS, RDN, LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Health Coach for LifeStart Wellness Network

At one point or another we have all experienced pain and discomfort. For some of you, this pain may be just the thing that brought you to ARC!  But what exactly is this pain and how can we better manage it?

Pain is often a symptom of the body’s attempt at “damage control,” or a biological response we like to call inflammation.  Inflammation primarily causes pain because it causes swelling, which pushes against our very sensitive nerve endings that in turn send pain signals to the brain. Commonly we associate this inflammation with irritation, redness, and swelling, often as a result of immediate injury or infection.  Yes, this is all true, but inflammation can also be present in our bodies at low levels for a longer period of time.  This chronic low grade inflammation is what is commonly associated with chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, neurological degeneration and heart disease.

Diet has a profound effect on the body’s ability to fight inflammation.  Scientists have found that a diet high in processed foods, refined sugars and trans fats, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids appear to turn on the bodies inflammatory response.   Conversely, a diet rich in whole foods such as quality carbohydrates from whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables, plant sources of fat from nuts seeds and olive oil, and protein from lean meat and fatty fish all seem to lessen inflammation.  Different foods, herbs and spices can deliver antioxidants, the powerful molecules that fight free radicals and oxidation.   For centuries food has been used as medicine to combat pain and prevent chronic disease. By incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into our diet and minimizing those that are pro-inflammatory, we can fight inflammation from the inside out, reduce pain and facilitate a path to recovery.

How can you boost your diet for the greatest inflammation fighting punch?  Get started today with these 5 simple tips!

Practice quality “carbing”

SONY DSCShoot for carbohydrates in their whole and intact form as often as possible, choosing whole grains like wild rice or farro, beans, legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables throughout your day.

Tip:  Keep portions down to ½ cup- 1 cup at a meal! Try steel-cut oats or amaranth porridge at breakfast, choose quinoa or chickpeas in a salad at lunch and make sweet potatoes, squash or lentils a side at dinner time!


Fear not healthy fats!

fatsFat comes in many shapes and sizes. It is important to realize that dietary fat does not equate to body fat and also, that healthy fat is essential to our ability to fight inflammation.  The types of oils that we choose (both plant and animal based) impact the bacteria within our gut, stimulate the immune system, and can either feed pathways that are pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.  To choose more inflammation fighting fats, incorporate plant based sources and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet daily.  Choose healthy monounsaturated fats from nuts and seeds, avocado and olives and cold pressed oils.  Additionally, aim to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids from “super-seeds” like flax, hemp and chia and fatty fish like wild salmon, albacore tuna, rainbow trout and sardines. Studies have shown that fish oil can relieve tender joints and ease morning stiffness.

Tip: Try Lox roll ups with avocado, adding hemp seeds to your morning oatmeal, eating walnuts as an afternoon snack or whipping up salmon burgers with wild-caught canned salmon!   Fats to keep on the back burner?   Hydrogenated trans fats found in shelf stable, processed baked goods and omega 6 fats such as soy and corn oil.

See Green

tumblr_n7athoYQN91qlj7h1o2_1280Green vegetables come packed with the anti-inflammatory phytochemical, chlorophyll.  Dark leafy greens likes spinach, kale and broccoli, Swiss chard and collard greens are also low in sugar, high in fiber and tremendously nutrient packed per calorie; just a cup of kale containing more vitamin C than an orange!  Cruciferous vegetables like arugula, kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are also sulfur rich, which is important for supporting the body’s natural detoxification system and reducing inflammatory pathways.

Tip: Aim to incorporate at least 1-2 cups of green vegetables at each meal and ½ cup at one of your mid-day snacks!  Add spinach to your morning smoothie, sauté greens into scrambled eggs at breakfast, much on broccoli and hummus as a snack or toss  some chopped Swiss chard or kale into your favorite soup, chili or stew!

Pump up your nutrient power! 

MG_9457Take a new approach to meal time and treat your meals and snacks as opportunities to optimize your nutrient intake.  Allow ingredients rich in antioxidants like berries, ginger, turmeric, dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables to make it to your plate as well as ingredients with functional roles like probiotic rich fermented foods, sprouted nuts, seeds and grains and sea vegetables!

Tip: Try adding kefir to oatmeal at breakfast, topping salads with sprouted seeds, and snacking on nori chips!

Keep your blood sugar balanced

0031Spikes in blood sugar are a core driver of inflammation. Eat to balance your blood sugar by incorporating a combination of lean protein, quality carbohydrates, healthy fat and fiber (PCF²) at each meal and snack.

Tip:  Aim for 20-30 g of protein at each meal and 5-15 g of protein at each snack in combination with whole food sources of carbohydrates, plant sources of fat and bright colored vegetables.  Try: scrambled eggs, black beans and avocado for breakfast; lentils, roasted butternut squash, arugula and pumpkin seeds for lunch, and salmon, asparagus, and quinoa for dinner.

Olivia Wagner is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Health Coach for LifeStart Wellness Network.  For questions or information about working with Olivia, you can contact her at

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